5 Examples of Leading Outside the Norm

Yellow chair in the middle of several purple chairs

Leadership is so much different today than when I first started leading over 30 years ago. To lead today we must learn to think outside the once considered normal lines of leadership.

Much has been written about the informal aspects of leadership being as important as the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to a set of systems and structures — for a leader to be successful today — leaders must engage a team. We must build team spirit. Energize. Motivate. Engage. Even sympathize. Those have always been important, but these days they may trump some of our policies and procedures.

In informal leadership environments, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. Again, that may have always been important, but now it is critical.

Here are 5 examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:

Adapting leadership to followers individual needs and expectations.

No more cookie-cutter leadership is allowed. Leaders must be wiling to individualize their leadership based on the current setting, economy and individualism of team members. We must know our teams uniquely and lead according to a person’s individual strengths and abilities.

Raising new leaders.

Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead, must be given opportunity to help lead the organization. That’s not an option. Not only is this good for the organization by creating future leaders, it is key to keeping the best people on the team.

Balancing kindness or friendship with authority.

John Maxwell’s axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true. People follow leaders they can trust. They follow leaders who believe in them and will invest in them. While leaders sometimes must make difficult and unpopular decisions, authoritarian leadership is not well received by today’s workforce.

Giving others ownership in the vision.

People want and need to be stockholders — knowing they are making a difference with their work. To do that means they must have ownership in the vision and decision-making. Allowing a team to help shape the agenda helps assure their heart buys into completing the mission of the organization.

Creating for the greater good.

Great leaders think beyond themselves. Even beyond their own team or the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Today’s leaders must understand they play a part in a more global sense. We are much more connected these days through social media and online instant connections. The way an organization treats it’s employees, the environment and customers is considered important — and if it’s not done well — the world will know about it quickly.

Finding the right balance between a formal style of leadership where everything is clearly spelled out for people to follow and an informal style where a team helps to shape the course of action is critical to an organization’s success. In many ways, after 30 plus years of leadership, I’m from an “old school”. I’m still learning – and re-learning.

But, I know this. Leaders today must continually strive to find that balance.

10 Problems with Doing the Best You Know How To Do

Confused charming woman holding up her hands

Years ago in a company I owned, there was a young man who worked for me who had tremendous potential. I believed in him so much that I personally invested in him and paid special attention to him. I thought his future with our company was worth the extra time. Sadly, he never measured up to my expectations and we ended up having to part ways.

Every time I would meet with him to “encourage” him, he would say the same thing.

I’m doing the best I know how to do.”

I have come to realize over the years that this response was actually his primary problem. He was doing the best he KNEW HOW to do.

But, here’s the reality I know:

The best you know how to do is never the best you can do!

It’s not. I wish I was, because that would make things much easier. But, there’s so much more. That’s just an excuse. And excuses never get you where you say you want to go.

Here are 10 problems when you do the best you know how to do:

  • You leave out a critical thinking…
  • You quit learning new things…
  • You fail to be stretched…
  • You never develop personally…
  • You quit asking questions…
  • You resist change…
  • You dismiss new ideas…
  • You stop growing in your field of expertise…
  • You never become an expert…
  • You fail to allow God to work through you…

There is a huge difference in doing the best you know how to do and doing the best YOU CAN DO. The best you can do is to continue to get better. The times you are being stretched beyond what you know how to do may prove to be the best times of your personal development.

Never settle for the best you know how to do. It seldom will take you to the places you really want to go!

Here’s a challenge question: What are you currently doing to produce future personal growth? 

4 Tasks of the Senior Leader

Senior leader

One reason leadership can make a person feel isolated is the weight of responsibility on the one who claims to be the senior leader in an organization. Whether in the business world, in non-profits or in churches, there are some things that happen in any organization that senior leaders help determine — whether intentional or not. In each of these cases, inactivity determines them just as much as activity.

The weight of that responsibility can be overwhelming at times, but it’s unavoidable to a point. It comes with the position.

Successful senior leaders are cognizant of their input in them and place intentional energy towards them.

Here are 4 Tasks of the Senior Leader:

Vision – The senior leader  is the ordained caretaker of the organization’s vision. The vision may be predetermined by a board, or in the church’s sense, obviously by Jesus, but all leaders place his or her spin on implementing the vision. At the end of the day the senior leader is held responsible for seeing that the organization’s vision is attained. And, inactivity towards this will — as stated — also determine the vision — at least the perceived vision — by the organization.

