Saturday, 02 March 2024
One small step toward transformational leaders rob walsh/Unsplash

One small step toward transformational leaders

If anyone wants the back story on how this column is created each week, it always begins with a simple question: “What do we (the pregnancy help community) need to hear?”

Really. That’s it. At some point Monday or Tuesday morning (I usually write on Tuesdays, then submit on Wednesday for publication later in the week), I’ll ask that simple question, trying to get a read on what can help us take a step forward in our shared mission. 

The answers vary widely. Sometimes it means taking a news story and put it in context which applies to our work. Other times, perhaps we need to see our local work as part of a bigger picture. Or we might need some encouragement. My hope is that this column helps you—the reader—both gain perspective and perhaps makes you more effective in what you do. 

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Which brings me to this week, Week 9,839 of our shared quarantine (or, according to the calendar, week 8).  

What do we, the pregnancy help community, need? 

It’s a rare moment in this column when the answer is, “Recommend a book for all of us to read.” But that’s what I’m doing, and here’s why:

The pregnancy help community needs more well-equipped, highly motivated, effective and amazing servant leaders. Long sentence? Yes. Forgive me, because I had to pack a lot in there.

Does this mean we don’t have good leaders? Absolutely not. We have good leadership; we even have some great leadership. Fact is, I see great leadership both up close (because I work with them) and from afar as I watch what is happening across this country and around the world.  

But as any strong leader knows, there is always room for growth, always room for improvement. There is no such thing as a great leader who reaches the point of perfection and says, “Whew, I’ve made it. Now, I can relax.”  

So, what can we do to help each of our leaders—from those struggling to those excelling—and help them take the next step? Because if each of us who leads is always committed to growth, the entire pregnancy help community benefits. 

Tweet This: If each of us who leads is always committed to growth, the entire pregnancy help community benefits.

The good news is our next step does not always have to be a giant leap. It can be, certainly. It would be amazing if every board of directors decided to fully invest in its CEO, providing her or him with a leadership coach, or sending the CEO to a leadership training summit (Heartbeat International’s Pregnancy Help Institute—set for this summer—might be an idea).

But in this column, we’re thinking of one step we can take now—even this week. Just. One. Step.  

Before this pandemic hit, I was strolling through an airport (we used to fly in planes, way back when) and saw the book, The Motive by Patrick Lencioni. He is known as a leader of leaders, a go-to resource for businesses wanting to build incredible teams. One of his many clients is Southwest Airlines, one of my favorites.  

Spending a few minutes with Lencioni before he spoke at Heartbeat International’s 2018 Conference in Anaheim, I found him affable, funny and approachable. And, amazingly smart. Bottom line? I became a fan immediately. There are a ton of great leadership books out there, but his style connects best with me. 

Just after takeoff I dove into Lencioni’s book, which follows his style of creating a fable, a fictional story of a character struggling with a key aspect of leadership and team building. In The Motive, we have a relatively new CEO, Shay, who—while hardly on the verge of getting fired—is struggling to get his company the traction it needs to gain critical market share. 

When Shaye reaches out to a consulting firm for help, he gets a surprise phone call from his industry nemesis, Liam, who—of all things—offers to help him.  

I read more than half the book in a one-hour flight—zipping through the pages. Without giving away the entire story-line, one of Lencioni’s salient points is that the term CEO should not stand for “Chief Executive Officer” but instead should be shifted to “Chief Executing Officer.”  

The traditional meaning of CEO, he points out, is a noun. It has no movement. This new interpretation, using the term “Executing,” is a verb. This CEO takes action and makes sure the team takes steps toward fulfilling the vision. 

This seems like a small shift, but for pregnancy help ministries this could be a game-changer. When connecting with our organizations, I see many ministries struggling with a simple issue: “What do we call the person in charge of our team? Is she/he an executive director? A CEO? What’s the difference? Does it matter at all?” 

Honestly? I believe it does matter to many of our organizations, and lack of clarity on this issue can leave both board and staff uncertain about their roles. 

The truth is our key employee—whether we call this person a CEO or Executive Director—is most certainly our Chief Executing Officer. This person’s most important purpose is to create an effective, smoothly-functioning, unified team which executes our mission.  

Whether this team is one paid staff member with a few volunteers, or a team of twenty paid staff and one hundred volunteers, the CEO makes the tough decisions so that the mission is fulfilled. 

One step in our leadership growth? Let’s think of our leaders as Chief Executing Officers. This way, we forget titles—which don’t mean much, anyway—and focus on the “why” this person is in this role. 

A second, growth step? Read Patrick Lencioni’s The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities. Whether you are an executive director, CEO, board member or wanting to learn the qualities needed to lead well (that’s why I bought it), purchasing this book is money well-invested in your future. And the time invested to read it and apply the ideas inside? Priceless. 

No, I don’t get a dime if every reader of this column buys the book. No click-through commissions—none of that. But I want this column to bring readers value. Sometimes, it means pointing us to resources which can take us from struggling to good, or from good to great. And perhaps, from great to transformative. 

Got a couple of hours? Pick up the book. Like me, you’ll be glad you did. And, as each of us applies its ideas, the pregnancy help community only gets stronger.

Kirk Walden

Kirk Walden is a senior writer with Pregnancy Help News, an Advancement Specialist with Heartbeat International and author of The Wall. For banquet speaking engagements, contact Gloria Leyda at Ambassador Speakers Bureau. His new Faith Revolution Podcast is online at

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