4. On Becoming the Tipping Point
Leader Formation InternationalMalcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, shows an amazing fact about leaders.
In the 1970s and 80s New York was one of the crime capitals in the world From the mid-seventies until 1992 there were 675,000 crimes committed every year in the Big Apple. But then in 1992 crime took a sharp drop downward and stayed there.
What caused this?
More aggressive police work? Economic improvement? Nope. Something far more surprising and seemingly insignificant.
Something that shows that leaders are the tipping point for good or far bad.
The transformation in crime statistics was due to two leaders who did very small things that brought about big changes.
One was a man named David Gunn who was hired as the subway director and charged with the task of rebuilding the subway system.1 He started his assignment by removing all graffiti from subway cars. Many thought that was a waste of time, that he had bigger things to do, but he determined that to rebuild organizational morale, you had to get rid of the graffiti. It takes three nights to graffiti a train car, one to paint the place where the design will go white, one to stencil in the words, and one to paint the graffiti. Just as soon as the kids doing the graffiti were done, a painting crew moved in and repainted the car. The kids were in tears, but none of their work ever saw the light of a station.
The other man was William Bratton, hired to head the transit police, who decided to focus on fare beating, those who would leap over the turnstiles and ride for free. Again this seemed like such a small thing, but he went after it anyway. Bratton would shackle the fare beaters and line them up until he had a full bus load to take to jail. At first the police thought it was a waste of time, but when they discovered that one out of every seven arrested had outstanding warrants for other crimes and one in every twenty had a gun, they saw great value in what they were doing.2
And that was the beginning of a turndown in crime in New York City.
These little things became the tipping point to deliver New York from being the crime capital of the world to becoming one of the safest cities in the world.
What does this tell you about what leaders do?
Leaders see a problem and take action
Leaders focus on the seemingly insignificant
Leaders are strategic in their actions
Leaders are determined even when followers are uncertain what whether what they’re doing is the right or smart thing to do
Leaders start at the bottom and work their way up (true, but not always)
Leaders discern the source, the root of the issue
The Broken Window Principle
The Broken Window Principle states that the more broken windows you have the more broken windows you will have.
The idea that when a family or a business or a church looks as if no one cares—the way a house with broken windows looks—then no one will care, and more windows will get broken. Followers will conclude that since the leader doesn’t care, they don’t need to care either.
That’s why fixing the broken windows—literal or figurative—in our families, our businesses, and our churches begins to make a huge difference in the atmosphere and attitudes involved. For this reason I ask you, what broken windows do you see in your family or your business or your church that you can fix. If you can fix them, then you should fix them, and you become responsible for the atmosphere and culture of the entity you lead.
When we fix the broken windows in our lives, we take the first step of leadership as we’ll see from Titus 1:5.
Turn to Titus 1:5 where Paul says, “The reason why I left you in Crete was so you would set in order what remains.”
In the book of Titus Paul is writing a memo to his trouble-shooter on the island of Crete for the purpose of helping him carry out his assignment. The assignment was very simple, comprehensive, and demanding: he was to set in order what remains—to straighten out what needed to be made right. We will see more completely what this meant as we work our way through this memo.
Think of Titus as a leadership memo from a senior leader to a younger leader whom the senior leader has put in charge of a major responsibility. In this memo, he summarizes the core essence of leadership as he describes the responsibilities he assigned the younger man to carry out. Like any good senior leader, Paul leaves the specifics up to Titus. He tells him what to do, but not how to do it. He gives him general direction and clear guidelines about his task, but leaves the rest up to him—the man on the spot who knows best how to go about doing the job.
There can be little doubt that the way Paul begins his memo is part of his message to Titus—that he also needed to be committed to stand “for the faith of the chosen and the truth that leads to godliness,” all of which is built on the foundation of hope in the promises of the God who cannot lie.
This lies at the heart of the kind of leaders we want to be—leaders that build the faith of our followers and brings them into the truth that results in godliness. In other words, Paul is building on the five foundation stones of leadership that rest on the sub-foundation of hope.
I’m trying to come up with some kind of a code that will speak of the five foundation stones of leadership plus the sub-foundation on which they all build, hope in the promises of God who cannot lie. For the moment I have settled on 5fl/1. 5fl stands for the five foundation stones of leadership and /1 refers to hope. I will use this as a kind of logo statement that will enable me to remind you of this core concept without having to spell it out all the time.
So when you see 5fl/1 think of slave, faith, chosen, truth, and godliness along with hope and the realities that each of these introduce into our lives.
And don’t forget the additions of dignity and security that being chosen by God also means in our lives.
We are building on these concepts today as we look at two things from Titus 1:5: what leaders do and who leaders are.
Time out question:
What does this kind of leadership look like in business?
