The Ruthless ABCs of New Year Leadership

The start of a new year is always a time of reflection and recalibration, particularly in the life of a leader. Beyond our own personal lives, we have a team, an organization or a company we are responsible for leading.

So how do you approach that role at the start of a new year?

I put myself through the “ABCs.” I will present these in the context of leading a church, but they apply to any leadership role.

A – Advance

First, I think through what will advance the church. By this I mean raw numerical growth from the unchurched and the expansion of ministry impact. The goal is to move the ball down the field, to advance the cause of Christ… so what can be done to achieve that?  

B – Better

Next, I try to evaluate how we can simply do better at what we’re already doing in terms of efficiency (doing things right) and effectiveness (doing the right things). These are reflections on quality and performance.

C – Control

Finally, though I’m sure we could come up with leadership explorations for every letter of the alphabet, I think about control. This is about maintaining appropriate control of your vision and values, culture and DNA—not to mention the more obvious control of output and decision making. Leaders provide order instead of anarchy, unity instead of division, missional focus instead of a handful of tactics in search of a strategy.

These ABCs should be pursued ruthlessly. By that I mean with bloodless calm and collected emotion. Here’s why: You will find areas where you need to change. You may even be entering an era where this annual exercise leads you to a massive change, say, in strategic emphasis or methodology.

That’s when the ABCs get scary, but also when they bring the most helpful organizational change. But leaders must work steadfastly, pray diligently and seek counsel humbly to know when it’s time to…

… quit something,
… start something,
… fix something,
… end something,
… move something,
… try something,
… transition something,
… change something, or
… redirect something.

And they must do it with their organization’s best future in mind. Not their ego, not whether it will mean more work for them, not whether it will stir the pot of controversy… but whether it is best.

I’m in the thick of my New Year’s ABCs right now, and I can honestly tell you that I’m not sure I’ve ever had the Holy Spirit prompt me to consider more draconian steps in my 30-plus years of ministry. Steps that would be revolutionary for the church I lead. I am not sure if the prompting to “consider” will result in the prompting to execute. But that’s the benefit of the exercise—to force any and all considerations so that I can spell out next steps.

And that’s why you learn your ABCs, isn’t it? To spell things out?

James Emery White


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.





Originally published January 10, 2019.