Values – The senior leader must carry out, protect, or shape the culture of the organization. Much of the character of the organization will be determined or maintained by the way this person leads and lives his or her life. This is so true in the life of a church. The moral integrity of a church will seldom be greater than the pastor’s personal moral integrity.

Victories- Senior leaders determine what matters to an organization. He or she ultimately defines a win by setting end goals primarily by what is most celebrated, acknowledged or rewarded. An organization cannot do everything and this individual’s leadership determines priorities, initiatives and major objectives to be accomplished. Senior pastors are one of the single greatest influences of what a church does well by the intentionality — or lack thereof — towards the things it labels a victory.

Velocity –The Senior leader sets the speed by which the organization will operate. The lead person is in the role of balancing present tasks and future opportunities. His or her individual pace and expectations of others determines how fast the organization functions, changes, adapts, and responds. The lead pastor also sets the pace — fast or slow — of the church in accomplishing her mission.

Most organizations will have a governing body — board of directors, stakeholders or elders — to oversee the organization, hire the senior pastor or CEO and hold title to the organization, but it is ultimately the person in that role who daily carries out these four functions. A senior leader can delegate, form a great team environment, seek wise counsel, or even shirk his or her responsibility, but to fulfill the role of the senior leader effectively there are some responsibilities that rest solely with this position. 

Whether or not the senior leader consciously recognizes his or her role in accomplishing these tasks, by sheer position he or she is determining the way the organization performs in these four areas.

Are you a senior leader in your organization? Do you feel the weight of these responsibilities? Do you understand your important role in setting these four principles of the organization?

7 “BE’s” of Effective Leadership and Management

image

One of the chief goals of this blog is to encourage better leadership. In this post, I’m including the term management. I believe the two are different functions, but both are vital to a healthy organization. Whether you lead or manage a large or small organization — or church — there are principles for being effective.

Here are 7:

Be aware – Know your team. People are individuals. They have unique expectations and they require different things from leadership. Some require more attention and some less. Use personality profiles or just get to know them over time, but learn the people you are supposed to be leading or managing.

Be open – Let them know you — as a person outside of the role as leader or manager. Be transparent enough that they can learn to trust you.

Be responsive – Don’t leave people waiting too long for a response. They’ll make up their own if you do — and it’s usually not the conclusion you want them to reach.

Be approachable – You can’t be everything to everyone, and you may not always be available, but for the people you are called to lead or manage, you need to be approachable. They need to know if there is a problem — or a concern — you will be receptive to hearing from them. I realize the larger the organization the more difficult this becomes, but build systems that allow you to hear from people at every level within the organization.

Be consistent – Over time, the team you lead or manage needs to know you are going to be dependable. The world is changing fast. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. We certainly need to be able to trust people we are supposed to follow.

Be trustworthy – Follow through on what you say you will do. If you make a promise — keep it. If you can’t support something — say it. If you’re not going to do it — say no. Let your word be your bond. Spend time building and protecting your character. Be the quality of person you would want to follow.

Be appreciative – Recognize you can’t do it alone. Be grateful. Be rewarding. Celebrate. Love others genuinely and display it well.

What would you add? Upon which of these do you most need to improve?

4 Steps to Rebuild Trust

couple in distress

I wrote a blog post on winning back the heart of a wife several years ago. (Read it HERE.) The post was written in reponse to the dozens of times I had given the same advice to men who had hurt their wives in some severe way…mostly affair type situations…where it seems the wives heart has left the relationship.

When men find themselves in this type situation they feel hopeless. When the marriage begins to unravel around them…when the wife is ready to quit…even when it was the man’s fault…he often is finally broken and willing to do whatever it takes, but doesn’t know what to do.

That post has been Googled thousands of times. It is obviously a needed subject. As a result of that post, I have heard from dozens of other men and women (mostly men) who have done something dumb and want to win back their spouse’s trust. (Some of them even still comment on the previous post.)

Building on that original post, I want to address how to regain trust in general. This is advice I would give to any relational setting. It could be a marriage, a family, friend or even a business relationship. Regaining trust is difficult…just being candid…but the process usually follows a similar path.

Here are 4 steps to rebuild trust in a relationship:

Ask forgiveness – If you did wrong…apologize. If your aren’t sure…apologize. Even if you don’t think you were completely in the wrong, the other person may…a sincere apology is a great place to start. Being humble enough to admit fault is a trust-building characteristic. (Some are experts at saying “I’m sorry”, but it stops at that. That’s not enough to rebuild trust…keep reading.)