Paul and Titus had gone through Crete some time during AD 63-64 when they observed some significant needs in the Cretan church that concerned Paul greatly, so he left Titus behind while he moved on so that Titus could bring order to the church.
This brings us to what leaders do.
Leaders take orderly actions.
Leaders are the tipping point, the ones who tip their families, their businesses, their churches, their nation for good or for bad through what they do The question is what kind of leaders are we—which way do we tip the point?
Leaders come into disorderly situations, figure out what’s causing the problem and act to make order out of chaos. Leaders clean up messes and solve problems so the followers are focused on the primary tasks that need to be done and have the freedom to do so without being distracted by situations and circumstances that keep them from doing what they’re supposed to do.
Paul’s directive to Titus suggests there’s a standard of quality that shows what is missing, what is getting in the way, the kind of disorder that keeps the organization from doing its best work. There’s something missing or something present that falls short of what is necessary for excellence to flourish.
So the leader’s job is to
- fix what’s wrong,
- improve what’s right,
- and introduce what’s better.
The leader’s job is to
- Restore responsibility, self-respect, pride, and ownership
- Increase hope
- Establishes a sense of direction
- Bring order into the lives of their followers
- Bring a new sense of security to the followers
We have to remember that this assignment was important enough for Paul to leave one of his best men behind as he moved on to things he needed to do.
Time out question:
What does the leader need to bring order out of disorder?
To bring order out of disorder a leader must have
- authority to fulfill his responsibility
- discipline to focus and follow through
- love to endure the resistance, rejection, and criticism that will come
- courage to face the opposition and enmity he will face
- confidence that he is right in what you are doing
- conviction that gives the leader clear thinking in a confusing situation
In essence the leader is a change agent and that introduces another key point.
Some times a leader may have to make a greater mess to clean up the mess he has on his hands.
- Where there is harmony strife may have to come.
- Where there is peace anger may have to come.
- Where there is satisfaction dissatisfaction may have to come.
- Where there is excitement discouragement may have to come.
- Where there is contentment discontentment may have to come.
A messy room cannot become neat without first becoming messier—stacks get restacked, clutter becomes more clutter, and sometimes the room looks the messiest just before it is cleaned up. And that’s the way it is when leaders take orderly actions. Many times leaders must take what is orderly and make it disorderly so it can be reordered in a better way.
Time out questions:
Think through your business and your family.
Is there any change you know you need to make that you’ve been putting off?
Why have you been putting it off?
What resistance are you anticipating? What is there is this resistance that causes you to put off tackling this change?
Is there any disorder in your family that needs to be faced?
What’s the cause of this disorder?
What will happen if you move toward making order out of this disorder?
How are you working to build the faith of those you influence and move them toward the truth that results in godliness?
Paul gives us a great picture of delegation and accountability. He tells Titus exactly why he left him on Crete and what he is to do. He also establishes accountability for Titus by reviewing his assignment so he makes sure he understands his assignment.
But by putting the assignment in writing Titus can show the church what his responsibility is. In other words, Paul isn’t only addressing these words to Titus; he’s also addressing them to the church since it’s understood that Titus will read this memo to the church—that’s part of Paul’s purpose since all his writings were read to the church to which they were sent. By doing this Paul calls the church to accountability just as much as he does Titus. Some of the tasks Paul gives Titus to do to bring order out of disorder are not easy to do nor will they be popular with the people involved, so Paul lends his authority to Titus to show the church that he is not acting on his own. Paul makes sure everyone knows this by putting his directives in writing.
Now what’s the first thing Paul tells his trouble shooter to do so he can turn disorder into order?
To appoint elders.
Leaders are Job 1!In other words, to appoint leaders.
It takes leaders to transform order into disorder—and, according to Paul; it takes a particular kind of leader.
In the New Testament, the highest office a man can attain is the office of elder, and that’s why elders must have clearly recognized qualifications for their office.
And this brings us to the second reality about leaders in this passage.
The first is what leaders do: leaders take orderly actions.
The second is who leaders are: leaders live exemplary lives.
Leaders are those who model what the followers are to become.
The first has to do with competence; the second has to do with character. The first is functional; the second is foundational.
Clearly this is true in a church.
But it also is true in a business or a country or a family or any other place where leadership is exercised. If we do not have leaders that live exemplary lives, we will not respect them, we will not respond to their call for order, and the result will be greater disorder than ever.
Paul knows this and that’s why the first thing he does to bring order into the church on Crete is to send a leader to serve them and the first thing he tells that leader to do is to appoint other leaders who will work with him to bring about stability and maturity in the ministry.
The assumption is that Titus is the kind of leader Paul wants to be appointed. If he did not have the kind of character needed, how could he measure, evaluate, and appoint others who do. No one would respo0nd to him and follow him if he lacked the kind of character they were expected to have. What could be more hypocritical than that?
