7 Impractical Leadership Principles and Why I Use Them

I talk to pastors frequently who find themselves in a difficult situation. Many times they know the right thing to do, but they can’t bring themselves to do it. Often, the advice I give is simply received with a reply such as, “I know it’s probably the right thing to do, but it seems like it would be easier just to _____”.

I understand.

Honestly, good leadership isn’t always practical. Seriously. Think about it. Sometimes it would be easier just to take the most efficient way. It’s less controversial. It allows the leader more control. It happens quicker.

I’ve learned, however, that the most practical way isn’t always the most prudent way.

Let me explain.

Here are 7 impractical leadership principles I practice:

I don’t meet alone with the opposite sex – Unless there is someone else in the office, I don’t meet with females alone. I don’t meet with them for lunch or coffee, except in extreme situations. I know, it’s not practical, but it not only protects the integrity of my marriage and ministry, it protects the perception of my marriage and ministry. Which is almost as important. (BTW, I wrote about that process of protecting my ministry HERE.)

I don’t make major decisions alone even if I have the authority – I always invite a team of people, many wiser than me, to help me discern major decisions. I realize it slows down the process. Sometimes it even kills my plans, but it has protected me over and over from making foolish decisions.

I try to kill my own ideasI wrote about this recently HERE, but I try to find the holes in my ideas and even try to talk people out of it after they’ve already bought into it. I know; crazy, right? Time and time again this process has improved the decisions I make and it always builds a sense of ownership for everyone on the team.

I respond to criticism – What a way to slow down progress! Talk about insane. Why listen to people who have negatives to add to the positives? But, I even listen to anonymous critics sometimes. I previously wrote the RIGHT WAY and WRONG WAY to respond to critics, but I’ve learned that criticism often is correct and it always makes me better. Whether I yield to it or not, it forces me to consider sides I wouldn’t otherwise.

I give away tasks to someone less experienced – I do it all the time. I surrender my right to decide to one with many years less experience than I have. Some would call that dumb, but I call it genius. The best leaders on our team were “discovered” this way.

I push for best – It’s always easier and faster to compromise. Settling for mediocre saves time and energy…and it makes a leader more popular! I work through conflict to get to the best solution for everyone. I know, time consuming, but in the long run, the organization wins!

I watch people fail – You heard me. I’ve let people make a mistake I knew they were going to make. How dumb can one leader be, right? Why not jump in to save the day? I’ve learned, however, that if I do always stop what I see as a mistake, I may miss out on something I can’t see. Plus, I’ve learned my best leadership from the mistakes I’ve made. Others will also.

There! So much for being impractical. Way to waste some time. Good job being Mr. Inefficient! But, if you want to be a great leader, find ways to avoid practicality.

How good are you at being an impractical leader? What other impractical leadership principles have you seen?

Playing it Safe…Not My Style

I’m 48 years old. I’m just old enough to have wisdom about a few things I should and shouldn’t do, but not yet old enough to always follow my own wisdom. Recently I observed a characteristic in me that I hope is not permanent.

We recently moved to a downtown condo. I wrote about why we did that HERE. The condo sits on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We love the view, but it presents a problem on windy days. We have to weatherize our front porch every time we suspect a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything is secure.

On one recent night, Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. That really meant I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. :) Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used that phrase a few years ago. “Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me. I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I run to things others say can’t be done or aren’t willing to try. I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith.

I’m scared of “better safe than sorry”. What happened to me? Am I that old? :)

Here’s my plan to counter my recent tendency to lean to the comfortable side of life:

I own a couple Groupons for skydiving. My oldest son and I have wanted to do this for several years. It’s a risk worth taking I think, especially in light of my recent playing it safe tendency.

I think very soon I’ll go jump out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I must. I can’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post?
Well, if God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand…

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

10 Questions to Evaluate Your Personal Progress

This week every year, I review my personal progress for the year. Would you like to play along?

Here are some examples of questions I ask myself:

  • What did I do that worked well?
  • What did I attempt that didn’t work?
  • Did I meet my goals?
  • What could I do better with a little tweaking?
  • What should I stop doing so I can do other things?
  • Where is my time most being wasted?
  • What discipline do I most need to implement into my day?
  • What was my most memorable moment?
  • What drains my energy just to think about doing again?
  • What changes do I need to make?

Are you playing?

Here’s to a great 2012!

Laying the Groundwork for Change

I once asked one of my mentor pastors, (make sure you have one of those) who is in his 90′s now, how he was able to implement major changes in a large, traditional church. (If you’ve never tried it…trust me…it’s not easy.) He had a history of successfully leading churches and I knew he had surely faced opposition to change.

His advice was simple, yet profound.

After he had prayerfully decided change was needed, he said he always laid his groundwork first. Before he took an item to the church, or even a governing body (in this case a body of deacons), he always had meetings with key people to introduce the change, gain input, and solicit support. He asked himself, “Who is influential within certain circles? Who can ‘kill the deal’? Who can ‘make it happen’? Who can make the change even better?”

Then, using some of the ideas generated and the support already built, he attempted to implement the change.

