10 Bad Bosses We’ve All Been or Experienced

mean boss

I started working almost full-time at the age of 12. I would ride my bike to the grocery store every afternoon after school. It was a necessity in our home if I wanted the cool clothes and eventually the cool car. (I wish I still had that first car, by the way.)

But, along the way, I’ve had so many different bosses. Some good. Some not so good.

In fact, for years, I didn’t even know the term leader. I only knew the term boss.

I cringe at the term now.

Part of that reason is the number of bad bosses I have either personally had or the ones I have encountered through coaching people who attempted to serve under a bad boss. But, the term indicates everything to me that leadership is not supposed to be. I don’t want to be a boss. I want to be a leader.

But, with the list I share below — sad to say, but in all honesty — I’ve been the bad boss at times in my leadership career. Times I wasn’t leading at all. I was just the boss — in title — but offering very little leadership. Sometimes that’s for a season and then I catch myself and get back to leading. And, in full disclosure — there are times I have to put the boss hat on to deal with an issue. But, we should always avoid being a “bad boss”.

Here are 10 of the worst bad “boss” types I’ve encountered:

The Bully Boss

This boss beats production out of their team. They promote at atmosphere of fear — and think that’s a good thing. I once had a bully boss throw my sales book at me across the room — as if that would motivate me. Team members feel intimidated, which causes them to perform at less than capable performance levels.

The Passive Boss

This boss refuses to lead. They will not confront problems, and allows dissension among the team. Team members often run the show and politics destroys progress. Gossip is rampant. Chaos prevails.

The Fence Leaner Boss

This boss always sees the grass as greener in another position or in another organization. They never fully buy-in to the current vision. People on their team feel abandoned without a voice and eventually begin to look for their own greener grass.

The “My Life Is A Mess” Boss

All of us have problems in life, but this boss has more than most of us. They bring their messed-up personal life into work to the extent that they can’t lead. Employees are caught in a sea of drama, which keeps the team in turmoil.

The “Too Good For You” Boss

This boss is unapproachable. They never interact with or invest in the team. They only hang out with their peers, never with their subordinates. And, they are treated as subordinates. People following feel unappreciated, unprepared, even unwanted.

The “Scared of Competition” Boss

This boss is afraid people on the team will outperform them and so the team is given few responsibilities. The boss micro-manages all work. The best team members — the potential leaders — feel underutilized and eventually leave the organization in search of more opportunities.

The Never Satisfied Boss

This boss is overly critical and hard to please. Team members wear themselves out trying to make the boss happy. They never think they are doing what they should be doing. In fact, they don’t know what the real expectations even are. Consequently, they feel very unproductive and unfulfilled.

The Incompetent Boss

This boss hides behind their lack of qualification. Team suffer personally from a boss who cannot lead them, but is too proud to ask for help.

The Aimless Boss

This boss has no clear expectations for the organization. Or they are always changing. Goals and objectives are never clearly defined and stuck to, either because the boss doesn’t know what they should be or keeps changing their mind. Team members are left without meaningful direction — and with plenty of frustration.

The Silent Boss

This boss never says anything one-way or the other. You never know where they stand on anything, so you keep doing the best you know how. Then one day — seemingly out of nowhere — the boss has an issue with the way you’ve been performing. Say what?

Here’s what is crazy. I have learned valuable leadership principles from each of these bad bosses. Sometimes nothing more than what not to do as a boss. In fact, not to even be a boss.

Let’s don’t boss. Let’s lead!

Have you ever had one of these bad bosses?

7 Good Reasons for a Leader to Learn and Use the Word NO

asian businessman thumb down, isolated on white

I hate disappointing people.

And, every time I say the word “No”, someone isn’t happy with my answer.

That’s reality.

“Can you do a wedding — this weekend?”

“Can you speak at my event?”

“Will you write a guest post for my blog?”

“Can I have an hour of your time — today?”

“Will you mentor me?”

And, so many more similar questions.

They are all legitimate questions. Usually there is nothing wrong with any of them as questions. And, many times I say yes to questions such as this. Many times.

But, sometimes I don’t say yes. I say no. And, I personally think that’s one secret to my success in ministry and leadership.

