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Maxwell on The Law of Magnetism

My sister and I did a book exchange a while back, so at her recommendation, I’m reading through John C. Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership ” (I gave her Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend). A fascinating book. I’m this close to writing an entire blog series on it. We’ll see. Meanwhile, in chapter 9, Maxwell recounts a situation were he took over a pastorate. His observation of the change-over was a mirror image of my experience watching leaders.

…I don’t think I really understood the impact of the Law of Magnetism until I moved to San Diego, California, and became the leader of the last church I pastored.

My predecessor at Skyline Church was Dr. Orval Butcher. He is a wonderful man with many admirable qualities. One of his best is his musicianship. He plays piano and has a beautiful Irish tenor voice, even today in his eighties. At the time I arrived in 1981, Skyline had a solid reputation for fine music and was nationally known for its outstanding musical productions. In fact, the church was filled with talented musicians and vocalists. And in the twenty-seven years Dr. Butcher led the church, only two music directors worked for him –an unbelievable track record (In comparison, during my fourteen years there, I employed five people in that capacity.)

Why were there so many exceptional musicians at skyline? The answer lies in the Law of Magnetism. People with musical talent were naturally attracted to Dr. Butcher. They respected him and understood him. They shared his motivation and values. They were on the same page with him. Leaders help to shape the culture of their organizations based on who they are and what they do. Music was valued. It was practiced and performed with excellence. it was used to reach out to the community It was deeply ingrained in the culture of the organization.

In contrast, i enjoy music, but I am not a musician. it’s funny, but when I interviewed for the position at Skyline, one of the first questions they asked me was whether I could sing. they were very disappointed when i told them no. After I came on board at the church, the number of new musicians arriving at the church declined quickly. We still had more than our share because Dr. Butcher had created momentum and a wonderful legacy in that area. but do you know what kind of people started coming instead? Leaders. i valued leadership, modeled it, trained people in it, and rewarded it. Leadership was woven into the fabric of the organization. By the time i left Skyline, not only was the church filled with hundreds of excellent leaders, but the church had raised up and sent out hundreds of leaders. The reason was the Law of Magnetism. Our organization became a magnet for people with leadership ability.

I’ve said for a long time that an organization will reflect the personality of the one in leadership. It hadn’t occurred to me that the leader actually attracts similar temperaments.

On one level, I know that’s true (I’ve seen it with my own eyes), on a different level, there is conforming that happens to those under leadership. If a leader has a certain temperament, that leader will probably value that temperament and overlook others. I think that can have a squelching effect on the organization. Both of these contribute to an organization (or team) succeeding or failing.

Unfortunately, in my present experience, I most often see failure. That’s frustrating –especially since it’s such an easy fix: You either train, retrain or replace the leader.

Okay, maybe that isn’t so easy.

But the point is, those in leadership hold the tools that shape the culture of their team. What’s interesting is how few of them realize it.