Do the right things – Whatever you did to offend the relationship. Stop. Stop now. Quit. Never again. Get help if you need to, but you have to do the right thing to counteract the wrong things. You may need to learn how and don’t be afraid to ask the person you offended or get professional help. Relationships are too important not to take them this seriously. Do the right things.

Keep doing the right things – Over and over again. Trust builds over time and experience of doing things which are trustworthy. This will require discipline on your part, and may not even be received well at first, but doing the right things is still the right thing to do. A mature response to life is to do the right thing even when wrong is easier or even expected.

Be patient – Trust always takes longer than the one seeking to rebuild trust thinks it should. Always. Trust has to work through emotions that have been severely injured. That doesn’t happen in an instant unless God intervenes. Most of the time He seems to let them heal naturally. Be patient with that process. It’s worth it. (By the way, this appears to be the hardest step for people from whom I hear.)

Now I realize the obvious next question. What happens if the offended party doesn’t reciprocate? That’s probably the subject of another post, such as 7 Things Forgiveness is Not, but know this: You are not responsible for the actions of another. You are responsible for your actions. And, attempting to rebuild trust is the right thing to do.

Any testimonies of how long it took someone to rebuild trust? Share and help others.

Danger: A Team Without a Leader…

teamwork concept on blackboard

I’ve seen many leaders make this mistake. They believe in teams, so they create a bunch of them. They charge them with carrying out a mission…an assigned task…part of a great vision.

But, the team doesn’t work. Nothing gets accomplished. There is no forward movement.

Why? They had a great team.

But, they didn’t have a leader.

I believe in teams.

I even love the word.

TEAM

It sounds cooperative. Energy-building. Inclusive.

Create great teams. I think you should.

But, make no mistake about it…every team need a leader.

Teams are great, but at some point in time, a leader needs to stand up. And lead.

An organizational team without a leader is like an athletic team without a coach.

Would you recommend that for your favorite sports team?

Of course not.

Lead by teams. But, make sure every team has a leader.

Make it a point to never appoint or release a team to do work…until you make sure a leader is chosen.

Have you seen a leaderless team flounder?

As a Leader of Leaders…

female leader

I often get asked, what’s the difference is between leading leaders and leading followers. Great question. It really is a paradigm of leading. It’s really in how you lead.

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out” a lot…

I often “didn’t know about that” until a decision is made, but you won’t hear me say that…because I support my team’s ability to make decisions…

I encourage learning from someone besides me…

I let people make mistakes…

I try to steer discussion more than have answers…

I believe in more dreams than my own…

I say “we” more than I say “me”…(except in this post)

I strive to empower more than I control…

I’m not afraid of being challenged by those on my team…

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision…

Do you lead leaders? What would you add?

The Emotions of Betrayal and How to Process

image

I was reading a passage the other day and something struck me…

The emotions of betrayal…

Have you ever experienced them?

It helps to be able to count to twelve…

See what I mean…

And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.Acts 1:13

Do you see what I saw?

Count them. There are eleven names. Eleven. Not twelve.

One was missing. For three years there were twelve. They had been Jesus’ disciples. His closest companions. Jesus had invested time, energy and life into them. Now there were eleven. One was missing.

The betrayer…

If you don’t know the story, another named Judas betrayed Jesus. For a hefty sum of money he handed Jesus to the authorities where He was arrested, beaten and crucified. Of course, it was used for a divine purpose, but the fact is one of the disciples betrayed the others and Jesus.

I don’t think I ever considered this before…but what were the emotions of betrayal for the remaining disciples? Did they miss their friend? In spite of his betrayal, he was a close companion on a mission. A team member. There must have been some attachment. Were there moments of bitterness, anger, or rage? Were they sad? Was there one in particular who got hurt most? He was closest to the betrayer, perhaps, (I don’t know…just knowing people and team dynamics I’m asking).

But, that was then and this post is really about you.

Have you ever experienced the emotions of betrayal?

We don’t talk about it much in leadership or ministry, but maybe we should. Those emotions are real. They are heavy. And, they are common.

Have you been hurt by your own betrayer? You trusted him or her. You may have even called them friend. They let you down. Disappointed you. Betrayed you.

Anyone who has served in any leadership position has experienced betrayal at some level. It could have been the gossip started by a supposed friend or a pointed and calculated stab in the back. Either way…it hurts.

Learning to deal with, process, and mature through betrayal may be one of the more important leadership issues, yet we seldom deal with the issue.

How do you handle betrayal?