And, this post is to explain why. I’d love for some of my friends who know they can’t seem to say no to be inspired, encouraged, and challenged to use the word more. In leadership — even though it is an unpopular word — it may be one of the most valuable words we use.

The fact is that I get far more questions like this than I could ever accommodate. Ever. There’s one of me. And, one is not enough for the number of questions like this — questions that demand my time — that I receive.

I’ve had to learn the power of saying no. And, believe me — I’m still learning — sometimes I do better than other times. And, it requires discipline.

And, learning the power of no also means taking the heat at times from the ones who disagree with my answer.

I’ve learned, however, that my failure to say no costs me far more than developing a discipline to not always say yes.

Here are 7 reasons for a leader to learn and use the word NO:

Your family. We recently had our 87 year old Pastor Emeritus talk to our staff. He was at our church 25 years and is still respected for his huge influence on our church. He admitted the way ministry is done has changed over the years, but one thing he wish he had known then and would encourages all of us still in ministry to do is to “protect the family”. He said that, looking back, it might have been more important than anything else he did in ministry. Golden wisdom!

Your work. You can’t do everything and do everything well. You can’t. You may think you can — and others may think you should — but you can’t. Expectations, whether personal or placed upon us, do not dictate ability. Your efficiency depends on your ability to prioritize. In fact, you’ll likely burnout if you try. Great leaders learn to specialize in what only they can do. That’s not always possible — and there are exceptions every week of things that arise which we didn’t see coming — but as much as possible, this should be our goal. When you say yes to everything, you’re causing your team to sacrifice your best energies where it’s needed most.

Your health. How effective are you from a hospital bed? Think I’m being overly dramatic? Research the impact of stress on the body. Talk to your doctor about it. Developing a discipline of being able to say no when needed protects your personal health and well-being. It’s not just organizationally critical — it’s often life-critical. Saying no to another appointment so you can say yes to an hour in the gym may actually give you a few more productive years to add value to the world.

Your future. You’ll flame out if you try to do too much. Leadership is a marathon. Sometimes we have to sprint, but until we learn to balance our pace we will never really accomplish all we could. The power of no provides fuel for longevity and continuance. It’s a vision critical word. If you don’t start saying no to some things — there may come a day when you crash hard enough that you have to say no to everything — and it may not be by choice.

Your integrity. When you always say yes, you eventually put yourself in a position of being necessary for everything to succeed — if nothing more than n the expectations in people’s minds. The organization becomes built around you. “Yes, I’ll be there.” “Yes, I can do that.” In time, you become the center — the necessary ingredient in all things that matter. Wow! That is a dangerous place for most of us to handle. Talk about a power position. If not careful, we can become prideful, arrogant, and boastful — thinking that the organization can’t exist without us. Here’s reality: it can.

Your example. People will follow the leader. If you never say no your team will begin to think it’s not a culturally approved answer. They’ll suffer from all the things you’ll suffer from for always saying yes. And, believe me, a leader who learns and practices the power of no becomes a huge blessing to the people they lead — and their families.

Your soul. This really is the bottom line. Leader, you have my heart. I love leaders. And, I know that if you try to do everything — if you never say no — eventually you’ll injure your soul. You can’t do it all. Someone reading this right now knows they are overwhelmed. You are in over your head. You’ve allowed people to hold you to very unrealistic expectations — or you did it to yourself — and it’s injured your soul. You need a break. And, it all started because you couldn’t say no. You never valued the power of the word. The Proverb is profound (and true) “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Do it! Protect your soul!

Any questions?

Now, please understand, this post is not an excuse for doing what we need to do as pastors and leaders. Sometimes the answer has to be yes. And, we should let our yes be yes and our no be no. Knowing how to choose the right word, at the right time, is part of maturing. But, it may be one of the most valuable things we can do to protect the integrity and longevity of our leadership is to learn the power of the word no.

I’m praying for you — you can do it — NO is in you!

9 Ways for a Leader to Lose Favor — And Some Advice to Guard Against It

Uomo d'affari disperato

One of the hardest losses for a leader is when they lose favor with the people they are trying to lead. It’s very hard to regain trust once it’s lost.

