Published: 5 years ago

Leaders Pick Up The Trash

On Sunday morning I was walking up the sidewalk at one of our campuses when I saw our First Impressions Director coming from the other direction. He’d take a few steps, stoop down. Take a few more steps, stoop down. Over and over.

Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop.

Once my bad eyes and new glasses adjusted, I could see the reason for the stoop: he was picking up trash along the way. Gum wrapper here, discarded Kleenex there, dropped coloring sheet over there.

Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop.

In case you missed it in the first sentence, he is our First Impressions Director for Brier Creek on Sunday. He’s the man in charge. He leads a team of dozens of people week in and week out. He has a set up team that’s ready to do his bidding at that time of the morning. All he had to do was grab his walkie and dispatch a guy with a trash bag. But he knows one of the marks of a good leader:

Leaders pick up the trash. 

Picking up the trash isn’t something that we get beyond as we rise up the food chain. While it may be something that we delegate out to another team as part of their checklist and duties, it’s never not our job. If a leader sees a need and refuses to stoop to meet that need, they may not be a leader. They may be a title-holder.

Maybe your “stoop” isn’t always trash pick up. Maybe it’s taking time to pray for someone when you’ve got places you need to be. Perhaps it’s speaking a word of encouragement to a team member who is hurting. It could be replying to an email in a timely manner or pitching in on a project that’s not yours or taking on extra work that benefits the team.

Leadership isn’t dictatorship. It’s not rallying the troops beneath you so you can have a more comfortable life. Leadership always brings with it service. It always brings with it sacrifice. It always brings with it a humility that knows that trash pick up will forever be a part of our job description.

So how about it, leader? Got some trash that needs to be picked up?

Stop. Stoop. Lead.


Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:3-7

  1. Samantha Linton says:

    Yeah, that Robby guy is pretty legit 🙂

  2. jimmylsc says:

    In my role as an executive at Chick-fil-A, I found that picking up trash was a good way to set an example of what I wanted to communicate to all of my fellow-workers.

    Customers would not know what the kitchen looked like, but if the parking lot and rest rooms were clean and tidy, it reassured our customers that the kitchen would also be clean.

    It is much easier to communicate with customers, fellow employees and people in general by example than by instruction.

    Actually, when we show people what to do, we don’t need to tell them.

    Jimmy Collins

  3. Brian Keel says:

    Been part of the YMCA movement for a long time and this is so true… every problem is everybody’s problem! Impossible to serve well and not grab that trash or pull that weed…

  4. Jason Chamberlain says:

    And it makes a strong impression when you help a mobile campus set up at 6:30 in the morning too. Sadly, I don’t think that happens at many churches either.

  1. […] Leaders should be willing to immerse themselves in the menial. They should be willing to bus the tables, willing to man the phones, willing to pick up the trash. […]

  2. By Danny Franks | Pick Up Your Junk on October 20, 2015 at 9:01 am

    […] Parking lots and sidewalk. Invest in a good trash grabber and a five gallon bucket. Walk the lot and pick up the cigarette butts, the dropped bulletins, and the gum wrappers. And don’t just save this for the weekend. When you’re walking the campus during the week, stop, stoop, and lead, because leaders pick up the trash. […]

  3. By Danny Franks | Clean Your Exit Ramp on February 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

    […] leaders, we lead the way by stooping to pick up the trash. Even if no one else sees it, you must. Because your guests certainly […]

  4. […] Leaders Pick up the Trash, Danny Franks. It’s been a personal proverb of mine (Chris) for a few years now, though I’m not entirely sure where I first heard it: Every piece of trash is your piece of trash. Seeing that Danny has a similar mantra, and knowing of his rabid love affair for Walt Disney, I’ll bet we both got it from Papa Walt. In any case, it’s true. (Note: This is not a good motto for dating.) In leadership, title-holders graduate from menial tasks. But true leaders never stop picking up the trash. […]

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