And this brings us to our theme—the one you have seen every week since we started this study of Titus: Live like a man, lead like men.
What’s the point of this theme?
The New Testament says we cannot lead like men if we don’t live like a man.
How does a man live?
He lives an exemplary life with Christ-like character.
Before you can be qualified to lead you must be qualified to live. And you must be qualified to live God’s way. According to the New Testament, a man lives in such a way that the qualities of his character show him to be qualified to lead. Most people measure leaders by their hands, by what they accomplish. If they get things done; if they keep projects moving; if they make money for the company; if they advance the corporation, then they are good leaders. But it has long been proven that while they may be productive in the short run, they are destructive in the long run.
Time out questions:
Think about a leader you know or know of who was highly competent but who lacked character. He ends up successful from a power and money perspective, but is his family successful?
- Are his children healthy?
- Is he still married—really married—to his first wife?
- If not, is his current marriage growing and healthy?
- What is he doing to become a real father to his children?
- Apart from his family does he have truly meaningful relationships?
- And if he has moved on from his business, did he leave behind a healthy company with a successful succession?
These are some of the key ways to judge a leader.
Each elder (leader) must live like a man so together they can lead like men. If each elder doesn’t live like a man, how can the church respect the elders when they lead together like men? There will be no respect for the elders if they lack character needed to lead in Christ’s name.
When it comes to leadership, Competence counts, but character qualifies.
As we said above, most measure a leader by his hands, but Paul calls for us to measure a leader by his heart as seen through his relationships. This means our private lives do matter. Virtually all of the qualities listed in this passage take root in our private lives and bear fruit in our public lives. Ultimately, these qualities are about love—they are expressed through love.
Interestingly enough, you get to character through competence. The way we carry out our competence reveals the reality of our character. Competence brings us up against character every time. Character determines how we exercise our competence and what kind of fruit we bear.
Time out question:
Before reading ahead answer this question: What does the exercise of competence reveal about a leader’s character?
- It reveals our wisdom—how we respond in difficult situations.
- It reveals our motives—why we respond the way we do in difficult situations.
- It reveals our fears—whether we are willing to face the hard things.
What we avoid reveals who we are.
- It reveals our commitments—what we are willing to give ourselves to.
- It reveals our values—what our prices is and what we’ll say no to.
The way we live reveals our true answers—not just the right answers, but our true convictions as measured by our relationships. In the New Testament every man is measured by his relationships:
- are they real?
- are they appropriately vulnerable?
- are they honest?
- are they loving?
- are they marked by integrity?
Relationships measure the man—they measure our hearts, what is true of us at the deepest part of our beings.
Only he who lives like a man can join with others and lead like men.
Only those who live godly lives—who walk in godly ways—can lead like men.
Only those who meet the qualifications of true manhood can like men as God defines leadership.
Competence is revealed in the action; character is revealed in the struggle.
To live like a man live the way God wants a man to live and demonstrate the kind of character He wants in His leaders. This character is character tested and proven in relationships. You cannot grow the kind of character God wants you to have only by focusing on it. This can help, but it never is enough. Character comes almost incidentally in our lives, often without our knowing it. We only grow character in the process of pursuing competence.
Sooner or later your competence will bring you into a struggle with your character—
- fear will block you
- personal ambition will bring you down
- anger will harm you
- unforgiveness will destroy you
- lust will shame you
- vengeance will shatter you
- pride will trip you up.
Competence, Character, AND Compassion
In reality, many unbelievers have both competence and character, and even compassion as well. Yet the addition of compassion to competence and character is essential. I think of this in terms of love as seen in the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:34-40 and also in Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:9 that our love be real. Muslims have a form of competence and character and other religions do as well.
It’s love that makes the difference, love that marks us as unique, specifically the love of Christ through us. Competence and character can make us good as far as others are concerned, but love makes the difference because love makes us the men God created us to be. The problem with love is that sometimes it gets in the way of competence because it may stop us from doing some things that are to our advantage in business or other areas of life. That’s why love is always an act of trust. We can’t love Christ’s way without desperately depending on Him and we can’t love without having it cost us something. The essence of love is sacrifice.
But to be God’s leaders—to live like a man so we can lead like men—we must trust Him and love.
- Live Like A Man To Lead Like Men.
- Leaders Are Job 1!
- Our Private Lives Do Matter.
- Character Overwhelms Competence Every Time.
- Competence Is Revealed In The Action; Character Is Revealed In The Struggle.
- The Way You Live Determines The Way You Lead.
- The Way You Lead Reveals The Way You Live.
- The Way You Live And Lead Determines The Way Others Follow You—If You Have Broken Windows, They Will Have More Broken Windows.
- Character Is The Tipping Point In Every Leader’s Life.
Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point, p. 142
Gladwell, p. 145