A New Model for Ministry Leadership
JULY 30, 2022
by Roger Parrott
In 2002, I purposely began to let go of the iron grip all leaders have on planning as the foundation of focus and energy. It was a struggle that took over a decade until, as a university, we were entirely driven by capturing opportunities rather than building plans.
Opportunity Leadership—the model of leadership that I’ve developed as I’ve shifted focus away from traditional planning—is almost bewildering to those who have never experienced it. I’m often asked questions like:
• How is it possible to provide leadership without a plan for the future?
• How do you gain buy-in from stakeholders without a planning structure?
• How do you get agreement on where you are headed, measure your effectiveness, or even know what’s next without a plan?
I’ve learned that the only way to convince skeptics of Opportunity Leadership is to show them the results.
As a university, we don’t do the planning—we capture opportunities. For years the board had been 100 percent supportive of Opportunity Leadership, so looks of confusion shrouded the room when I laid before them what appeared to be a five-year aggressive comprehensive plan for the university.
The document focused on five significant overarching goals, along with a list of seventy-two implementation targets.
But my board studied the document before them with puzzlement. They knew I didn’t believe in what I identify as “destination planning” and that, as a university, we had purposefully made the shift completely away from the long-range planning model that has become a fortress for nearly all leaders. As a board, we had talked repeatedly over the previous years about our commitment to stop projecting God’s destinations, but instead build a faith, philosophy, and team that is sensitive to the wind of God and moves quickly to capture opportunities when it blows. Our remarkable success in the preceding years was a result of Opportunity Leadership. It was the hallmark on which we had built our future as a university.
Despite their questioning looks, I pressed on with my presentation, beginning to read aloud the goals of the five-year plan, even though I could almost hear the board members’ silent reactions of alarm in response to the bold benchmarks.
Belhaven University Five-Year Goals:
1. Increase enrollment 43 percent: this would make us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country.
2. Raise $21 million: this is way too much money for us to raise that fast. Let’s do a feasibility study.
3. Construct $32 million of new buildings and renovations.
4. Add seven undergraduate academic majors, including nursing, computer science, film, and social work
5. Add eight graduate degrees, including dance, education, and leadership
What I gave the board was a summary of what had been accomplished during the previous five years—a time during which we operated without a plan and focused on capturing opportunities.
Opportunity Leadership had changed everything for our university. If we had stayed cemented to traditional planning, and I had brought the same goals to our board five years previously (before they happened), their reaction would have been predictable: The board would have questioned my ability as a leader because the plan was far too ambitious. Bluntly, they would have thought I was foolish or naive to recommend goals this bold.
This hard-results demonstration cemented our commitment to abandoning traditional planning and moving ahead with a confidence that God will bring us opportunities—although we have no idea what they might be. And since the time of this five-year validation, I’ve learned that surprises at this level were only the beginning of opportunities that the Lord would bring our way when we fully committed to Opportunity Leadership
So, gather your courage, set aside assumed leadership absolutes, cut up the box, and let’s walk together to start capturing change rather than creating it.
It is time for more Christian leaders to stop planning and start getting results.
Adapted from Opportunity Leadership: Stop Planning and Start Getting Results by Roger Parrott (©2022). Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.