George Westlake - Circles of Leadership - Leaders.Church


George Westlake – Circles of Leadership

What’s in this Episode?

We are sitting down with George Westlake, Senior Pastor of Sheffield Family Life Center, to discuss circles of leadership.

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Dick Hardy 0:06
Hey friends, it’s great to be with you on this Church Tips Podcast. And I gotta tell you, I am pumped to be hanging out with my buddy George Westlake. He’s the Lead Pastor of Sheffield Family Life Center up in Kansas City, and has just been a good friend. We were just calculating what, about 20, 21 years? Something like that. Now, he knew my sister way back in the day when he was a college guy, but that meant he had no idea who Dick Hardy was. But anyway, it’s great to hang out with you today, George. Thanks for slicing some time off to talk to us.

George Westlake 0:38
Hey, Dick, nice to be with you. Thanks for the opportunity. I appreciate it.

Dick Hardy 0:42
Yeah, you bet. You know, we were talking here recently about something that really has been stirring around inside you. And that is the circles of leadership that all of us as pastors and church leaders have in our lives. So, I wonder if you could just give us a jumpstart on what that is, as you’re defining it?

George Westlake 1:06
Yeah. Thank you so much. I’m an old guy now, so I’m gonna put on my reading glasses. Yeah, I kind of break everything around us in leadership down to circles. And, you know, how you treat different circles, how you view different circles around you determines a lot. And a lot of it actually ends up being how we’re affected by people in these circles. And, I’ve got it down to six circles in my little schematic.

George Westlake 1:40
And feel free to jump in here anywhere you want because you are Dick Hardy and you do what you want anyway, so you don’t need my permission.

George Westlake 1:47
But, you know, that first circle would be the close family and maybe a couple people. You know, when I was in my 20s, everybody was my friend, everybody was in my circle. Probably even early to mid 30s, everybody was in my circle. Now, I’m fortunate even to have enough to make up a circle. So you’ve got your family, you’ve got a couple close people that you have history with. History is so important with people, because they understand how you feel, and they consider your feelings. You know, people who love you and have history with you will consider your feelings. So, that’s the first circle, I think we’re all pretty clear on that.

George Westlake 2:28
Then you have that second circle. And I think in leadership this second circle is where a lot of leadership, and obviously it can come from the first circle, from a spouse or children and things, but I’m talking more leadership things. The second circle is really where a lot of that deep betrayal happens. And I would say I’ve been betrayed many times, undermined and hurt, frustrated, and probably even thrown into a place of not being sure of my my ability or my calling, at some points.

George Westlake 3:02
Because this second circle is your team, your leaders, your staff, your key people. So these would be people around you that have influence. Some of them have positions, some of them have influence, they get information that not everyone gets. They know a little bit more about you than other people know, they might have a little history, they might not. You are trusting of them.

George Westlake 3:28
And oftentimes, Dick, what I’ve seen, and I’m sure you’ve seen it even more than I have, because you’re out there among the people. So many times in that second circle of people who are trusted leaders, partners, team members, you get an alliance there that begins to betray the leader. And you get that underground pipeline that starts feeding information back and forth. And maybe they’re hiding in offices, and meeting in offices, or they’re going to lunch together and everything looks copacetic, but it’s really not. And you start realizing in your spirit, there’s something going on here. There’s something happening. I know there is.

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George Westlake 4:08
But those people tend to sell you out more than they’re willing to sell each other out. In that second circle, it’s kind of strange to me that they’ve got this incredible loyalty to each other, but they lose their loyalty to you. And you’re the one that’s actually signing their check. You know, it’s a bizarre thing. And I think the enemy confuses people and blinds people there. But that second circle brings a lot of deep betrayal and a lot of hurt and actually a lot of failure in ministry. I’m going to kick it back to you real quick because you probably have some thoughts on that, or input.

Dick Hardy 4:42
Well, you know, I don’t know if this was where you would go with this, but you can see with your description there of that second circle. You could see why pastors begin to have family in that spot.

George Westlake 4:42

Dick Hardy 4:42
Because you mitigate an awful lot of that kind of thing.

George Westlake 4:45
You do.

Dick Hardy 4:45
Because they are people you can trust. You can trust with your life.

George Westlake 5:14
Right. And one of the things that I’ve seen in myself, I’m not proud of it, or I guess I should say I’m not happy that it’s this way, and I see it in a lot of other leaders, and I think the higher the level the more common it is, trust is a huge problem. You know, I’ve got major trust issues. There are very few people I will sit down with, and they say, Oh, you can trust me, and I believe them. Because I’ve been betrayed and undermined so many times.

George Westlake 5:40
And usually when somebody has enough information to be in a circle that knows a little bit about you, they can make a lie sound really true. If someone were to say, Yeah, Dick Hardy, you know, he wears glasses, but they’re not even prescription lenses. He just does it because he thinks he looks better in glasses. Well, there’s no truth to that.

