Every Leader Is A Limited Edition Of One


Knockoff: A copy or imitation of someone or something popular. Limited edition: An edition restricted to a specified number of copies.

Every leader is a limited edition of one.

My leadership role changed on June 1, 2009. That is the day I became the Senior Pastor of Spanish River Church. For the previous 30 years in ministry I was a "second leader." Now, for the first time in my life, I was leading "the team." What I discovered is that while my role changed, who I am as a leader did not. I needed to be reminded of that.

As I assumed my new post, I pondered the advice of a friend. Raymond Underwood and I grew up together. We also served side-by-side in pastoral ministry for almost twenty-five years. He knew my predecessor, David Nicholas, and he knows me. Ray told me:

Tommy, you are not David Nicholas. You can't lead like him. You are a teacher and a writer and you need to lead through the gifts God has given you.

Years ago, I experienced a similar admonition, albeit from someone I never met. Warren Wiersbe is the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. A preacher, teacher, and writer, Wiersbe has eighty years and over 100 books under his belt. Wiersbe once said: "Every preacher is a limited edition of one."

What is true of preachers is true of leaders! I see this in my children.

Last Friday we celebrated our third son's twenty-seventh birthday.

Paul has always had an organizational bent. When he was four, I arrived home to his triumphant announcement: "Dad, I rearranged your workbench today." Yes, he is an organizer. He is hardwired for business too. Paul was selling Gatorade to thirsty gym rats before he was ten, had his sister on the payroll by 12, and was running a successful start-up at 21. Today he operates his own Chick-fil-A restaurant.

As I reflect on the words of Raymond and Wiersbe, and ponder the unique bents of my own children, I remember the Psalmist's words:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. There is no one else like you. You are a limited edition of one. And that goes for your leadership too.

In his book, First Break All The Rules, leadership expert Marcus Buckingham exhorts his readers with this mantra: "People don't change that much. Don't waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough." Leaders who understand their uniqueness have a much easier time drawing it out of others.

I learn a few key lessons from all of this.

Celebrate your God-given uniqueness as a leader.

God did not make one leader, he made a Moses, a Joshua, a Gideon, a Deborah, a Nehemiah, and an apostle named Paul. Each led, but each led according the way God designed them. God has designed you in a unique way and for a unique role too.

Be the best that you can be for God.

Learn from others, but be yourself. I learn from Drucker, Hybels, Warren, Collins, and a host of others, but God has not called me to be them. I honor God when I lead out of the strengths he has given me for his glory.

Build on the leadership strengths of others.

The art of leadership is "to draw out what was left in" those around you. Throw away your cookie-cutter mold. Take people for who they are and build on their strengths.

Knockoffs are everywhere. But as a leader you are a priceless original, a limited edition of one. Don't settle for anything less.


This week we are going to explore more about this leadership axiom:

  • Tuesday: How To Take A Leadership Inventory
  • Wednesday: Exploring Your Leadership Style
  • Thursday: How Good Leaders Become Great
  • Friday: Quips and Quotes on Leadership


Warren Wiersbe: The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching: A Comprehensive Resource For Today’s Communicators, page 74.