7 of the Most Dangerous Leadership Mindsets I’ve Observed

Businessman Slipping on Wet Floor

I’ve seen it so many times.

A leader could even be doing everything else right and one flawed mindset can overshadow — jeopardize all the good leadership principles we know.

One constantly repeated action. One trait. One habit. One mindset.

And, sadly, many times it’s not even that the person isn’t a good leader — it’s that one mindset that gets them off track. And, so I believe leaders should constantly be working on bad mindsets that keep them from being as successful as they can be.

Here are 7 of the most dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed.

In full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of some of these — sometimes for a season — sometimes until someone helped me discover I had a poor leadership mindset.

Allowing small details to overwhelm a view of the big picture.

There will always be details that have to be handled, but the smaller a leader is forced to think, the less he or she can focus on the larger vision ahead. I can get bogged down in minutia that wastes my energy and drains me. Sometimes it’s a systems problem that requires too much of my time and sometimes its a failure to delegate. Interestingly, I have personally found that when I’m free from the responsibility of handling as many details I’m more likely to notice the smaller things that greatly need my attention.

Seeing the glass as half-empty.

A negative leader will almost never be successful long-term, simply because people will not care to follow. Some people have this mindset all the time (and I don’t personally think leadership is their thing), but this mindset can also last for a season — especially when there are numerous setbacks around us either in our personal life or where we lead. It could also occur in times of fast change, when the complainers seem to outnumber those offering compliments. If we aren’t careful — we can let negative mindsets carry over into every other area of our life — and start to view our world that way. It’s very difficult to follow a negative-minded leader.

Not enjoying the journey.

Never taking time to celebrate. High achieving leaders can often fall into this trap. I get there at times and have to be reminded — either through personal discipline or when others speak into my life. I’m always seeing the next big opportunity ahead and striving for constant improvement. I can fail to recognize current success while continually searching for future potential. The problem is that a constant forward push isn’t sustainable long-term. It burns people out, makes them feel under appreciated, and leads to a very low team morale. People need a break — they need a plateau where they can rest, catch their breath and celebrate the victory already achieved.

Expecting more from others than you’re personally willing to give.

I once worked with a leader who had high expectations for everyone — not only in quality of work, but also in how many hours they should be working. The problem was this leader didn’t appear to have high expectations for himself. He would work just enough to bark out a few orders, but then he was gone. And, because he was mostly an absentee leader, even if he was working when he wasn’t around (and I personally knew that he was often working out of the office), no one believed he was. He created a perception of laziness. It was frustrating for everyone trying to follow. They felt used. People following a leader with this mindset mostly stay for a paycheck.

Assuming all the credit.

And, especially if the leader’s mindset thinks he or she deserves it. There is no success on a team without the efforts of others. When a leader takes all the accolades or rewards for himself, the team becomes employees of a boss rather than followers of a leader. Work becomes a job, not a career. It could be simply in the language of the leader. If “I” did it – if it was all because of “me” – “they” may soon — even if in only in their motivation — let “me” do it on my own. Shared success is paramount for a leader’s long-term success.

Never shutting down.

You can’t do it. You can’t. You may think you can always be on — do everything — be everywhere — you can’t. Superman couldn’t. Jesus didn’t. Don’t try. (Someone reading this still thinks they can — okay — you’ve been warned.) And, I have to be honest, this is one of the hardest ones for me. It usually comes when I don’t discipline myself to say no, worry too much what people think who expect me to be everywhere or haven’t released things I shouldn’t even be doing. Thankfully, I’ve matured enough that I won’t let the season go long without an intentional shut-down. (And, for me, that usually involves me getting out of town. There’s always something to do here.)

Isolating yourself from others.

The mindset that a leader can’t let others too close to them is one of the most dangerous I’ve observed. Leadership can be a lonely job. But, it shouldn’t be the job of a loner. We need people. We need accountability. We need community and those who can speak into the dark places of our hearts and lives. And, I’ve seen that with so many leadership failures — even with so many pastors. When we become islands to ourselves we are an invitation for the enemies attacks.

Those are a few dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed. Any you’d care to add?

7 Tensions You Can Expect in Fast Growth

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I’ve been blessed to be a part of several organizations experiencing exponential growth. Once in business and with a few churches, we had what was considered explosive growth.

As wonderful as growth is — and as much as we enjoy it as leaders — there are tensions associated with fast growth.

Here are 7 tensions you can expect in fast growth:

Miscommunication. There is too much activity to keep everyone informed about everything. That bothers those who are used to “being in the know”. The organization will need to improve in this area, but during fast growth, expect mishaps in communication.