George Westlake 6:02

George Westlake 6:02
But because I have relationship with you, I can tell somebody and they say, Oh, really? I didn’t know that. Yeah, it’s true. That’s true. And his wife gets really mad at him every time he wears them. But, so, they have enough information to make the lie sound very believable.

Dick Hardy 6:20
And I would interject in here, too. This is not exclusive to ministry.

George Westlake 6:26

Dick Hardy 6:27
You’ve got people, particularly high capacity people in your churches that face these very same kind of things. In their orb, they’re facing this. You know, you could look at a bunch of execs and you think they have the world by the tail, but they’re dealing with trust issues around their table as well. And we have a role and responsibility, or I would say privilege, to help them come along and to really maneuver through this to get to the best place for them as well.

George Westlake 6:59
Right. So yeah, it is very common. Matter of fact, I just met with a guy this morning, who is a high level leader in our city, and he deals with the exact same things. And it creates a lot of problems in leadership.

George Westlake 7:17
The third circle, would be people who serve. This is, you know, in regard to a church, people who serve, your church is their home, they’re committed to your church, they have some investment, they’re probably givers, they have buy-in. Like I said, they probably serve in some capacity, their church/your church. But there can be a lot of personal offense in this group, because oftentimes, in this group, in this circle, is where you get the…

George Westlake 7:47
You know, when I was a kid, we used to pull petals off a flower and say, she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me. That’s kind of how it goes with this third circle. Because you have these department heads, these teachers, the volunteers, people who work as greeters and parking lot. They may work in the Music Department or the Education Department, the Children’s Department and this week they love you, this month they love you, next month they don’t. And you think okay, yeah, that’s my guy.

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Dick Hardy 7:48
I thought I was the only one that dealt with that. You mean?

George Westlake 8:22
Well, yeah. I’m trying to be empathetic towards.

Dick Hardy 8:25

George Westlake 8:26
I’ve never really dealt with it. But yeah, they love me, they love me not. They will tell you, You know you’re the greatest pastor ever. I’ve been to three other churches. This is the most incredible church, I love being involved. All my needs are met here spiritually. Every time you preach, it seems like you’re talking to me. And then two months later, them and everybody else working in that department thinks you don’t know anything. You can’t do anything.

Dick Hardy 8:52

George Westlake 8:52
This guy, he doesn’t preach the Word. All he does is tell stories. None of it’s affecting me. And, you know, this is the worst church I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to three churches, this is the worst one I’ve ever been to. So it’s kind of that circle where you get that hurt and I think it affects our self image.

George Westlake 9:11
Because one of the things I had to do, Dick, and it’s part of growing up in life, but it’s part of growing up as a leader, is I had to get to a point where somehow I didn’t take everything personally, you know, every bad thing somebody said. Because, you know, I’m a guy, I’m old school enough to believe that if there’s a problem in the system, ultimately it’s my fault.

George Westlake 9:35
You know, if there’s a problem here, if there’s a problem there, you know, eventually it comes to my desk, and I’m responsible. So everything is somehow connected to me.

Dick Hardy 9:47

George Westlake 9:47
So if there’s a problem anywhere, somewhere it’s my fault. And I think because of that, and I think a lot of leaders feel that way. That you know, yes, I’m responsible for everything, ultimately. Because of that, we take it personally. And if somebody doesn’t like this, if somebody doesn’t like the color of the paint, we get the concrete floor stain and they liked the carpet better. You know, they didn’t love one message, they didn’t respond the way we thought, we get offended.

George Westlake 9:47
And I did that for years and years and years. I would say it’s only the last four or five years that I’ve gotten to a place where I am not personally offended by complaints, because it’s just the nature of the beast.

Dick Hardy 10:32

George Westlake 10:33
And it’s not all my fault. Even though I’m responsible, it’s not all my fault. And it’s not all because of me. There are actually people who don’t like something, and it’s not tied to me. And so, you know, but we get a lot of hurt from that circle because these people are involved, they know us, they’re here, they’re part of our family and they have complaints. The fourth circle is,

Dick Hardy 10:55
Hey, hang on a second, George.

George Westlake 10:56
Yes, sir.

Dick Hardy 10:57
On that third circle, do you see these people bailing on you or do they just begin to grouse about things?

George Westlake 11:07
They begin to grouse. The bailors would be in the in the next circle.

Dick Hardy 11:11

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George Westlake 11:12
The third circle would be people who actually have buy-in this, you know, this is their church. It’s not just yours, it’s their church. They’ve got buy in. The fourth circle would be consistent, or somewhat non-consistent attenders. They’re in they’re out. You know, they serve here, then they’re gone, they serve here, they’re around. When they hear something bad, you know, they talk about leaving. They go from ministry to ministry.

