Leadership Advice: Be Careful Making Decisions from an Ivory Tower


I was talking with with a pastor recently. He has made some decisions he feels are best for the church. In listening to him, I think he’s probably making good decisions. They are needed from the perspective of where he sits in the organization of the church. His next step was to present the changes to the church.

I asked him how the staff felt about the changes. He said he hand’t told them yet. He had handled it with the elders and they supported him. They would find out with the church.

What? What?

Again, I said, “what”?

I watched this happen when I was in manufacturing. When decisions, which affect the assembly line, are made in the boardroom they seldom work and are always resented. The quality of work diminishes and production stalls.

I watched it happen when I was in sales. When sales procedures are handed down as edicts, without including the input of salespeople, morale is damaged, which ultimately has a negative impact on sales.

In this church and several churches I’ve consulted with over the years, I’ve realized it also happens in churches. When the pastor, or a body of senior leaders, make decisions, which impact the children’s ministry, for example, without the input of people who are actually doing children’s ministry, resentment builds, momentum stalls, and people resist the changes.

I have some advice for ministry leaders — really all leaders.

Be careful making decisions from the so-called “Ivory Tower”.

Many leaders lead with a top down approach, passing down decisions without consulting with those who have to live with the decisions made. It’s easy in leadership to forget real people have to implement your decisions. It’s not helpful, inefficient and, frankly, it’s unkind.

Don’t stand in the tower. Get out among the people you lead. Learn from them and let them give input into the decisions made in the organization.

Great leaders build decisions from the ground up, not from the top down.

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

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16 thoughts on “Leadership Advice: Be Careful Making Decisions from an Ivory Tower

  1. I couldn't agree more. It's always wise to involve people from the "bottom", indeed from every level of your organizational structure, in many decisions. The one thing to guard against is the appearance of indecision on your part. But what you want to do is present the impetus for a direction, possible solutions for the best way to move in that direction, and open up the group for their input. This helps them buy into the vision and direction that you are leading with and gives them an opportunity to own the action that everyone is taking together. So it's more about leading with vision than it is making a decision.

  2. I don't think it is in print anymore. I read it probably over 20 years ago and I don't have the copy that I thought I had.

  3. A good book on this subject was written by Howard E Butt – The Velvet Covered Brick: Christian Leadership in an Age of Rebellion.

  4. I was just talking about this yesterday. I am always so confused by this type of decision making. As a manager I know there are decisions that need to be made by me. But when the decisions deal with processes, procedures, tasks, that I dont actually preform on a daily basis personally…why would I think I am the best one to make the decisions without involving others who do? It seems arrogant for me to say I know better than others just because of my title.

  5. I work for the Post Office, which means Federal. I grew up in the Military and now I work for the Feds in a different branch; if there is one thing I have learned about those in the decision making offices it is this: They are never wrong; sometimes a little less right, but never wrong! When they make decisions, they just make decisions. Lot of fun.
    Twitter: bryankr