12 Killers of Good Leadership

wrecking ball

I know numerous leaders with great potential. They have all the appearance of being a good leader. But they lack one thing — or two.

In my experience, some of this self-learned the hard way, there are a few killers of good leadership.

I decided to compile a list of some of the most potent killers I’ve observed. Any one of these can squelch good leadership. It’s like a wrecking ball of potential. If not addressed, they may even prove to be fatal.

It’s not that the person can’t continue to lead, but to grow as a leader — to be successful at a higher level or for the long-term — they must address these killers.

Here are 12 killers of good leadership:

Defensiveness – Good leaders don’t wear their feelings on their shoulders. They know other’s opinions matter and aren’t afraid to be challenged. They are confident enough to absorb the wounds intended to help them grow.

Jealousy – A good leader enjoys watching others on the team excel — even willing to help them.

Revenge – The leader that succeeds for the long-term must be forgiving; graceful — knowing that “getting even” only comes back to harm them and the organization.

Fearfulness – A good leader remains committed when no one else is and takes risks no one else will. Others will follow. It is what leaders do.

Favoritism – Good leaders don’t have favorites on the team. They reward for results not partiality.

Ungratefulness – Good leaders value people — genuinely — knowing they cannot attain success without others.

Small-mindedness – Good leaders think bigger than today. They are dreamers and idea people.

Pridefulness – Pride comes before the fall. Good leaders remain humbled by the position of authority entrusted to them.

Rigidity – There are some things to be rigid about, such as values and vision, but for most issues, the leader must be open to change. Good leaders are welcome new ideas, realizing that most everything can be improved.

Laziness – One can’t be a good leader and not be willing to work hard. In fact, the leader should be willing to be the hardest worker on the team.

Unresponsiveness – Good leaders don’t lead from behind closed doors. They are responsive to the needs and desires of those they attempt to lead. They respond to concerns and questions. They collaborate more than control. Leaders who close themselves off from those they lead will limit the places where others will follow.

Dishonesty – Since character counts highest, a good leader must be above reproach. When a leader fails, he or she must admit their mistake and work towards restoration.

A leader may struggle with one or more of these, but the goal should be to lead “killer-free”. Leader, be honest, which of these wrecking balls do you struggle with most?

What would you add to my list?

Can you think of any other killers of good leadership?

7 Ways to Keep a Leader on Your Team

Handshake - extraversio

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders.

I previously posted reasons leaders tend to leave an organization. (Read that post HERE.) The goal then is to find ways to keep a leader energized to stay with the team — so I thought a companion post was appropriate.

I’m writing from the perspective of all organizations but keeping leaders should certainly be a high priority in the church.

I never want to stop someone from pursuing a better opportunity, but I don’t want to send them away because I didn’t help them stay.

The reality is that leaders get restless if they are forced to sit still for long. Good managers are comfortable maintaining progress, but a leader needs to be leading change. In fact, leaders even like a little chaos. Show a real leader a problem ready to be solved and they are energized.

Here are a few suggestions to encourage leaders to stay:

Give them a new challenge. Let them tackle something you’ve never been able to accomplish. (Even tell them you’re not certain it can be done.) Leaders love to do what others said couldn’t. Or that no one has figured out yet. Let the leader be a precursor to what’s next for the organization. Let them experiment somewhere you’ve wanted to go but haven’t tried. They may discover the next big thing for the organization.

Allow them to explore a specific area of interest to them. Leaders are attracted to environments where they can explore — especially in areas where they have a personal interest or where they want to develop.

Mentor them. Invest in them personally. This is huge for younger leaders. They crave it but don’t always know how to ask for it. This is not micromanaging. This is helping them learn valuable insight from your experience.

Give them more creative time to dream. This is huge. You might keep someone who feels they stifled if you give them more margin in how they spend their time.

Don’t exhibit fear to them. I’ve seen this so many times when a senior leader gives other leaders in the organization more responsibility. They micromanage. They ask too many questions before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves. They try to tell them how to do things. Fear is easily discerned. And, it doesn’t communicate you trust them.

Reward them. If they are doing well — let them know it. Praise them privately and publicly and compensate them fairly.