Sadly, the longer I serve as a leader, the easier it seems to be to lose a follower’s trust. People are more skeptical — it seems to me — of leadership these days than in days past.

I think it’s important to know what causes us to lose favor with the people we are attempting to lead. Of course, there are many things, but let share some of the more common ones I’ve observed.

Here are 9 ways to lose favor as a leader:

Sloppy work – Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, or even bored, we tend to rush through our work. We neglect all the principles of good leadership we know. We make more mistakes than usual. Other’s view it as losing interest in our work. They become suspicious.

Advice: Slow down. Delegate. Invite correction.

Dictate by email – Exclusively. Email is often misunderstood. It causes confusion and retaliation by email. It promotes fear. It is impersonal leadership. And, when a leader refuses to get their hand dirty by having real conversations — and doing real work — they lose favor with those on the front lines.

Advice: Sometimes — especially when the matter is important, or any correction is involved — you just need to pick up the phone or arrange a meeting.

Absentee leader – The busier we get the more we sometimes have to isolate ourselves to get anything done. This is especially true of leaders with an “open door” style of leadership. If we aren’t careful, rather than being productive, we appear absent. By the way, this could be a leader who doesn’t listen well also. A constantly distracted leader is equally damaging. It communicates disinterest. And, it’s promotes weak and unhealthy commitments among the team.

Advice: Make your schedule known. Communicate frequently.

Appeasing people – Let’s face it. Everyone wants people to like them. If we aren’t careful we will find ourselves saying what people want to hear, even if it’s the wrong thing. It causes us to lose favor with those trying to do the right thing.

Advice: Be transparent and honest. Say everything in love, but don’t communicate what you don’t mean. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Always having an answer – You lose favor when decisions are made singularly rather than as a team. Sometimes leaders don’t listen, because they assume nothing is going to be said that they need to learn. When you always have the answer — even if you really do — it will eventually make people feel they can’t live up to your expectations. Or, you’ll be seen as very arrogant.

Advice: Sometimes don’t have an answer. It’s that simple. It’s okay to be quiet sometimes. Especially when the issue doesn’t jeopardize the integrity of the organization. Let other answers surface and other people rise to the top. Stir energy to find the answer, but don’t be the sole voice.

Devaluing other’s work – As leaders, with so many “big picture” ideas, we can sometimes fail to notice what other’s are contributing to the team. We fail to value their role in the overall success.

Advice: Be aware. Practice the discipline of observation and of celebrating other people’s individual contributions and success.

Lacking courage – You can’t lead without taking risks. When a leader lacks courage — followers look for someone willing to take them into an unknown.

Advice: Stay grounded in your faith and move forward in confidence that God is working things for an ultimate good.

Character slippage – Leadership involves trust — unwavering trust — and the character reputation of a leader is fragile. The leader is always being evaluated by the strength of their moral value. Traits such as honesty and integrity usually trump every other quality a leader brings to the position when it comes to gaining (or losing) favor with those who are trying to follow.

Advice: “Above all else guard your heart, because from it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23. Do good things and discipline yourself to avoid temptation.

Arrogance – I saved the best for last. But, “best” is not the right word, is it? Nothing loses favor faster than a pride-filled, braggart leader. If it is all about the leader, most followers willingly let the leader have the recognition — and they will let the leader celebrate — completely alone.

Advice: Be humble leader. Be humble. And, if you don’t know how, ask God to help you be humbled. That’ll do it — nearly every time.

No leader want to lose favor with the people we are trying to lead. Great leaders recognize the privilege of the trust placed upon them and work hard to protect it.

10 Suggestions to Handle Conflict in a Healthy Way

team conflict

Where life involves people — whether among family, friends or co-workers — there will be potential for conflict.

Any disagreement there?

Want to fight about it? :)

In fact, if relationships are normal, conflict is inevitable.

But, conflict doesn’t have to destroy relationships. It can actually be used to make relationships better. That takes intentionality, practice — and a whole lot of grace.

In an organizational sense, conflict is certainly a huge part of a leader’s life. Even in a pastor’s life.

It seems to reason that learning to deal with conflict successfully should be one of our goal as leaders.

