Billy Graham is famous for being one of the most influential role models of all time. His messages and books have literally reached millions and have influenced thousands of world leaders.
He was born on November 7th, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina to William and Morrow Graham, the eldest of four children raised on a dairy farm. Billy was a well disciplined and respectful child and no one had a clue that he would preach the Gospel to over 215 Million people in 185 countries. His messages on the Bible have reached more people than anyone else in history (sans Jesus, Paul and Moses).
An unknown evangelist paved the road for Billy to embark on his spiritual route. It started at the age of 16 when Billy attended a sequence of local gatherings the messages he heard on sin had a tremendous impact on his life.
After high school, he began attending college and later transferred to the Florida Bible Academy. He worked hard at his studies and eventually graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology. In 1943, he married Ruth McCue Bell and would go on to raise five children with her over the years.
There is something we can learn from every influential leader’s life and Billy Graham is no exception. Whether you are a leader at a church, a business, in government, or even within your family, you might want to consider some of thoughts, questions and experiences of Billy Graham. The following article looks at three of the important lessons we can learn from the life of Billy Graham.
#1 – Be Open to Feedback
In 1948, a crusade in California was a huge eye opener for Dr. Graham, unfortunately it was a largely unsuccessful event. After the event, Billy pulled the team together for some discussion and asked a difficult question, “Why don’t people trust Christian ministries, especially evangelists?” As a result of this feedback session they identified six significant areas of concern and together they began working toward improving and addressing them.
In many cases businesses executives fail to address the small problems affecting their success. It is important to address these issues immediately as they can become cancerous. Be open to having those uncomfortable discussions from time to time. Meet with your leadership team or employees and discuss important issues that may be affecting your business. These conversations can unify and strengthen your teams.
Also be sure to get feedback from multiple levels of your organization when possible. When you limit the feedback you receive to a subset of the organization then you are sure to limit your own perspective as well. Make sure you understand how everyone in the organization feels or is affected by a particular issue before addressing it.
#2 – Work as a Team
The entire world had seen conflict in the Christian church due to mistrust and discord within the church community. Instead of fame and fortune, Billy Graham’s aim was restoring character, integrity and unity for the church as he engaged in a series of crusades around the world. His message was repentance, salvation in Christ, mercy and forgiveness with the intention of unifying people. He challenged all Christian leaders to become involved in his crusades and all denominations were accepted as partners. Dr. Graham was committed to the local church leaders and pastors. He sincerely loved them and sympathized with each of their issues. Your commitment and genuine involvement to your teams will have a positive impact. When leaders commit to a cause or purpose it will influence others.
Many times in business, teams form silos where they only work within the confines of their business unit or team which can greatly impede momentum, idea generation and success. Work to build relationships with other business units (internal and external). You will have to be intentional when connecting because our natural tendency is to sit with friends and colleagues inside your own circle. At meetings, conferences and meals, if you intentionally mix yourself with people you don’t know well, then you’ll begin to build relationships with them. Over the years those relationships will provide opportunities to help others and harvest assistance for your own dilemmas.
#3 – Don’t Make Money Your Sole Focus
Since the establishment of his formal ministry in 1950, Dr. Graham has never accepted a love offering or any type of monetary reward for his diligent work with the crusades. He survived on pay for his newspaper column and his book royalties. Money was never the focus of his attention. His income was generated from his hard work and from investing in relationships with others.
Many times as business leaders our heavy focus on the bottom line dollars and cents can be detrimental to our long-term success. By no means can you ignore the monthly, quarterly and annual reviews of the finances, but a hyper-focus on them can easily develop into “tunnel vision” which may cause you to miss other important trends or issues within the business. Instead focus your energies on building relationships, investing in people, working hard, and centering around activities and behaviors.