Allow him or her to help you lead/dream/plan for the organization. Include them in discussions and brainstorming in which they normally would not be included. The more they feel included the more loyal they will be.

Sure, keeping a leader on your team will be at challenge for you as a leader. You will have to stretch yourself to stretch them. But, it’s almost always worth it. As they grow, you grow, and the entire organization grows.

7 Reasons Leaders Tend to Quit Your Organization

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If any organization expects to grow, they need to attract, develop and retain quality leaders.

Any argument with that statement? If so, you just like to argue. And, I get that too.

But, new growth always requires new leaders. Period.

Certainly the church needs good leaders. 

One of the highest costs an organization has is replacing leaders, so ideally once a leader is hired, you’ll want to keep them. So it’s equally important to know how to keep them. And, to know why leaders tend to leave an organization, apart from finding a better opportunity. I don’t want to stand in the way of a leader leaving to an opportunity I can’t match, but I don’t want to lose them because of something the organization did wrong.

Here are 7 reasons leaders tend to quit an organization:

They couldn’t live out their personal vision. Leaders are internally driven. They have personal visions in addition to the vision of the organization. They need opportunity to explore, find their own way, and feel they are making their own personal contribution to overall success.

They were told no too many times. Leaders have ideas they want to see implemented. If they get their hand slapped too many times they will be frustrated. And, not for long before they respond.

They felt unappreciated/never recognized for their abilities. This goes for all team members. People need to know that what they are offering is valued. Leaders especially want to know their contribution is recognized and valued.

They were given no voice . Leaders want input into the direction of the organization. They want a seat at the table of authority.

They were left clueless as to the future of the organization. Leaders need inside information so they feel ownership in the overall direction of the organization. They don’t like constant surprises or feeling they are always an outsider.

Their vision doesn’t match the vision of the organization. This is best discovered before the leader joins the team, but when it is discovered a leader will be very uncomfortable. Something must change. And, it will. Trust me.

They were micromanaged . Leaders don’t need managing as much as they need releasing. They more they are controlled the more they rebel.

You can allow leaders to work for the good of the organization or stifle them, discourage them and spend valuable time and effort consistently replacing them. If you want to keep leaders — them lead!

7 Ways to Lead Younger People

Smiling Asian businesswoman doing a presentation

If you want to reach the next generation then you have recruit and develop the next generation. They need your wisdom, knowledge and experience.

How you lead them, however, may challenge how you’ve ever led before.

Here are 7 ways to lead younger people:

Give them the freedom to experiment. Even when you may not agree with the idea — let them try. They may need to experience failure in order to experience their next success. That’s likely how you learned. 

Give them opportunities to grow. And help them see how they see fit in the organization’s continued growth. They want upward mobility. 

Realize the generational differences. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. They affect how we relate to people, change, and technology. Be honest when you don’t understand something they do. Ask questions. Learn from them. 

Allow flexibility. Don’t let structure control how people complete their work — allow individuality. Newer generations, for example, aren’t as tied to an office as other generations. Let them figure out their how — and often where — of work progress.

Limit generational stereotypes. The younger generation does value your wisdom. They want it. But, they are less likely to be excited about gleaning from us if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them how young they are or appear.

Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. Don’t dismiss their input because you don’t feel they have enough experience. They aren’t limited usually to all the reasons you think something won’t work. And, it just might this time. 

Give them a seat at the table of leadership. This is difficult for some older leaders, because you often gained your position through years of hard work. You may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it. But, younger generations want leadership opportunities now. 

To lead younger generations the bottom line is to help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them. Be a people builder. 
Anything you would add?

5 Thoughts on Leadership from the Life of David

A businessman at the entrance to a maze

The best book from which to find leadership principles is the Bible. I love, for example, learning from leaders like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Jacob, Nehemiah — and I could keep going. Of course, the greatest leader of the Bible — and life — is Jesus.

And, I love reading about King David. From his time in the wilderness and serving as king, good and bad, we learn a great deal about leadership and what is required to successfully lead by observing David.

Take for example this story. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve used this dozens of times to encourage leaders.

