I receive emails everyday from staff members of other churches or non-profit organizations. There is usually a question they have about leadership, but along with the question often comes a complaint about their leader. And there are many.
I’ve been in a leadership position for over 25 years so I know complaints are common in leadership. If you’re in leadership you will receive complaints. Period. You will be misunderstood. Period.
But, leaders aren’t perfect. None of them. Definitely including this one. There is validity in many of the complaints.
Several months ago I began compiling a list of some of the common complaints I hear. I grouped some of them together for brevity and went with the top 10, most repeated. I personally believe I am less likely to improve where I don’t know I need to improve. This was an awareness exercise for me as much as anything.
Here are 10 common complaints about leaders:
Controlling – All the decisions are decided and announced. No one gets to provide input.
Defensive – The leader challenges every challenge. You can’t talk to him or her about a problem. They refuse to be wrong or admit anything is wrong. (As if we can refuse to be wrong, right?)
Stuck – Some leaders love routines and structure so much that they never attempt to move things forward until they are forced into change. They are always playing defense…never offense.
Fearful – Whether because of people pleasing or lack of faith, the leader suffers from risk aversion to the point of crippling the team.
Lazy – It’s not do as I do…it’s do as I say…because I’m not going to do anything.
Unpredictable – There’s never a dull moment, but not in a fun kind of way. The leader is inconsistent and causes people to always be on edge.
Never satisfied – It doesn’t matter how large the win, instead of lingering in celebration, this leader is always asking “What’s next?”
Unclear – When they give direction or cast a vision it’s never understood by the one supposed to implement. Confusion leads to frustration.
Prideful – They take all the glory. Enough said.
Indecisive – These leaders can’t make a decision. And everyone waits. And waits. And everything stalls.
Distracted – Sometimes leaders appear so busy that those trying to follow don’t believe they ever have their full attention.
Phony – This leader’s personal life, and the one seen by those closest to the leader, doesn’t match the public persona the leader displays.
You may be wondering, which of these would be complaints about my leadership? Probably many of them at different times. If I had to guess, however, if you surveyed the people I’m attempting to lead, they would probably point to three intially.
Never satisfied, unclear and distracted.
Often, though I have no problem making decisions, I can easily get locked into minutia if presented with too many options and appear indecisive.
I am aware of these areas and continually attempt to address them in my leadership. It’s an ongoing process.
Now, on behalf of leaders, as a word to those trying to follow, let me say that many of these complaints are often false assumptions. As I have observed in my own leadership, many times the leader is totally unaware they are perceived in these negative ways. And, most, if they knew, would make some attempts to improve in that area of their leadership.
Leaders, the word for us is that we must work to become more aware of what is being preceived that usually isn’t being spoken. It might not be reality, but perceived reality is often just as damaging. (Some of the complaints I listed about me would fall into the perception category…not the reality. But, perception is someone else’s reality.)
If you are uncertain…ask. Hand this list to some on your team and ask them to identify one or two they think you could work to improve. You’re not asking them to complain…just to give you honest, helpful feedback.
So, leader, be honest, which of these would most likely be the complaints said about you?
What are some other complaints you’ve seen waged against a leader…fair or unfair?