Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

March 2015
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The Three Horizons

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

The effective leader will focus on three time horizons simultaneously:

  1. Cultivating current responsibilities, extending and defending the core existing ministries. For example, a local church will have existing ministries relating to pastoral care, children, Sunday morning meetings, etc.
  2. Tending and nurturing emerging ideas, strategies, and processes. These are budding ministries that are not yet running at full speed. These initiatives need attention to build them up to be effective and fruitful. Some of these will become core processes in the future – especially when some of the old core ministries are fulfilled or lose their focus or relevance. For example, a local church may have begun a new small group strategy that is just starting to become effective.
  3. Planting seeds for tomorrow. Healthy organizations encourage creativity and innovation for the long term. Not all of these seeds will bring forth an abundant harvest so a variety of initiatives needs to be carried forward together. We must listen to the Holy Spirit – He knows everything about the future! For example, a local church may be praying and learning about how to send out missionaries in the future.

This pattern encompasses the mature, emergent, and embryonic phases of an organization’s life cycle. The leader is responsible to see that they are all addressed effectively. If any one of them is ignored there will be problems. If the current, core responsibilities are neglected then there will be no tomorrow. But if the future horizons are neglected, sooner or later the organization will stagnate and become irrelevant.

Moreover, the top leader must ensure that the right people focus on the right horizons. The gifts and callings required to manage current responsibilities, to develop new strategies and to search out viable future directions are widely different from one another:

  1. Taking care of present responsibilities (the first horizon) requires effective managers.
  2. Developing emerging strategies (the second horizon) requires builders – the typical “entrepreneurs” or leader-managers who can realistically connect long-range vision with the necessary daily realities of the organization.
  3. The identification and creation of viable future opportunities (the third horizon) requires lateral thinkers and visionaries.

Again, the leader is responsible to see that they are all addressed effectively – at all times.

Pause and Reflect:

Specialization needs to be recognized. Dr. Webber stresses that effective leaders will develop and attend to all of these thinking styles. Here in this article he allows that a good leader will be able to delegate tasks “to the right people” who are best equipped and qualified by calling to effectively fulfill the needs represented in the three horizons. The three areas of specialization are:

  1. Effective Managers
  2. Builders (Activators, Implementers)
  3. Creative Minds (Lateral Thinkers & Visionaries)

Is everyone in your organization using all gifts and skills to the fullest potential?

Prayerfully consider each individual and ask God to show you how He desires the gifts and skills He has blessed each one with to be used in the work He has designated.
– LeaderSource SGA