When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”The LORD answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah. But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” 1 Samuel 23:1-3

Notice David had a vision — a word from God. This was a bigger request than David and his men probably felt capable of doing. They were still a young army. This was prior to David reigning as king. He had been anointed king by God, but did not yet have the position. He was hiding from Saul. He didn’t have a king’s palace. He spent much of his time in a cave. This new assignment was scary, his army was questioning him, and the future was unknown.

Have you experienced a situation like that as a leader?

Thankfully David’s story had a happy ending: (Imagine that since God put him up to it.)

But, even with a happy ending ahead — like most of our stories — that didn’t mean victory would come without challenges.

Read some more of the story.

Once again David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 1 Samuel 23:4-5

This story prompts 5 thoughts on leadership I think are appropriate for all of us:

We seldom get to rest for long – In church planting and in church revitalization — and in my years leading in the business world — I never knew seasons of rest for very long. They could be good seasons or not so good seasons, but there was always something demanding our attention. Something new was happening. There were challenges around us.

It reminds me that we must rest along the way. Don’t expect things to “slow down” so you can catch up. They won’t. You’ll have to be disciplined to decompress regularly. God even commanded it into the system. It’s called the Sabbath. And, we need it. Our souls need it.

Next steps are scary – If they weren’t people wouldn’t need a leader. Next steps involve risk, require faith, and the future is an unknown. If David had not been obedient his “team” would have easily sat this one out — ignoring the command of God.

Leaders lead – That’s what leaders do. They take people where they need to go, maybe even where they want to go, and sometimes where they are hesitant, afraid or may not yet be prepared to go. People don’t need a leader to stay where they are currently. We could manage that.

As a leader I have to be obedient, even when the demands are bigger than I think our team can handle — bigger than I as a leader know how to lead. That’s what leaders do. We chart the way — even when the way isn’t neat, tidy, and clearly defined.

Big visions require faith – God doesn’t call us to that which is easy. He would receive no glory in us doing things we can naturally do — and seriously — what kind of a dream is it if it’s easily accomplished? Surely the God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine would want us to dream bigger than that which is easily attained.

Victory won’t come unless we move forward – You can’t realize the rewards of a God-given vision until you take the required actions. Standing still is safer, but it doesn’t bring the satisfaction of a well-executed, bold move of faith. And, leaders must be willing to take the first step.

What are you being called to these days that is bigger than you?

7 Reasons You May Not be Achieving Your Dreams

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Recently I posted 7 steps to achieve your dreams. I love helping people attain their God-given visions. 

It occurred to me that there may be an additional post needed.

The fact is that more people will look back on their life and wish they had done more with their life than they did.

I heard someone once say something like, “If you’re not careful, your “hope to do’s” will become your “wish I had’s”. I have many of those areas in my life. I want the next phase of my life to be different.

Here are 7 reasons you may not be achieving your dreams:

You have no dreams – You may have some but you’ve never recorded them. You never set some tangible goals that get you closer to your dreams. Only then can you analyze them and organize them into reachable and attainable dreams.

You have no plan – A dream without a plan is just a dream. A dream with a plan is an avenue to success. You can’t “work the plan” if you never wrote one.

You need accountability – We were designed for relationships. Sometimes knowing someone is going to hold you accountable is enough incentive to follow through. Give a few people the freedom to challenge you to work the plan.

You are afraid to share the load – If you are trying alone for fear of sharing your dream, you’ll also have no one with whom you can really share the victory. Sharing the load builds synergy, makes a stronger effort, and keeps your ego from sidelining your progress.

You’ve given up – You may have had a set back and now you’re afraid to try again. Successful dreamers are willing to get up after a fall, knowing they will be stronger and better equipped the next time.

You aren’t willing to take a risk – Fear can sometimes be a powerful motivator, but most of the time it’s one of our biggest stumbling block. Some of the best moments of your life are hidden in your fears. Risk-taking and dreaming go hand-in-hand. If the dream requires no risk, it isn’t much of a dream.

You never got started – Every road to success begins with one step. If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish. What step do you need to take?

Are any of these your reason for not achieving your dreams? What would you add to my list?