Changing roles. Jobs will change. People will do things they never expected to do. There will be lots of “all hands on deck” opportunities. No one gets a reprieve from doing what needs to be done.

Power struggles. There will almost always be turf scuffles during fast growth. One potential reason is what used to be a small, controlled group of people making decisions now needs to broaden to include more people. That feel uncomfortable to some. Providing clarity of roles can help some, but continually reminding people of the vision seems to work best. Still, some simply may not like the new size of the organization — and may not last.

Burnout. There will never be enough leaders or people during times of fast growth. It’s fun for a while, but begins to wear on people after an extended period. New leaders must be recruited and developed.

Confusion. “I don’t know.” You can expect to hear that phrase a lot during times of fast growth. And, many times the person saying that will be the leader. And, that’s okay. It’s part of the process. Still, this is a matter to continually work to improve upon over time.

Complacency. When people don’t know what to do — they often do nothing. That’s where leadership is needed, but in seasons of fast growth there aren’t always enough leaders to cover all the bases. If you’re not careful, excellence suffers — and few care. During seasons of fast growth, leaders need to help streamline focus, give clear expectations and hold people accountable for agreed upon goals and objectives. (Don’t ignore all structures — especially in times of fast growth.)

Stretched structures. Current structures will almost never be sufficient to sustain fast growth. The organization will never be the same. New systems and structures will be needed. Leadership must focus on development as much as it does the growth and maintenance of the organization.

None of these are reasons to avoid fast growth, but awareness is the first step to addressing problems.

And, now you know.

Here’s to fast growth! The tension is worth it.

7 Common Ways to Lose the Support of Senior Leadership

Business team

As a rule, I’m pretty hard on senior leadership. Having been in such a position for over 25 years I know the bad side of senior leadership. I’ve witnessed it and, in full candor, I’ve been it.

My goal is always to improve senior leadership for all of us. That’s a chief goal of this blog.

But, what about supporting senior leadership?

And, the support from senior leadership for those attempting to follow?

Those are equally important topics in leadership. Any good senior leader knows he or she is nothing without the people on their team. So, that requires confidence in the people trying to follow senior leadership.

What causes senior leadership to lose confidence in people they are trying to lead?

How do you lose the support of senior leadership?

Here are 7 common ways:

Give half-hearted devotion to the vision. Speaking for someone in senior leadership, who feels the weight of completing the vision before us, there’s little time to waste on people who don’t share the same vision. It’s one thing not to understand it, to have questions about it, or need development. Everyone has bad days and bad seasons, but, it’s a completely different story when the person has lost passion — or never had passion — for the vision. Especially when they demonstrate it by their work.

Work for a competing vision. It’s not that there couldn’t be another vision out there — but this is the one we’ve been called to complete. And, any team will crumble under competing visions. When a team member starts competing, it’s hard to maintain the support of senior leadership.

Always bring surprises. As a senior leader, there’s a surprise everyday. Something is always coming that we didn’t see coming. It’s part of the job — and honestly — it keeps most leader-types energized, even when the surprise presents a new challenge. But, because they are so frequent, a healthy team helps limit them. If someone on the team, for example, knows there is a storm brewing, and doesn’t share that with senior leadership in a timely manner, there is the potential for a bigger, more complicated challenge that might have been avoided with prior information. When that happens frequently, the senior leader may lose confidence in the team member.

Never learn from mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Good leaders actually expect them as a part of the development process. It’s easy to lose the confidence of senior leadership, however, when mistakes made never produce improvement — or when there is an attitude of indifference towards them.

Cease to follow through. Work has to be done. And, every great idea is just an idea until someone follows through with a plan of accomplishment. That’s what separates great teams from mediocre teams. When team members never complete the tasks assigned, they lose the confidence of senior leadership. (This one deserves a sidebar. If there are more tasks assigned than possible to complete, there could be a problem on the senior leaders side. This is another post, but sometimes you have to “lead up” to help senior leadership understand this, but make sure the problem is too many tasks and not a need to develop as a task master. Make sure you’re doing all you can to get better at time-management, for example.)

Cause your loyalty to be questioned. This one will raise eyebrows, but it’s true. Obviously, this requires a vision worth following, but loyalty towards senior leadership is necessary to complete the vision. I posted recently on some of my most repeated leadership nuggets. One of them, which I will expand upon in a future post, is “Don’t trip over your own humility”. Basically, I described that as don’t refuse to do the right thing because it seems self-serving. And, that’s certainly the case when you expect loyalty of followers. But, it’s necessary to carry a team forward in a healthy way.