Here are 10 suggestions to effectively handle conflict:

Understand the battle. Make sure you understand the real source of the conflict. Many times we address symptoms, but we really aren’t even addressing with the real issue. That wastes time, frustrates people, and makes the conflict linger longer. It’s usually a heart issue that is controlling everything being said. (Proverbs 4:23) Discovering that is key. Make sure you ask lots of questions and attempt to clarify the root issue of the conflict. (This is where a third party help is often needed.)

Find the right time and place When emotions are high is not good timing for dealing with conflict. Personal conflict should not be handled in public. Don’t be afraid to schedule a time to address the conflict.

Examine yourself first. Sometimes the issue is personal to you and you are only blaming others for your problem. That’s not fair, nor does it provide a healthy resolution to conflict. Look carefully at the “plank” in your own eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Consider the other side of the conflict. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their viewpoint. (Philippians 2:4) Why would they think the way they think? Is it a difference in personal values or a misunderstanding? What if I were in their situation — how would I respond?

Do not overreact to the issue or overload on emotion. Stick to the issue at hand. When emotions are exaggerated it disarms the other party and a healthy resolution is harder to attain. Control yourself from extremity or absolutes. Avoid phrases like “You always…”. (Proverbs 25:28)

Do not dance around or sugarcoat the issue or disguise it in false kindness. Sometimes we fail to address the conflict because we are afraid of how the other person may respond or we are afraid of hurting feelings. The avoidance usually will cause more conflict eventually. Be kind, but make sure you are clear, direct, and helpful.(Proverbs 27:5)

Do not allow the small disagreements to become big disagreements. The way to keep most huge conflict (the kind that destroys relationships) from occurring is by confronting the small conflict along the way. Minor conflict is always easier to handle than major conflict.

Be firm, but gentle. Learn the balance between the two. It’s critical in dealing with conflict. (Consider Jesus’ approach in John 4.)

Work towards a solution. Never waste conflict. Use it to make the organization and/or the relationship better. Everyone wants a win-win situation, and sometimes that’s possible. Getting to the right decision should always be the ultimate goal. (Proverbs 21:3)

Grant forgiveness easily. Healthy conflict makes relationships stronger, but to get there we must not hold a grudge or seek revenge. That never moves conflict forward towards resolution. Learn the art of grace and forgiveness. It’s a keeper of healthy relationships. (Ephesians 4:32)

Conflict is a part of relationships. All relationships. As leaders, we shouldn’t shy away from conflict. We should learn it’s value and how to navigate conflict for the overall good of the team.

What would you add?

7 Rookie Mistakes New Leaders Should Avoid


I deal with a lot of new leaders. I’ve been one myself numerous times. To some, as I approach 3 years in my position, I’m still the “new guy”. Starting as a leader is difficult regardless of the experience one has as a leader. Each time a leader is new there will be new experiences that challenge everything the leader knows or has experienced previously. It’s like you’re a rookie leader all over again.

But, just because a leader is new, doesn’t mean they have to make rookie mistakes.

I’ve watched new leaders who start strong, find success, and build a long-term healthy relationship. And, I’ve watched some new leaders shoot their proverbial foot and take years to recover — if they ever can.

What makes a new leaders beginning years successful? What are some hard lessons learned?

I seem to learn best from my mistakes and observing the mistakes of others. Let me share a few that I’ve made or seen.

Here are 7 rookie mistakes new leaders often make:

Making changes too fast upon arrival

Effective change is built on trust. Trust is nearly impossible to gain quickly. There may be some things you have to move quickly to do — especially if everyone knows the change is needed or it’s a mission critical change. When changing things that impact an organization’s core identity — the kind of change where people are thinking “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” — wit’s that kind of change it is wise to take your time, build relationships first, bring people along and earn their trust. Only then can you make change that builds rather than disrupts community and has lasting impact.

Holding grudges when someone doesn’t agree

That’s the thing about new leaders. They are new. They will do things differently than previous leaders. Everyone expects that, but it causes tension. People will complain. They’ll resist change. It’s a rookie mistake to hold it against some of the initial complainers. Some of my more loyal supporters weren’t crazy about some of the first changes we made. They were adjusting to new. Again, they were learning to trust. Some people do that better — and faster — than others. It’s wise to forgive easily and extend grace. A humble approach helps build solid relationships — even from some who were once critics.