George Westlake 11:38
You know, we’ve got people who have served in five different ministries, six different ministries, and they do the same thing, you know, their pattern is the same. They’ll serve for six months, and then they bail out. And eventually they’re going to do that on the whole church. So you know, you learn to have relationship with these people, you put a little bit of trust in them, but they’re casual and they’ll find a reason to leave. You know, they’ll find a reason to complain, they’ll find a reason not to like something, they’ll find a reason to leave.

George Westlake 12:08
For those people, I think for this fourth circle, it doesn’t hurt as bad as the third circle, because we didn’t have a lot of stock in them. We hoped for the best. We didn’t expect, you know, everything to be great, but we hoped. And, you know, for this circle, I think we just say, you know, Hey, blessings on you. I bless you. I can’t tell you how many people that I’ve said, You know, I bless You. I bless you in your leaving. I hope you find the church that meets your needs. I hope you find what you’re looking for. I am not offended. We bless you, you know, that’s kind of that fourth circle. Because they’re in and out and you kind of have the gut feeling the whole time that they’re not long term reserves.

Dick Hardy 12:29
They’re not going to go long distance with you.

George Westlake 12:49
No, they’re not. They’re not going to ride this out. This is not their church, period.

George Westlake 12:54
Fifth circle would be people who like your church, they like it. Yeah, I like this church. I’ve been here several times, I come once in a while. Or as I meet people they say, Oh yeah, we go to your church. Well, they come once every three to six months and they call it their church. And that’s good. I’m glad they do. But they say, you know, yeah, we like your church. They call it theirs perhaps, but there’s really no investment, you know. They may throw a $5 bill, a $20 bill in the offering or something, or, you know, tithe online one time or something, but there’s not a lot of buy-in, there’s not a lot of investment there.

George Westlake 13:30
And, they could be MIA anytime, you know. These are the people who say, you know, I think I’m gonna start coming here, I’ve got several family members I want to bring, some people I work with and they need to see this. And then they’re gone. Then they show up six months later, and then they’re gone again. That fifth circle doesn’t bother us a whole lot.

George Westlake 13:50
I want to get to the sixth circle. This is my last one. This sixth circle, this is a very distant circle, from what really matters, but this one can really cause us problems and cause us a lot of pain. And this is the circle of other people, outsiders, people who do not go to your church. They may come for an event, they may drop in for an Easter or Christmas special, or if you have a concert, or a dramatic presentation, or a conference at your church, they may come in there.

George Westlake 14:27
They’re outsiders, but more than anything, they’re competitors. You know, their competitors, they might be even other pastors. They’re other leaders that are leaders in other churches. And this is kind of the place where people hear things. Oh, yeah, I’ve heard things about your church. I hear things about your church. I’ve read things about your church. I have a friend that went there, and they said this. You know, I have a friend that saw this, or heard this, or read this.

George Westlake 15:01
And they’re not really a part of it. And they really don’t know much, but it’s ironic, Dick, that these people that are so disconnected can cause us such deep problems. Actually, you know, people outside of our circles of influence, because the first five are kind of somewhat influential. They’re factors in what we do.

George Westlake 15:24
The sixth circle, they’re not really even a factor, but they interject themselves. And because of their desire, or maybe they’re just innate quality of disruption, they become a problem for your church.

Dick Hardy 15:41

George Westlake 15:41
You know, we’ve all had competitors. You know, for me, it would be other pastors that talk bad about your church, they say things about your church that aren’t true. People around them start saying things, this stuff gets back to you as a leader and you’re saying…

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Dick Hardy 16:02
Where did that come from?

George Westlake 15:58
It happened to me yesterday. I had to tell a guy, I have never even had a conversation with that person about this. Ever.

Dick Hardy 16:07

George Westlake 16:07
But they’re saying things and people are believing them because they’re in the same business and they appear to know.

Dick Hardy 16:16
The power of the tongue.

George Westlake 16:18

Dick Hardy 16:18
I mean, scripture talks so plainly about it, and the damage it can do.

George Westlake 16:25
Yeah, and it’s frustrating as a leader, it’s frustrating for any of us as a leader. Because, you know, we want to be strong enough. We want to be stable enough. We want to be secure enough that we can take some shots and they don’t hurt us, they don’t weaken us. But you know, we’re all frail. We’re all emotional people. We’re all easily hurt.

George Westlake 16:51
And you know, one of the things that’s kind of amusing, and this fits in several of these circles, probably more in the third, fourth and fifth circle, and I’ve had people say things to me like this. They’ll say, Well, you know what, I love you. I don’t love the way you preach. I don’t love the way you dress. I don’t love the way your church functions. I don’t like the way you do worship. I don’t like the way you have the lights set in the auditorium. But I love you.

George Westlake 17:20
And I will say, You know what, here’s the deal. If you don’t like anything about me, you don’t like me.

