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Managers: The Everyday Evangelist


The everyday evangelist has a lot of energy

This is the fifth article in our series entitled Managers: The Good and the Bad.

Twenty years ago, in 1991, it was quite a novelty for someone to have in their job title the term “Evangelist”.  Even today, it is perhaps misleading to label a person an Everyday Evangelist because, despite the good intention (typically), this term smacks of religious origins.  Many of us who’ve been in Corporate America for a few years, however, either know or know of such a person, either with or without the term evangelist in their title.  They are the few who believe so strongly in a cause that their vision spreads like an infection.  They inspire loyalty, perseverance and a great sense of purpose and sometimes belonging.

The term Everyday Evangelist originated with Guy Kawasaki in his book Selling the Dream.  On the plus side, an Everyday Evangelist can make work almost addicting for the people who work for her or him.  I’ve had the privilege of working for two people that I would place in this category….  [What’s the meaning of life, you ask?  Easy! It’s the successful completion of the project that we’re all working on right now.]

On the negative side, a psychotic or ethically challenged Evangelist can do a world of harm.  Those of us who’re old enough to remember Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple Agricultural Project will identify with this statement.  I’m fairly certain that Jonestown (Guyana) is the origin of the (very negative) cliche drinking the Kool-Aid, which led to the deaths of several hundred people.

Characteristics of Everyday Evangelists

Archetype(s):Affiliative
MBTI Range:Any
How to Spot:There are several things to watch for:

  • They are called, not driven
  • They tend to be surprised to find themselves asked to lead
  • They are individuals that people at all levels are willing to follow
Behaviors:
  • Committed to a principled cause
  • Willing to listen
  • Voracious learners
  • Tend to join a cause before it becomes popular
  • Risk their careers and reputations for their principles
  • Examples are equally male or female
Reason(s) to Hire:
  1. An Everyday Evangelist can create and/or further a cause
  2. Bring out the best in people
  3. Make connections to enhance collaboration
  4. Propagate a culture built on authenticity
Risks:
  • If the Everyday Evangelist starts to believe his or her own “press,” he or she could create a cult-like culture filled with “true-believers” who blindly follow without any healthy skepticism.

Final Thoughts

Some of my most pleasant memories are of times in my career when I worked for clients who were Everyday Evangelists; folks who were certain of their goals, committed and charismatic.

Questions

  1. Is there a risk that a “strong” Everyday Evangelist can shift the culture in a company?  After all, they typically come to “own” the hearts and minds of those who work for them.
  2. Are Everyday Evangelists somehow groomed to become as they are?  If they can, indeed, derive from any MBTI range, is their knack for this kind of leadership based on character alone?

About Jeff Hayes

Jeff is Principal at AlignTech Solutions and is a digital strategist with many years of marketing and engineering experience in the areas of healthcare, assisted living and professional services.He has served on various community and educational boards in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin as well as in Chicago. He was instrumental in creating a regional business symposium with the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and in developing programming for fast growth businesses that show promise.
 

Commentary on “Managers: The Everyday Evangelist”

  1. Mary Ellyn Vicksta

    I’ve known several “Everyday Evangelists”. They are the most passionate, persistent, and engaging people that I know. They are driven to their cause and they never seem to see boundaries or limitations. They look at the world as “of course” everyone will follow their cause and their lead.

    The two “Everyday Evangelists” that i am thinking of weren’t really in high level leadership positions formally. Informally, they were incredibly influential, with a unique ability to get grassroots support for their cause. Everyone knew their cause to the point that most everyone could very clearly and accurately articulate what their cause was. Fortunately, the two that I had the pleasure of knowing used their influence and their personalities for good intentions. Important point since most that they encountered along their “evangelizing”, were willing to help them move their efforts forward no matter what.

    Both of the individuals that I am thinking of were so focused on their cause that they tended to take pretty incredible risks and challenge the status quo to move their cause forward. They were almost “crusader-like” in their fervor. And I think both of them thought that they were pretty immortal as well. Both did things that would probably get the mere mortal fired, but somehow those brushes with the edge of the system actually gave them greater momentum and more followers.

    Can a strong “Everyday Evangelist” shift the culture? Absolutely, especially if the messages from the top of their organization aren’t clear or are not happening at all. One of the key features of the “Everyday Evangelist” is that they clearly communicate their cause in everything that they do. They truly walk the talk. So, it’s easy for people to pick up the cause.

    I am not sure if all “Everyday Evangelists” know the power that they have over people. Their goal is not to win a popularity contest; their goal is to move their cause forward so the success of the cause is their measuring stick. So, if they do shift the culture they may not be cognizant of it.

    As a leader within an organization, I would want to know the intentions of the “Everyday Evangelist”. I would want to really understand if the cause will benefit or potentially hurt the people, product, or processes within the organization. I could assume that all “Evangelists” are good and forget about the James Jones of the world.

  2. bentrem

    “First thought”: what comes to mind is how “evangilist” is manifestly the same as “hero” in my “triad for project” model, but here that role isn’t clearly distinguished from the other two. (Triad: hero, guru, and wizard.) “… can create and/or further a cause” is a version of my hero’s mandate/mission statement. I’m sure a whole blog post would arise from unpacking “further”!

    A wonderful list of virtues here.

    this by way of greets
    ben aka @ITGeek

  3. Jeff Hayes

    Thanks for your comment, Ben. With Evangelist as the management archetype, we were definitely going for the “driven” character and trying not to look at this type of manager as a potential hero. And this is particularly true in cases where an Evangelist is working for a cause without understanding that there may be political fallout from their actions; or worse, that their mission is not a “win” for all involved.

    This reminds me of Rotary’s Four Way Test for determining if an any particular action is wise. This might be a good yardstick for Evangelists. Come to think of it, it’s probably a good yardstick for everyone.

    The Rotary Four-Way Test
    – “Is it the truth?”
    – “Is it fair to all concerned?”
    – “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?”
    – “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

    I do like your triad, btw. This is the first time I’ve seen anything like it.

  4. Managers: The Good and the Bad

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