Controlling every decision

There will be things that need to be controlled. I wrote recently about the things I did control in the initial days of my leadership. Some of those I am still controlling. They are that vital to what we are trying to do. But, those things are rare. Leaders need to empower people. Delegate. Welcome the input of others. Allow some things to happen without the leaders’s direct input. And, frankly, that takes discipline for some of us leaders. But, it communicates to  people you are trying to lead that their input matters and that you want to lead a team, not issue decrees to your “servants”.

Taking credit for every win

One of the good things about “new” is that it often triggers new momentum. But, when a leader takes all the glory for the wins, they are deciding who will help them get to the next win. People want and desire to feel needed. Celebrating the difference others have made to success makes everyone feel a part of the team and builds a healthy culture. People will sacrifice again if they know their contribution was appreciated.

Refusing to make — or admit — a mistake

A sure way to lose people’s support as a new leader is to pretend to have all the answers or that you never make a mistake. Or when you won’t ask for the opinion of those who have been there longer. You’ll be proven wrong quickly, but, even worse, the message it sends is that you are either egotistical or unaware. It’s very difficult to trust a leader for either reason.

Devaluing prior work

When the new leader arrives and doesn’t recognize the work of the organization existed before them, it quickly alienates people who have been there a while. When I came to my current church, which was over 100 years old when I arrived, it would have been arrogant (and very unwise) of me to pretend their “savior” had arrived. This church has been seeing God do amazing things long before I was even born. Thousands of people have gone before me — and everyone in our church for that matter — laying the foundation upon which we now build.

People pleasing

Everyone expects the leader to lead. Even when we don’t agree with a leader’s decisions, no one thinks that a leader should attempt to make everyone happy — that’s true even when the complainers are louder than the cheerleaders. As leaders, we lose support when we say what we think people want to hear, but we aren’t willing to make the hard calls. If we are not making the other rookie mistakes — we are building trust and making wise and good decisions — valuing the input of others — make bold moves. Do the hard change

Leadership is never easy, but new leadership is extremely difficult. It’s a fragile time. The more you can eliminate the rookie mistakes — the more successful your leadership will be.

I’m pulling for you!

Lasting Transformation vs. Routine Fundraiser

WSsuppliesblack copy

This is a guest post by Kevin Herr, with Water Missions.

(This is not a paid post. I believe in this mission.)

In my role at Water Missions International I often talk with church leaders who want to get their churches involved in our ministry, which provides safe water solutions and the Living Water message of Jesus Christ to people around the world. These groups often participate in a special event like our Water Sunday initiative and while many encounter great breakthrough and mountain top experiences, some end up disheartened with little lasting impact.

Here are a few key points that can drive your church event towards transformation and action rather than being just another fundraiser.

Cast The Vision

Casting the vision means praying about how God can use your church, speaking with other key leaders and making a clear case for what you’d like to see accomplished. Want your church to provide safe water to an entire community? GREAT! Share that vision and what it will take for your church to achieve it. Make a goal, communicate it, and go for it! If you don’t set a clear goal, you will never reach it.

Engage More than Checkbook

Take your missions engagement a step further than simply asking them to write a check. Start to engage their hearts! How can you incorporate the mission or message into other activities they’re involved in? How can they engage spiritually and actively?

Start engaging your church early: the longer the involvement the deeper the impact. For Water Sunday, we encourage groups to do a beverage fast where they drink only water for a period of time, keep a tally of the money they would have spent on other beverages, then donate that amount on Water Sunday to provide safe water to people around the world. During this time they pray for those who lack safe water, develop the spiritual discipline of fasting, talk about it with their friends, and realize how much they spend on something that’s really not important.

Another fun way for people to engage actively is by participating in Walk for Water where they simulate the trek that people around the world do every day for dirty water. Take buckets and walk from your church to a local water source then walk back.

The key idea here is to provide them with an experiential touch-point that re-emphasizes the theme of your message.

Make it a Team Effort.

Don’t do it alone! Use it as an opportunity to draw out leadership in some of your church members or staff. As people prepare and talk about the event, God will be at work in their hearts. Allow others to participate and be impacted!

