Familiarity Breeds Awesome 

A Leadership Lesson from the Thunderbirds

There’s an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” I don’t know who coined the phrase or what the circumstances were, but they were wrong for the most part – at least with regards to leadership. From nearly entry vantage point of church leadership, I’ve found familiarity to be an asset.

Positive familiarity brings efficiency, trust, and actually enhances creativity by allowing more room for innovation because time isn’t burned in search of familiarity. At the highest levels of successful teamwork, familiarity is nearly always an asset: pitchers/catchers, infield double-play combinations, QB/Wide Receiver, rock bands, or the military. I’m blessed to work with people I know well, and in some cases I’ve known either personally or professionally for a decade or more. This makes us more effective as a team–not less.

LEADERSHIP LESSON FROM THE THUNDERBIRDS

The Thunderbirds are an elite flight squadron of the United States Air Force heightens awareness of the Air Force and helps recruit the next generation of fighter pilots. They are not just show pilots. Each is a trained fighter pilot…and both planes, weapons and pilots can be war ready in a matter of hours. However, their specialty is traveling the world doing ridiculously amazing air shows during which pilots fly in sync a mere 2-3 feet from each other at MACH 2. Doesn’t that just sound awesome?

I got to go to Nellis Air Force Base (home of the Thunderbirds) and hear some observations on leading teams and team cohesion from Kevin Walsh, the Chief Operations Officer for the Thunderbirds. When asked by a member of our group his opinion of what it takes to get everyone to live and fly in sync (keep in mind the Thunderbirds live together much of the year), He responded: “trust–and that comes with familiarity.”

You can certainly “do team” another way, but you’ll never be able to fly together 2-3 feet away from each other doing spins at MACH 2. Dangerous things (both attempt and execution) require trust that comes only from working well together — a lot. Staff continuity and chemistry will limit or open many, if not most, possibilities for your church. Continuity born of trust, respect, and familiarity is one of a Church’s greatest assets.

In general, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. It breeds awesome.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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