Say one thing. Do another. There’s no place where letting our “yes be yes and our no be no” is more important than on a healthy team. And, every good leader knows this. People-pleasers don’t earn respect on a team once they are exposed. And, yes, this does start with senior leadership, but it must be carried through at every level of the team.

These are meant to be helpful. I work with a lot of ministry leaders who report to a senior pastor. I have never met one who didn’t want the support of the senior pastor, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with everything the pastor did. They want to be supported.When you’ve supposedly bought into the senior leadership, you want to be a team player, this is simply a gut honest look at some common ways to lose their support.

And, the same goes for senior leadership. We want people we can support, believe in, and want to work with on our team. And, every senior leader I know is trying to build such a team.

Granted, some are better at this than others. And, frankly, there are lots of senior leaders who aren’t worthy of much of the items on this list. They are difficult to follow, because they are difficult to trust. They may be incompetent, lack drive and be very controlling. Those are subjects of other posts — subjects I write about frequently. I realize if you’re in one of these situations there may be a natural push-back to a post like this. This post assumes that at some point you believed in the senior leadership.

(And, if not, that too is a subject of another post, but maybe this post serves as another reminder to you that it’s time for a change.)

Senior leaders, anything else you would add?

4 Reasons Leadership Development Doesn’t Occur

word no

Most churches admit they need more leaders. I have never met a pastor who would say they didn’t need more leaders, but I’ve met hundreds who are desperate for new leaders.

The Bible says to make disciples. That’s should be our goal for every believer in the church. But, the process of doing church requires leadership. Leaders leading the process of making disciples.

One way to grow a church is to expand the leadership base. And, one way to ensure a church doesn’t grow is to limit leadership development. In fact, if a church isn’t growing — one major reason may be they haven’t developed enough leaders. Without leadership progress stalls.

There are 4 primary reasons I’ve observed for churches that aren’t developing new leaders.

Pride – When current leadership doesn’t believe anyone coming along could do as good of a job as they are doing — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Selfishness – When current leadership doesn’t wish to share the power — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Lack of Intentionality – When current leadership doesn’t have a plan or system to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Ignorance – When current leadership doesn’t know how to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.

There are probably other reasons, but these are the four I see most often.

Is your church developing new leaders? How? If not, why not? Do any of these apply?

Great Organizations Empower People to Think

Solving a problem

Several years ago I had problems with my cable service. I made numerous phone calls and several trips to the company; all in an attempt to correct the problem while politely obeying what I was told to do. I realize my community reputation is on the line and so I try to be extremely respectful in dealings with the public — even when I’m frustrated. (Actually, I am reminded that it’s Biblical to guard the tongue.)

Each unresolved phone call and visit ended the same way; with the service person who had not yet solved my problem, and had actually prolonged it, asking me the same question. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

It soon became obvious that the company policy required them to ask this question at the conclusion of every service encounter. I get that. As I reflected on each conversation, however, it was apparent that customer service people were scripted in all their responses. They are trained what to say for certain situations, but how was I supposed to answer this standard closing question?

I hadn’t received any help.

How could they help me with “anything else” when they hadn’t help me with anything?

I realize the scripted question was intended to ensure good customer service and without some scripting most employees wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but instead of making me feel better about my situation, it only incited a negative emotion. (Which I tried — successfully for the most part — to control.)

This was a minor incident, and honestly not that big of a deal in the story of my life, but it reminded me of an important organizational principle.

Great organizations empower employees the freedom to think for themselves.

[tweetthis]Great organizations empower people the freedom to think for themselves.[/tweetthis]

They allow individuals to make the best decision at the moment for the setting they are in, realizing that the best person to make a decision as to what they should say is the one having the conversation with the customer. In my situation, it may have been better to say something such as, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you this time.  We will continue to work to resolve your problem.” Instead, I was recited a standard, pre-written line from a company handbook that really didn’t even apply to my situation. If a leader wants his or her team to make the best decisions, give them the right to think for themselves!

When a person has the authority to alter the script, they are more likely to provide a positive experience for the customer.

I love the motto of Nordstroms Department Store. I’ve read their philosophy is to instruct employees to always make a decision that favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer; they are criticized for doing too little.

By the way, I believe this is an important principle in the church as well. Our goal should be to help volunteers understand the vision, basic teachings and philosophies of the church — then empower them think!

Do you want to know how my cable situation was resolved? Do you like the “end of the story”?

I finally got in touch with an employee from the company that I knew. I asked him what he would try if it were his house. He gave me a suggestion. We went with that. Trouble solved.

