April 20, 2016 Shawn Lovejoy

Why a Leader Often Needs to Be Mean

Be Mean

If you look up the word mean in the dictionary, you’ll see several definitions. One of them says that to be mean is “to be offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating.” That’s the definition most of us think of first, and I know some mean leaders, don’t you? I’m not giving you permission to be a mean leader.


However, the other definition of the word mean is “to have an intended purpose.”

In this instance, the word mean has to do with intent. We’ll sometimes say “What I meant to say was . . . ” or “I meant that as a compliment.” In these instances the word mean has to do with intent. That is what “being mean about the vision” is all about. Being mean about the vision is being intentional about the vision.

Why is it so important that we be intentional about the vision?

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 29:18 that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In other words, where there is no vision, things dies and people die; maybe not physically, but in the Bible death is not physical. When Adam and Eve lost sight of God’s vision for them in the garden, they died; not physically, but spiritually, relationally, and emotionally. That’s how the Bible most often describes death.

Some of us know that the word vision in in Proverbs 29:18 is literally translated “revelation.” The New International Version translates this same verse like this: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” In other words, God also wants us to know that where there is a lack of a clear vision revealed by God for a person or organization, there is going to be less focus, more people running in random directions, and and more chaos that ensues!

This is why I believe vision is the most important thing in the world.

We must understand, embrace, and align our lives and our organizations around God’s revealed vision for our lives and the organizations we lead! We must steward it. Preserve it. We must protect it. We must defend it. We must hold people accountable to it. We must be willing to let people go when they won’t align around it.

All of this is what it means to “be mean” about the vision. The cry of our day is for courageous leaders, not cowardly ones. We need leaders who will stand up like the prophets of old and boldly proclaim, but then relentlessly fight to preserve and protect the most important thing in the world: God’s vision for our lives and the organizations we lead.

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Shawn Lovejoy

Shawn Lovejoy is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com, a coaching ministry for leaders. Shawn’s new book for leaders: Be Mean About The Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters, released in April 2016. Shawn lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife Tricia, and their three kids Hannah, Madison, and Paul.

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