Be sure to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

5 Tips For Leading Strong-Willed People

Stubborn donkey

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led?

The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one. Perhaps you are one.

(I know one personally — me!)

But, have you ever tried to lead one?

It’s not easy.

In fact, I’m convinced many strong-willed people end up leading just because they couldn’t be led — and yet they probably didn’t need to lead. But, no one ever learned to lead them.

And, I’m not sure I am an expert. But, I have some ideas — since I’m speaking to my own kind.

Here are 5 tips for leading strong-willed people:

Give clear expectations

Everyone responds best when they know what is expected of them. That is especially true of those with strong opinions of their own — shall I say — those of us more stubborn people. If you have a definite idea of how something needs to be done and you leave it as an undefined gray area — we will redefine things our way. Keep this in mind with strong-willed people: Rules should be few and make sense or they’ll likely be resisted or broken more often.

Give freedom within the boundaries

Once the guidelines and expectations are established, allow people to express themselves freely within them. That’s important for all of us, but especially for strong-willed people. Strong-willed people need to know they can make some decisions — that they have freedom to explore on their own.

Be consistent

Strong willed people need boundaries, but they will test them. They want to know the limits of their freedom. Keep in mind they are head-strong. We’ve even labeled them — strong-willed. They aren’t the rule followers on the team. Make sure the rules you have — and again there shouldn’t be too many — are consistent in application. If it’s worth making a rule — make sure it’s worth implementing.

Pick your battles.

This is huge. Strong-willed people can be the backbone of a team. They can loyal, dogmatic, and tenacious — all for the benefit of the vision. What leader doesn’t want that? But, those same qualities can be where the problems start also. Don’t cross a strong-willed person over issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. If you back them in a corner they will usually fight back.

Respect their opinions and individualities

Strong-willed people ultimately want to be heard (as all people do). They aren’t weird because they sometimes seem immovable. But, they do resist leadership most when their voice is silenced. Learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions — you’ll find a loyal teammate.

Be honest: Are you strong-willed? How do you like to be led?

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

controlling leader

One of my pet peeves in leadership is the controlling leader. Because of that, I have written extensively on the subject on this blog.

Controlling leaders are in every type of organization — including the church. Some of my ministerial friends who have encountered this would say especially in the church. It could be a pastor, a committee chairperson, or a deacon who glories in their own power.

And, sometimes, just being fair, leaders control because they believe they are doing what’s best for the organization. Not every controlling leader, in my opinion, is controlling from a power trip. Granted, some are, but many just naively believe if they don’t control things will fall apart in the organization.

I recently worked with a church where I witnessed a controlling leader firsthand. Talking to members of the staff it reminded me of the main reason I’m so opposed to controlling leaders — because it is counter-productive to creating organizational health. And I love healthy organizations.

But, I would even go so far as to say controlling leadership violates some important Biblical principles — especially in the church. The Body is not comprised of one — but many ones — who work together to build the ONE local church. To do it any other way tramples on a lot of truth.

In terms of organizational health, there are some common disruptions from controlling leadership.

Here are 3 results of controlling leadership:

Leaders leave – You can’t keep a real leader when you control them — at least not for long. I find that especially true among the younger set of leaders entering the work world. Leaders need room to breathe, explore and take risks. Controlling leadership stifles creativity. A genuine leader will soon look for a place they can grow.

Followers stay – The flip side is equally true. You can keep those who follow the rules many times under controlling leadership. They will stay because of loyalty, or a sense of responsibility, or just because they don’t realize there is any other kind of leadership. But their fear of venturing out on their own keeps them under the leader’s control. And, most often their work life is unfulfilled and they are often miserable.

Organizations stall – The real detriment of controlling leadership is that it always limits the organization to the strengths, dreams and abilities of the controlling leader. One person — one leader — can only control so much — so many people or tasks. It’s one reason we see churches plateau and a business’s growth stagnate.

Dear leader, take it from a leader who has to discipline himself not to control — controlling leadership simply doesn’t work.

Have you learned that principle, perhaps the hard way?

Have you worked for a controlling leader?

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?