Leaders, does your team feel freedom to make the best decision at the time?  Have you freed your people to think?

A Critical Leadership Error and 4 Ways to Approach It

Car driving

There is one critical error most leaders make at some point. I make it frequently. If you’re leading – you probably do also.

We forget that people are trying to follow.

We get so caught up in our own world that we forget people we are trying to lead are trying to follow. We “think” we know where we are going — and we assume they do also — almost at times like they can read our minds.

Have you ever tried to follow someone in a car?

Some are good at that kind of leading and some aren’t. Some take quick turns — even without using a blinker. Some dodge in and out of traffic — forgetting that the person behind can’t react as quickly.

It’s that way with a team or organization also.

Some leaders get so passionate about what they are thinking and doing that they forget others are trying to keep up with them. The leader sets the pace for the organization. – almost every time.

Good leaders frequently evaluate to make sure the current pace doesn’t leave someone behind — unless that’s intentional — which would be the subject of another post.

What can a leader do to keep from losing those who are trying to follow along the way?

Here are 4 suggestions:

Ask questions. Granted, most people are not going to call out the leader. That’s true regardless of how “open” the leaders door might be. So, good leaders ask questions. They are continually evaluating and exploring to discover what they wouldn’t know otherwise. They check in with people often to make sure they understand where they are going, have what they need and are able to continue the pace healthfully.

Be vulnerable. While the leader ultimately sets the pace, good leaders allow others on the team help set the pace for the team. They share leadership across the team. It’s more difficult to argue against the pace when the team helped to set it. It takes humility, but they allow the decision making process of the organization to be spread throughout the team. They are open to correction — giving people permission to speak into their life and are not easily offended when someone challenges them — or even sometimes corrects them.

[tweetthis]Good leaders allow others on the team help set the pace for the team.[/tweetthis]

Be systematic. One way to control pace is to operate under well-planned and executed written goals and objectives. These are agreed upon in advance. Of course, things still change quickly — that’s part of life — and we must be flexible to adapt, but having even a short term written plan gives people a direction that keeps them making progress without chasing the whims of a leader.

Keep looking in the mirror. Ultimately, it’s up to the leader to self-evaluate frequently. Clueless leaders push and pull people with no regards to the impact it is having on organizational health or the people trying to follow. (And we are all clueless at times – we only know what we know.) Good leaders are self-aware. They know their tendencies to push too hard or their struggle with contentment — or they’re lack of clarity in details — whatever it is that makes them difficult to follow at times.

Here’s a hard question every leader should consider:

Are you allowing those attempting to follow you a fair opportunity to follow?

Leader: Address the Elephant in the Room

elephant in room

Years ago I was serving on a team where there was a consistent idea killer. Whenever anyone on the team presented an idea, regardless of the idea’s merit, this person would shoot it down. He always saw the glass as half empty and was negative about everything. It’s okay to have someone who asks questions to make things better — but this guy was a doomsayer in the room. It wasn’t helpful.

It was annoying, but was allowed to continue by leadership. Everyone talked about it outside of the meetings, no one respected the idea killer, and even the leader admitted it was a problem for the team, but he insisted he had counseled with this person privately, and it never seemed to improve.

It led me to the conclusion:

Sometimes, as a leader, you have to address the “elephant in the room” — in the room.

Everyone knows it’s there.

You can’t miss an elephant.

It keeps being repeated.

You’ve handled it individually.

Nothing has changed.

It may even be getting worse.

At some point, the leaders may have to address the elephant in the room.

You can’t ignore the elephant.

While everyone is in the room, address the elephant.

You may have to call out the person causing the disruption in the presence of everyone else in the room.

Yes, it’s hard, uncomfortable, and you don’t want to do it often, but it may be necessary.

If you don’t:

  • Everyone will assume this type performance is tolerated.
  • The negative actions will be copied by others.
  • Team dynamics will never be healthy.
  • Respect for the leader — with this issue and others — will diminish.

Address the elephant!

You must. Everyone already knows it’s there. The best excuses won’t hide an elephant. And, elephants don’t often leave the room on their own.

Have you ever served on a team where the elephant wasn’t addressed and it negatively impacted the team?

7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to a Team

Value

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team.

Give more than required. That doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious — of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy — of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

7 Non-Negotiable Values for Teams I Lead

teamwork concept on blackboard

Leader,

What do you look for when you bring a person on to your team?

What expectations do you have for people who serve on your team?

I think it’s important to know yourself well enough that you understand the qualities in people with whom you work best.

Several years ago I took time to put together my own list of non-negotiables. I pretty much have to have these characteristics if we are going to work well together long-term. Keep in mind, these aren’t skills. These are values — the principles we use to interact with one another on a team.

