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Toughest Decisions of Leaders, Part 6

We asked six influential ministry leaders to tell us their stories of
the toughest leadership decision they’d ever made—and how they went
about making the decision. We’ve already heard from Craig Groeschel,  Nancy Ortberg, Glenn Packiam, Richard Stearns and Dr. Joel C. Hunter. This week we conclude this series with Dr. Kara E. Powell, the executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute, who shares about her decision to find the right ministry partner:


When it comes to team development, history tells us great leaders
“first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and
the right people in the right seats—and then they figured out where to
drive it. The old adage, ‘People are your most important asset’ turns
out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right
people are.”

This research-based insight from Jim Collins in the leadership book
Good to Great summarizes my own convictions about developing a team.
Those we invite to journey with us as teammates largely define the road
we travel. That means our recruiting and hiring decisions are some of
the most important—and hardest—leadership decisions we will ever make.

The last major hire I was responsible for was the associate director of the Fuller Youth Institute. I knew this person would be my closest teammate, my primary ministry partner and a central figure in our Sticky Faith research project.
From a long list of well-qualified candidates, I narrowed my choice to two. Cynthia had great administrative skills and could plow through any to-do list with ease and speed. Brad had more ministry experience and was a savvy strategic thinker. Either of them would have been a great associate director.

I did what had always helped me when facing hard decisions: I prayed. A lot.

I made a list of their respective strengths and weaknesses.

I checked their references.

But I still didn’t know who to choose. The good news was they were both good options. The bad news was I didn’t know who would be best. Without a clear favorite, or a pair of divine thumbs sending me a text message with the answer, I felt stuck.

That’s when my ever-so-wise husband asked me two important questions: “If Brad called you tomorrow and told you he wanted to withdraw from the search process, how would you feel?”

My immediate answer: “Disappointed.”

You can probably guess his second question. “If Cynthia called you tomorrow and told you the same thing, how would you feel?”

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My quick response: “Relieved.”

At that moment, I knew Brad was the right person for the job. I offered him the position, and we’ve been leading together ever since. Cynthia would have been good. Brad is pretty perfect. I can’t imagine a better ministry partner.

I’m a highly rational person. I make lists for everything, including most major decisions. I rely on my intellect for choices every day.

That’s not a bad thing, but there’s another side of me—and of you—that is more intuitive and emotional. If you’re like me, that side is harder to access. It was my husband’s two specific questions that unlocked the door to that side of me—the side of me that knew deep down what to do but was rendered mute.

When choosing between two great options, I often ask myself these same two questions. Whether it be a matter of our team’s strategic priorities or a conversation with my mom about whether to sell her house, questions like these help unearth our buried desires.

I’m constantly reminded that getting the right people on the bus—and taking the bus in the right direction—are decisions requiring both our intellect and our intuition.

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