Here are a few quick suggestions:

Grieve – Give yourself time to process. Be honest about the pain. Don’t pretend it didn’t matter. It does.

Forgive – As much as it hurts, refusing to forgive or holding a grudge will hurt you more than the betrayer. Embrace and extend grace. If there are realistic consequences you can let those occur, but in your heart let it go. It may take time to do this, but the longer you delay the more you are still held captive by the betrayal.

Analyze – It is good at a time of betrayal to consider what went wrong. Was it an error in judgement? Do you need stricter guidelines? Would it have happened regardless? You can’t script morality and shouldn’t attempt to, but you should use this as a chance for a healthy review of the parameters in which the betrayal occurred.

Continue – You can’t allow a betrayal to distract you from the vision you have been called to complete. There will always be betrayers in the mix. They show up unexpectedly. Eventually you will have to take a risk on people again. It’s the only way to lead healthfully.

Have you ever been betrayed?

What would you add? How did you’re forward? Or have you?

People are most productive…

When they enjoy their work!

I’ve lived under both styles of management.

One uses coercion, control and intimidation to motivate. 

One uses encouragement, incentives and cheers to motivate.

I prefer the latter.

In fact, I would go as far as to say the long-term success of the orginization is directly proportional to the contentment of the people in the organization. That doesn’t mean work is always fun. Work is work. But, when people feel they are making a difference and believe in the work they are doing, when they work in an environment conducive to enjoyment, the overall potential for success of the organization increases.

Agree or disagree? 

7 Tips for Leaving a Job Properly

Recently I received the following question. It’s one I’ve been asked several times and one I know is more common as an issue than even asked. I’ve omitted some details for obvious confidentiality reasons, but kept the intent of the question the same.

I am writing you seeking counsel regarding a significantly large decision my wife and I need to make about our continued service at a local church. The church is in turmoil and my wife and I feel released from our commitment here. Leaving is probably the best option, but how do I know for sure and how do I leave “properly”?

Here is my expanded reply:

Leaving is never easy, but many times, even in the worst situations, it can be done in a way that doesn’t further disrupt the church. First, you might consider these two posts:

10 Scenarios to Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit

Discerning a Change of Ministry Assignment

You need to discern first if you definitely feel released to leave and then if you are leaving. It may not be worth putting the energy into deciding how to leave until you decide that you are. If that’s where you are headed…

Here are 7 Tips for leaving “properly”:

1. Make it a decision of prayer and conviction. The more you can remove your personality or personal comfort from the process, the more likely you will be able to convince people you are leaving on good terms and that you are following God’s will and not your own. (As I mentioned previously, it may be that God has released you to make the decision. I find that true many times. Your first step, in my opinion, is to make sure you aren’t violating something God has told you to do or not to do.)

2. Start properly. I know. This is a post about leaving. But, honestly, that process starts long before the door swings closed. The sooner you start preparing people for your eventual exit, the easier your exit will be accepted by people when you do leave. Help cross train for your area. Identify key leaders who could fill in for an interim. You don’t even have to share all this information, but be thinking ahead of time who those people might be. Start making lists of things you do that others may not know. Think in terms of “if I’m not here, then…” and write some of that stuff down to share when you leave.

3. Discuss with and seek wisdom from one or two people you trust, who know you and the church. You’ll need a sounding board to help you confirm your decision, but also to help determine the timing and approach of your exit.

4. Develop a plan, with counsel and prayer, of how and when you intend to proceed. You’ll need to decide who to contact first, when, and how to tell the church. This will likely be different for every church.

5. Don’t throw punches on the way out. There’s never a win and often a lasting negative when a person lashes out in the final days of their involvement with a church. Any credibility gained can be quickly lost based on the way the person handles their exit.

5. Work to protect spouses and children. Ministry can be very cruel and may even get ugly before it heals. Don’t allow your family dynamic to suffer because of the problems of the church.

6. Prepare your own emotions. It is likely to be hard leaving, even if things are miserable at the time. Chances are you’ve invested your heart in this church. You started with vision and enthusiasm. You felt a call to go there. You never intended things to turn out like this. Regardless of why you are leaving or what you are going to do next, it won’t be easy walking away from something you have loved.

7. Don’t end when you walk out the door. Be available to further assist them as needed in the months after you leave. It may not be welcomed or needed but offering is the graceful way to exit and the right thing to do.

Make this post better:

What would you add about leaving properly? Have you ever left when the church or organization was in turmoil? How did you handle your exit? Looking back, what did you learn to help others?