Celebrate The Win

In order to effectively motivate your members to participate and experience life-change, you need to emphasize the outcome and celebration. What happens if you achieve your goal? How are you going to celebrate?

Water Sunday 2015 | Chris Ndikumana from Water Missions on Vimeo.

To learn about how your church can make a transformational difference both around the world and in the lives of your own members, visit www.watermissions.org/watersunday.

We’re praying for 100 churches to come alongside us on April 26th and focus on the global water crisis through a variety of activities, studies, and sermon. All the resources are done for you, totally free, and designed to transform lives in your church! Take your next step HERE.

10 Ways Winning Organizational Teams are Like Winning Athletic Teams

Basketball going through net

I live in basketball country. This area specializes in horses, bourbon and basketball. But, during a few months of the year, basketball seems to trump everything.

As a Baptist pastor, if I’m going to embrace the community, I had to embrace what the people love. So, of the three — I’ve chosen basketball.

(And, all God’s people said?)

(Seriously, though, everyone should take a ride through the horse farms of the bluegrass area and the science behind making bourbon alone is worth touring a distillery.)

Watching the University of Kentucky men and women’s basketball teams, however, always inspires some great thoughts for me on leadership.

It takes good leadership to coach a team well. And, we see good coaching around here. I’ve observed some great leadership principles watching these teams.

The win for me is that organizational teams that win — even church staffs — have a lot in common with athletic teams that win.

Here are 10 traits of winning teams:

1. The coach cares personally about the players.

2. All players understand and believe in the team strategy.

3. Dreams of big wins are a part of the culture. Everyone cheers for them in anticipation.

4. When it’s a players turn they’re ready. And, likewise, they are equally supportive when it’s someone else’s turn to shoot. They share the load and are always willing to jump in the game.

5. Risky plays are encouraged. Stupid plays are not.

6. There is a common vision. The entire team agrees on not only what a win looks like, but what it takes to get one.

7. There is ample team spirit is prevalent. Everyone participates in building momentum.

8. Losses are evaluated and used to learn how to improve for the next game.

9. Wins are celebrated. Wildly.

10. The team restructures when needed to meet the current competition.

Follow my analogy? Leader, how could these athletic team traits impact your team?

What would you add to the list?

2 Critical and Dangerous Assumptions in a Marriage

Happy senior couple.

There are 2 critical assumptions in a marriage relationship.

I mean critical.

And, dangerous assumptions to make.

Making these two assumptions and not understanding the gravity of them can cause major problems in the relationship.

In my experience, the assumptions happen naturally — and often cause conflict — but when they are misunderstood, the conflict magnifies exponentially.

Two critical assumptions:

Assuming that what you value your spouse values.

The fact is you will likely have different values.

Let me give you a very practical example from my own marriage. I think our house is always relatively “clean”. Things are in place. I’m not tripping over stuff as I walk through the house. I’d be fine if people “dropped in” unannounced.

Cheryl isn’t okay with that. She sees things I don’t see. She values a “clean” house much more than I do. She sees the dust on the furniture. She knows if it’s been 3 days or 7 since the bathrooms were last “cleaned”. It bothers her if the shoes at the front door are not in their proper place. Her value system is different on those issues than mine.

And, there could be plenty of examples of things I would value that she may not. One for me, as an example, is getting out the door when it’s time to leave. “Come on, let’s go.” But, at that moment, her values of having everything in it’s place conflict with my value to get on the road in a timely manner.

This type conflict in values happens continually in every marriage.

And, equally critical — and dangerous:

Assuming that your spouse’s values don’t matter to you.

They do. They matter greatly. Even if they conflict with your values.

They matter to me because they matter to my spouse.

When I fail to validate a person’s values — any person’s, but especially my spouse — even if they aren’t my values, I speak volumes to them that I don’t care. That may not be true, but that’s the perception received.

Part of having a successful marriage is learning the values of the other person, validating them, and working to balance each other in them.

Cheryl can’t expect me to have the same values as her. Actually, over time, our values do tend to align more. We will always be different, because we are different — designed by God to be different.

Cheryl should expect me to value her values. And, likewise for her to value mine. It’s part of what makes a marriage work.