This is a post on the importance of leadership in ministry, but that lesson will come via the mouth and decisions of a man you have likely never heard of. David Poile is the General Manager for the Nashville Predators. I am a rabid hockey fan. And I especially love the Predators.
The General Manager in sports is the person responsible for drafting players, signing free agents, and hiring/firing the coach. In other words, he is responsible to the owner of the team for what the product is on the field, court, or ice. He assembles the team’s personnel and hires the coach that is charged with leading the team to success. It is a big job.
David Poile has been the General Manager from the beginning of the Nashville Predators franchise (1997). As I write this, the Predators are poised to begin the Western Conference Finals. This is the furthest they have ever been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They need to collect four wins against Anaheim to advance and compete for Lord Stanley’s hallowed Cup. The city of Nashville is electric right now.
David Poile is a big reason, if not the biggest, for why the Predators are in this position. Poile has made some critical decisions over the past several years that have put Nashville in this historical spot. Those decisions and what he remarked about them contains importance lessons for us as pastors and ministry leaders.
The first big move was replacing Barry Trotz with Peter Laviolette. Barry Trotz had been the Nashville coach since the very first season (1997-1998). Trotz’s contract was not renewed for the 2014-2015 season. Instead, Poile signed Peter Laviolette, a proven winner with a philosophy of fast, offense-oriented hockey. The move has paid huge dividends.
The second big move was trading Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. Jones was drafted by the Predators with the fourth pick in the 2013 draft. Jones is the kind of player that is guarenteed to be successful for a decade plus of hockey in the NHL. However, the Predators are loaded with defensemen. They needed offense. So in a bold trade, Poile traded Seth Jones to the Colombus Blue Jackets for the young, talented Center, Ryan Johansen. Johansen was exactly the kind of young offensive stud the Predators have always lacked. The move has paid huge dividends.
Lastly, the third big move was trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. Weber had been a fixture in the Predators lineup for years, and was a perennial All-Star and Olympian. He was also the Captain of the Nashville Predators. This was the franchise’s most notable player. Yet, in the summer of 2016, Poile traded Weber for the younger, more outspoken All-Star and Olympian, P.K. Subban. Subban is a more offensive-minded hockey player than Weber. The move has paid huge dividends.
So here the Predators are, poised for historic things in the 2016-2017 season. As Poile is interviewed about all these moves over the last few years that have put them in this position, his answers have been incredibly insightful. One host was recently talking to Poile and asked him about these decisions, and how difficult it must be with the relationships involved and with all the uncertainty of whether or not they will work out. His answer was astounding.
Poile told the interviewer, “I have to make decisions that are best for the organization. I have to consider what is going to help us to achieve our ultimate goal. I cannot let my personal relationships get in the way of making the right decision. I have to make hard decisions. That’s what I’m paid to do. You do not always know how it is going to work out. But you have to do what you think will best help the organization succeed.”
He is absolutely right. That is his job. It does not matter if he is great friends with Barry Trotz or Shea Weber. The moment he loses confidence that Trotz can get the job done for the organization or whether Weber fits the style he wants to play, he has to make the hard leadership call. It is his job. If he cannot make the call or decision, then it actually shows he cannot do his job effectively.
In ministry, we as leaders have something far more important than hockey that we are a part of. We have to make hard decisions and those decisions must have at the center of them the goal of helping our churches or ministries achieve their missions. We cannot dither or hem-haw around tough decisions. As pastors and leaders, we must make hard calls. Our driving motivation cannot be self-preservation, popularity, people-pleasing, or maintain the (artificial) peace. Rather we must keep the mission of reaching the lost and discipling the saved at the forefront. In order to do that well, sometimes we have to make difficult decisions. Those decisions often deal with people’s limitations, ceilings of capacity, or sometimes their character. But we cannot wait for someone else to do it for us. As a leader, I cannot hope someone steps in and does the hard thing for me. That’s what I’m paid to do.