I’ve never forgotten that advice.

Sometimes the meetings before the meeting are the most important.

When you are convinced change is necessary and prayerfully landed on a direction you feel is best, build a core group of supporters for your idea first. Flesh it out with people you trust and who are influential with other people. Even be willing to adjust your ideas to make them better and stronger. Then attempt to tackle the change.

You’ll find yourself with a greater success rate.

What tips do you have for implementing change?

Christmas Flash Mob

According to YouTube, Journey of Faith performed a Christmas “Flash Mob” at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach on December 18, much to the delight of local shoppers.

One of the best I’ve ever seen…don’t miss the ending.

Ever been a part of a flash mob? Would you like to be?

(Thanks to @MaxLucado for pointing me to this one.)

Dreams, Goals and Plans

Dream

Far reaching, seemingly impossible, worthwhile, dependent on faith and huge personal risk, with no guarantee of success.

Goals

Defined aspects of realizing the dream. Attainable, stretching and measurable.

Plans

Action steps written to systematically complete goals. Assigned, scheduled and accountable.

It won’t be easy, there may be moments of despair, disappointments and setbacks along the way…you’ll need to learn prayer and patience like never before…but sometimes breaking down the terms makes the path seem clearer. Perhaps that dream is possible after all.

What’s the dream God is birthing in your heart?

You may now want to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Goals or 7 Reasons You May not be Achieving Your Goals.

5 Current Tools Making Me a Better Leader

I’m constantly attempting to be more efficient and effective with how I manage my time. With so much of my time online, that means many of the tools that improve my productivity are applications or other online tools. I have a few that are worth sharing.

Here are some of the current tools helping make me a better leader:

StrengthsFinders and The Standard – I believe a leader leads best when he or she maximizes personal strengths and minimizes weaknesses. I’ve been a fan of StrengthsFinders since shortly after it was released. The StandOut is a new strengths finder, but very comprehensive. Both of these assessments are inexpensive, are completed online, and a code to take them comes with the books when you purchase them and together these two have made me much more aware of who I am as a leader.

Evernote – Almost everything I write and every note I take begins with Evernote. It syncs with all my devices which means I’m never without a place to store or continue writing on projects on which I’m currently working. (This blog post started there.)

Flipboard iPad application – What did I do before this application? Flipboard brings everything I want to read into one app. Whether it’s USA Today, Harvard Business Review, Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, or my blog, you can add it to Flipboard to simplify your browsing.

Twitter – I’ve been using Twitter for several years now, but I’m still just as committed to it as when I began. I have made some of my best friends in the last few years on Twitter. I’ve spoken at conferences and consulted with churches, just because of my Twitter interaction.

Adobe Ideas - Adobe is an iPad drawing application. I have several drawing board applications, but this one lets me save multiple drawings. I pull it out every time I’m trying to explain or teach something. I now have an archive of drawings to pull from always on my iPad.

What would you share with me that’s helping you be better at what you do? Know any good apps I should try?

The Danger of Vision Casting

Vision casting can be dangerous…

It can destroy the health of a team…

Cast your stones if you want, but it’s true.

The most prolific vision-casters can ruin a good team.

Let me explain…

Casting a vision is one part of success…an important part…

Completing the vision is another…equally important part…

And if the team doesn’t understand the vision…

Or how to complete it…

It won’t matter how well the vision was cast…

In fact, it can even do more harm than good.

Visions can appear bigger than life…

People left without the “how” may feel discouraged, defeated; like failures.

They may give up and the vision dies…

Vision-casters, by nature, thrive on casting…so they are continually throwing out the big idea…

It’s fun, exciting, motivating…visionary…

Great leaders continually work to ensure people not only catch the vision…

But also understand the how and have the resources to accomplish the vision…

It takes both…

Great leaders:

  • Ask questions to make sure everyone understands…
  • Ensure there are plans, strategies, and systems in place…
  • Never leave the process during implementation…
  • Break the vision down into measurable steps or goals…

Have you been on the bad side of vision casting?

How to Double Your Productivity

I’m reading Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, Ron McMillan and Joseph Grenny. So far it’s an encouraging book. Much of it appears to me as common sense, but it’s always good to reinforce concepts you think you know. I’m hoping to test these theories with some change in my own life.

Here’s an excerpt from Change Anything:

Consider the following rather startling discovery. A team of researchers from New York University worked with students whose grades suffered because they procrastinated studying. They gave half of the procrastinators information on how to improve their study habits. The other half were given the same information—plus pencil and paper. They were told, “Decide now where and at what times you will study in the next week, and write it down.” Those who recorded their plan studied more than twice as many hours as those who didn’t.”

Did you catch that? How do you double your chance of being productive? Apparently you write it down. Schedule it. Make a plan.

I love it when the experts agree with me. :)

I suggest to people all the time that they should schedule everything. For years people have asked how I accomplish as much as I do. One “secret” is that I schedule my week. If you want more specifics, I wrote about it HERE.

Start the week off right. Calendar the things you want to accomplish.

Working the plan is much easier when you have one.

What tips do you have for being more productive?