If you have been involved in Christian Hip Hop over the past 8-9 years, you’ve likely followed Lecrae in some aspect of ministry. We’ve all been impressed by how many records he’s sold, how many concerts he’s sold out and at times how intentional he’s been about keeping his music Christ-Centered. Even though I personally haven’t agreed with every decision he’s made, I’ve always respected his business acumen and commitment to excellence.
I’ve run into a lot of artists who mention that Lecrae’s one of their role models. When I ask what aspect of his leadership and ministry they dig, it usually begins and ends with record sales and influence. While record sales are important to the viability of any musician’s career, there are far more important things worthy of imitation beyond record sales.
I’ve been fortunate enough to interview Lecrae several times over the years, as well as have numerous conversations with him off-line. These are 4 aspects of his leadership that I’ve gleaned from him during those conversations as well as his ministry as a whole, that I believe are worth emulating by any leader:
When Lecrae released Church Clothes earlier this year, he took a big risk. The project was hosted by a well-known Mainstream DJ, featured several mainstream artists and producers and was the coming out party for him to shed the “Christian Rapper” label. Prior to this project, he was the guy who infused reformed theology over popular music and quoted the likes of John Piper and Mark Driscoll in his songs. He had just sold the most records of his career with both Rehab‘s and was coming off of the biggest tour of his career, The Rock and Worship Roadshow.
Most people would have been afraid to pivot like this at what many considered to be the pinnacle of his career and ministry. Despite this risk, he decided to move forward. Every leader will face situations like this. We all have to make decisions that either aren’t popular or involve a measure of risk. Great leaders will seek the Holy Spirit as well as the counsel of others (more on this later), to help make the right decision.
Study the Culture
I remember Lecrae mentioning the adjustment period he made upon initially moving to Atlanta. One of the things he did repeatedly was ride the MARTA even though he had a car. He did this to better understand the people of his new city. What made them tick? What issues were they having? What were they into? Every leader must know these basic things about the people they wish to influence. No one wants to follow someone they think doesn’t care about them.
The greatest leader of all-time, Jesus, consistently went to his Father for counsel. The greatest leader of the 2oth century, Martin Luther King Jr., had several people (Bayard Rustin, Ralph Abernathy, Howard Thurman, etc.) he sought council from consistently. Every major decision I’ve ever heard Lecrae talk about, he’s always spoken about who he has consulted with in making the decision: Pastor’s, other artists, folks at his label and even people in the industry. Every leader needs a team of advisors. While the final decision ultimately rests with the leader, varying view points, research and wisdom should be gathered via advisors before a decision is made. The best decision is often a well-informed one.
Pour into Other Leaders
When you hear the names Derek Minor (fka PRo), Trip Lee and Canon, you probably think 1-1-6 right? You may even think about songs that Lecrae has with those guys or concerts that you saw all of them perform at. While those would all be accurate assessments of them, Derek, Trip and Canon are people that Lecrae has discipled. Every leader should make it a point to share tips, tricks, insight and wisdom with the next generation of leaders. Biblically we see this modeled via the Apostle Paul and his relationship with Timothy. Practically, we’ve seen PRo (I’m sorry I can’t help it!), Trip and Canon develop into leaders in their own right, in part because of their relationships with Lecrae. Developing and empowering leaders is the ultimate sign of true leadership.
Often times, young leaders see the platform an established leader has and decide they wish to mimic, emulate or even covet the platform. In the process the young leader overlooks what makes the established leader effective. The young leader wants the influence of the established leader, without learning how to influence. The young leader wants others to follow, but doesn’t understand what it takes for others to desire following you.
Many have adopted this mindset within our community. My goal in writing this article was to help the emerging leaders and artists in our scene see what it takes to be an effective leader. Selling records is only part of the equation.
Besides the aforementioned, I’m sure there are many other aspects that we could learn from Lecrae. Like all of us, Lecrae is not a perfect dude in the least bit. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that. He’s not the first nor the last imperfect person that God will use to help change the world, though. Every Godly leader can attest to that.