Dick Hardy 17:26

George Westlake 17:26
You don’t. You can’t tell me, I hate your clothes. I hate your car. I hate your house. I hate your family. But I love you. No, you don’t know. And Christians try to pull that off because they think they can play that, Well, you know, I love you. I love you in the Lord. No, you don’t. You really don’t.

Dick Hardy 17:41
Right. Well listen, George, this has been phenomenal. And by the way, we’re going to put the show notes, kind of a synopsis of this, so that you can have it. But give us a, as we wrap this thing up, give us a 1,2,3,4,5,6. Just rattle those off again, the bullet points there. Would you do that for us please?

George Westlake 18:04
Surely. It’s the first circle would be close family and a few trusted friends. Second circle would be your team, leaders, staff, key people around you that have influence and that you’re willing to invest in. The third circle would be people who serve. Your church is their church. This is their church home. They have buy-in, they have investment. We are in it, we believe it, we’re in the journey with you. This is our church.

George Westlake 18:04
They probably even serve in some areas and they know a little bit more about you. They’ve probably been around you in meetings, in pep talks, maybe pre-service/post-service, other things. They’ve been around you, they have some insight into who you are in your life, they have buy-in. That’s the third circle. So, you know, they end up having some influence and are quasi in and out of your life as an individual.

George Westlake 19:10
Fourth circle would be consistent and non-consistent attenders. The casual investors. They have some investment. This is their church, they would say, Yeah, this is my church. You know, I do have some investment here. I’m hit and miss. I’ll be involved for a little while. I’m not going to leave unless God tells me. This is one of the lines the people in this fourth circle say a lot. I’m not leaving. People are trying to get me to leave. They’ve told me I should leave, trying to get me to go to another church. I’m not leaving unless God tells me. Well, ultimately, these people end up kind of floating on that.

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George Westlake 19:48
The fifth circle is people who like your church. They might even call it their church, but there’s no real investment. They’re not involved. They’re probably not buying into missions projects. They’re probably not tithing a whole lot. They’re not they’re not buying into all of that, even though they would say, Yes, this is my church. And, you know, they go missing a lot.

Dick Hardy 20:18

George Westlake 20:11
I haven’t seen that guy that used to sit right here. They were here for like four or five months. I haven’t seen them in a year. Well, then they disappear and they kind of come back. That’s that fifth circle. They’re not connected, but you know, they like your church.

George Westlake 20:26
The sixth one is the one with people who are not part of your church. It would be other people, outsiders, competitors, maybe even other people who do what you do. They have not signed a non-compete. And so they will, you know, they will say whatever they want. They’ll cast stones. If there’s something they don’t like, sometimes they will act like they’ve had conversations with you they haven’t had.

George Westlake 20:51
Or sometimes they’ll say, Hey, yeah, we’re really close friends. I’ve had people tell me, Yeah, this guy told me, I talked to him, he told me he’s a really good friend of yours. And I’m thinking, I don’t think we’ve ever spoken. But, you know, I don’t always say that, because it’s not healthy. But,

George Westlake 21:07

George Westlake 21:07
I’m thinking that. So that’s that sixth circle that can cause us a lot of pain. It really doesn’t even have a stake in our life.

Dick Hardy 21:13
Yeah. That’s so good, George. Thank you so much for going through those with us. Give us a parting shot here. If a pastor who’s listening to this, they’re tuned in, their tracking, what do you want them to hear from our discussion here today?

George Westlake 21:30
I think the hard lesson to learn, I will say for me has been… I’m getting better at it. I haven’t perfected it. Much better than I used to be, is we need to try to learn from everything. You know, we learn from everything, even the bad things. Even when people say things that are bad, even when people say things that we think aren’t remotely true. What can I learn from that?

George Westlake 21:58
When somebody tells me something that lets me know they really don’t know me at all, they just think they do, Okay, but somewhere I’m putting off that persona. Maybe that’s what I’m giving off. Maybe that’s what I’m radiating. I don’t know. So I’d say bottom line is, try to allow everything to be a learning point. And, you know, that requires a lot of strength, a lot of personal security. It does, but but we can do that. And, it helps in the long run.

Dick Hardy 22:34
Yep. So good. Wow, thanks very much, George for really taking time to hang out with me on this and our pastors and church leaders. It really has been a great privilege to be with you.

Dick Hardy 22:46
For those of you watching and listening, it would be very helpful to us if you would, wherever you subscribe to your podcast, first, subscribe to the Church Tips Podcast, but secondly, rate and review. That helps us get the message out to more and more people. And we would be very, very grateful for it.

Dick Hardy 23:05
So, George, thanks again so much.

George Westlake 23:07
Thanks friend.

Dick Hardy 23:08
And to the listeners and viewers, it’s been great to be with you today. Make it a great one and be blessed

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