10 Symptoms of the Unaware Leader

A couple years ago there was a consistent problem in one of our areas of ministry. It was something which I would have quickly addressed, but no one brought it to my attention. Thankfully, I’ve learned the hard way that what I don’t know can often hurt my leadership or the church the most, so I’m good at asking questions and being observant. Through my normal pattern of discovery I encountered the problem, brought the right people together, we addressed the problem and moved forward.

End of story.

It reminds me though that the leader is often the last to know when something is wrong. I tell this to our team consistently. You only know what you know and many times, because of the scope of responsibility of the leader, he or she isn’t privy to all the intricacies of the organization. Some people, simply because they would rather talk behind someone’s back than do the difficult thing of facing confrontation, tell others the problems they see before they share them with the leader. Without some systems of discovering problems the leader may be clueless there is even a problem.

Not knowing is never a good excuse to be unaware.

It’s not a contradiction in terms. I’m not trying to play with words. I’m trying to make an important leadership principle. As a leader, you may not know all the facts, but you should figure out how to be aware enough as a leader to discover the facts which you need to know.

Not certain if you are an aware leader?

Here are 10 symptoms of the unaware leader:

  • Not knowing the real health of a team or organization.
  • Clueless to what people are really saying.
  • Unsure of measurable items because they are never measured or monitored.
  • Not asking questions for fear of an unwanted answer.
  • Not dreaming into the future; becoming content with status quo.
  • Preferring not to know there was a problem than that there is one.
  • Ignoring all criticism; dismissing it as negativity.
  • Not learning anything new, relying on same old ways to consistently work.
  • Making every decision without input from others.
  • Assuming everyone supports and loves your leadership.

There are some things the leader will never know. That’s okay. Walking by faith is a good thing. I highly encourage it. There are issues within the life of an organization, however, that while the leader may not know readily, or even want to know, he or she should explore continually.

Want to test your awareness?

Try this simple experiment. Send an email to a fairly sizable group of people you trust…key leaders…staff members…friends…. Make sure there are some people on the list who you know will be honest with you. In fact, tell them you want them to be. Tell them that you are trying to be more aware as a leader and need their help. Ask them: What am I missing? What do you see that I don’t see? What should I be doing that I’m not doing? What are people saying that I’m not hearing? Who on my team is keeping from me how they really feel?

Now, to really make this experiment successful, let them answer anonymously. You trust them, right? Set up a Survey Monkey account and let them respond without having to add their name.

See what responses you receive.

Not ready to do that? You could simply address the symptoms above and see how that improves your awareness as a leader. Whichever you choose…here’s to knowing what you do not currently know! :)

What other symptoms are there of an unaware leader?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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16 thoughts on “10 Symptoms of the Unaware Leader

  1. Ron,

    I think it is always a good idea for Christian leaders to take time to review their leadership styles. While some things about leadership never change, many methods of leadership need to put on 21st century skins that fit the audience.

    Thank you for a very timely article to point out that if we see any “slippage” that, perhaps, it may be time for some of us to update the “clothing” our leadership platform is wearing.

    Thanks and blessings,

    Twitter: Twitter

  2. How approachable are they? Sometimes they are unaware because they aren’t open to feedback. A leader is only as good as their character. If they aren’t willing to stretch and grow, how do they expect their team/ organization to grow. Have they fostered an environment of honesty? The leader has to take the lead and sit down with his team and ask how safe is it for us to be honest with each other and how is the best way each of us to share things honestly with each other. IE one person likes people to be direct with them. Another needs a compliment or to hear they are doing something right before they get critism. This may sound like a weird one, but what are some of the unwritten rules of the organization. No one institutes them, but for every organization, they always end up being there. Ask them to write down 10 “unwritten rules” they find, with out having to sign it. Then can look at it and see if there are any wierd ones that hinder growth.

  3. Great article and it shows courage and humility to ask for and give feedback graciously (sometimes whilst biting one’s lip).

    The saying ‘Feedback is a gift that’s not always gift-wrapped’. Usually I find the intention behing the feedback of a positive nature.
    Twitter: cassykindly.co.uk

  4. — Believing that he alone is right and all others are wrong
    — Always good at hurting people surrounding him
    — Is interested in responding to any problem in diplomatic/ political style in oder to play safe and cover his position

  5. Lack of listening skills.

    LOVE the last 'symptom'…ha ha..'.Assuming everyone supports and loves your leadership.' A legend in their own mind!