I would assume a few of these, maybe most of them, would be non-negotiables on any healthy team. Some of them are things we may have to instill in people over time, but I’ve learned my leadership well enough to know that I’ll struggle with a team member who doesn’t equally value — or at least strive to display — each of these.

Here are 7 non negotiable values for a team I lead:

Responsiveness - It is a personal value, maybe even a pet peeve of mine, but I believe it is imperative to respond to people in a timely manner. Of course, this is a subjective value, but it’s one the entire team soon recognizes — and not with good results — if it is absent.

Honesty – Teams are built on trust. You can’t have trust without honesty. And, therefore, in my opinion, without honesty it’s just a group of people, but not a team.

Respect - A personal value for me is mutual respect on the team. When making a hiring decision — because I try to find leaders — I ask myself if I would respect the person enough to follow them as my leader. If I wouldn’t, it will be hard for me to respect them as a team member. Consequently, I hope they wouldn’t join our team unless they believe they could respect my leadership. I want to respect people I lead and, therefore, I believe it’s only fair they want to respect me.

Openness – I don’t like hidden issues. Drama destroys a team and, frankly, I’ve got little time for it. Gossip is a sign of immaturity. If it’s important to you or the team, let’s talk about it. Let’s certainly not talk about it behind each other’s back.

Work ethic – To the best of your ability, realizing that the best plans sometimes fail, do what you say you will do when you said you will do it. I extend lots of grace in leadership. We all make mistakes and we learn from them, but a value of mine is that each person does their best efforts and pulls their share of the load. It’s one reason I need clear goals and objectives for myself and everyone on our team. Ambiguity in what’s expected leads to frustration for all of us. I protect my family time and try to create an environment that allows that to be a value for everyone on the team, but when we know where we are going and who is responsible for what — when we are at work — let’s get it done.

Limited need for oversight- I can’t stand micro-management. I don’t want to do it nor do I want it done to me. I believe in setting some goals, assigning tasks, and celebrating at the finish line. I’ll even come back and hold your hand across the line if needed, but if you don’t ask, I assume you’re still running on your own. Yes, this is frustrating for some people at times who need lots of detailed directions, and we have to work through the frustration, but one of the previous values is openness. Ask if you don’t know or understand and tell me when I’m moving too fast.

Participation – A personal value for me is that everyone on the team feel they play a vital role in completing our vision. (I even think that’s Biblical.) We provide ownership of responsibilities, regardless of titles. I don’t want anyone sitting on the bench on a team I lead. There are plenty of innings ahead…let’s play ball. In fact, if I feel someone is hiding out in the dugout, afraid to get up to bat, I’m probably going to help them find a better position — and more coaching if needed.

So what do you think? Fair? Harsh? Reasonable?

Leader, have you thought through the values important for teams you lead?

I believe it will help you be a better leader, help you find people you can better work with to add to your team, and reduce frustration for everyone.

7 False Beliefs of the Leadership Vacuum

vacuum

Many times a leader can be clueless about the real health of the organization they lead. If a leader refuses to solicit feedback, doesn’t listen to criticism or stops learning, they can begin to believe everything is under control — when in reality — things are falling apart around them.

I once watched as a church crumbled apart while the pastor thought everything was wonderful. He always had an excuse for declining numbers and never welcomed input from others. It got bad enough for the church to have to ask him to leave. It was messy. It could have been avoided, in my opinion.

And, sadly, that could be the stories of hundreds of churches and organizations.

The best leaders, however, avoid what I call the leadership vacuum.

I have heard the term leadership vacuum used to describe the need for more leaders, but I believe the biggest void may be within leaders themselves.

The leader in a leadership vacuum believes:

Everyone on the team understands me. And, I understand them.

Everyone on the team thinks like I think. We are in complete unity. I know this without asking anyone.

Everyone on the team likes me. And, they are glad I’m the leader.

My team is completely healthy. And, so am I. We don’t need to worry about that kind of thing.

I am this team. This team needs me. In fact, they couldn’t do it without me.

The organization is headed in the right direction in every area. We don’t need any changes.

Our systems and plans are flawless. Nothing can stop us now.

Granted, any or all of these may be true at a given time, but if we always assume they are is when we get into trouble as a leader. When the leader is clueless to the real problems and needs in the organization, he or she is living in the leadership vacuum. The best leaders are aware of the vacuum trap and guard against it in their leadership.

Leaders, have you ever lived in the leadership vacuum? Are you there now?

Have you followed a leader in the vacuum?