5 Reasons Your Pastor may not be Leading Well

Minority pastor set on a white background

I was talking with a concerned man recently about his church. He’s concerned the church is wasting a lot of resources and accomplishing little towards its vision to make disciples. They have a large building, a large staff, and a rich history of Kingdom-building, but the building sits empty most days of the week and there is a steady decline in baptisms and Sunday attendance. There is no momentum in the church and he’s concerned in 20 years the church will be gone. He blames it all on the leadership of the pastor.

I can confirm his concern. Statistics tell us almost 90% of churches are in decline or plateaued. I’m told it takes 30 years for a declining church to die.

I don’t know, however, if it’s completely fair to always blame the pastor. Keep in mind it could be you have a difference of opinion in regards to how the church should be led and how the pastor should be leading. Many times this is philosophical as much as anything.

Certainly, however, leadership is a critical part in the success of any organization — including the church. Let me be clear here — I believe Jesus is the head (and the leader) of the church, but God uses men and women to lead people within the church. It’s the subject of another post, but regardless of what you term it, leadership, as a concept among God’s people and the church, is exemplified throughout Scriptures.

About half of my readers are pastors. (I’ll apologize to you in advance for this post. My goal is to help pastors, not injure them more. I’m a firm believer, however, until you identify the problem you have a hard time finding a solution.) I frequently hear from staff ministers and church members concerned about the direction of their church. The number one issue churches appear to face is of leadership — specifically pastoral leadership.

In fact, many would say if the pastor isn’t leading well, the church will likely suffer at some level.

When a pastor isn’t leading the church well, there’s usually an answer as to why. I’ve listed some of them I’ve observed here.

5 reasons the pastor may not be leading well:


I don’t mean this one to be cruel, but you only know what you know. Most pastors don’t learn everything we need to lead a church in seminary or any other school, for that matter. Many pastors never developed leadership skills prior to being assigned a position of leadership within the church, so much of pastoring becomes on-the-job training. Because much of a pastor’s job involves people, the realm of possibilities a pastor might encounter are as wide as the differences are in people.

The solution for this reason is training, mentoring, and growing by experience. The church should be understanding and supportive of opportunities for the pastor to learn from others and the pastor needs to be humble enough to admit the need for further training. This requires great humility on the part of the pastor to allow input into their leadership.


Many times the pastor simply doesn’t see what you see — or for that matter, value you what you value. I’ve learned I’m often the last to know of a problem within my church. If there’s an issue in preschool ministry, for example, if someone doesn’t tell me about it, I won’t know about it. I don’t have preschoolers anymore, and most of the time, while I’m preaching preschool ministry is in full function. Now I value preschoolers, so I would want to know if there is a problem in that area. There may be other areas of ministry that the pastor doesn’t spend time thinking about, because it isn’t an area he’s passionate about. This doesn’t make the ministry wrong, or unimportant, but it simply may not have the pastor’s first attention. Many times the thing you think the pastor should be addressing is on the list of the things of which the pastor isn’t aware there is a problem or simply hasn’t been considering that area as an issue of importance.

The pastor needs to learn the art — and again humility — of asking questions to see what areas are struggling and what’s important to people in the church. The church needs to find ways to share information more readily with the pastor, without arguing and complaining — because that’s not the Biblical way.


In a survey of pastors who read my blog a few years ago, 77% said they were presently or had been in a burnout situation. Burnout is when you aren’t healthy enough to function at full capacity. When a pastor is facing burnout, leadership will suffer. The pastor needs to be diligent in remaining healthy physically, spiritually, mentally and relationally, and needs to seek help when any of those areas begin to slip beyond the normal stress of life.

Pastors need to learn how to recognize the signs of burnout and address them early, before they significantly impact their leadership. The church needs to be mindful of the amount of demands placed on the pastor, consider the needs of the pastor’s family, and build a structure that invests in and protects the pastor. One of the best things a church can do is give the pastor significant enough downtime to recover from the demands of ministry. That need will vary based on the level of demands placed on the church, pastor and pastor’s family at the time.


I hear from pastors weekly who feel they are handcuffed to tired, worn out, traditions that keep them from accomplishing their God-given vision for the church. Many times the restraints placed against a pastor prevent effective leadership. A pastor is restricted when there are too many unnecessary rules, the committee system is cumbersome and inefficient, or when the demands of the church on the pastor are unrealistic. Pastors and churches are often threatened by power hungry people and extreme resistance to any change.

If the pastor is expected to lead, then latitude and freedom to lead needs to be afforded without the constant fear of retribution. Church members should ask the question, if the church expects the pastor to lead, does the structure of the church allow the pastor to lead the church? If not, then the church will either need to adapt the structure or lower the expectations placed on the pastor’s leadership.


Let’s be honest. Some pastors confuse a call to a position for a mandate of dictatorship. Jesus is the head of the church. God allows men and women of God to lead in His church, but some pastors assume more control than has been afforded to them. If a pastor is not careful, pride will take over and humility will be absent. When this is the case, people naturally resist leadership, stir controversy, and resist change.

The pastor needs to build an accountability structure of people who have been given the authority to speak into their life. As for the church’s role, I believe this type issue is handled best with one or a few people approaching the pastor first, rather than making it a Sunday afternoon, “sit around the table and bash the pastor” event. If the pastor is struggling with arrogance, however, it needs to be addressed as it is not honoring to God and could be the “pride before the fall”.

I realize I’ve just scratched the surface on each of these — and possibly offended a few of my pastor friends, even with a sincere heart to help. I’m happy to dialogue about them more in the comments.

What are some other reasons pastors don’t lead well?

7 Ways to Maintain Respect as a Leader


People follow people they trust. They trust people they respect.

As a leader, one of your most valuable and needed assets is the respect of the people you are trying to lead. If a leader is respected, people will follow him or her almost anywhere.   If a leader looses respect it becomes very difficult to regain respect.

Often a new leader is given respect because of his or her position as a leader, but respect can be quickly lost due to performance. Many times it’s the seemingly small things which cause the most damage to a leader’s reputation and damages respect.

I have found with a few simple (some not so simple) acts help protect the respect a leader enjoys.

Here are 7 ways to maintain respect as a leader:

Be responsive. Return phone calls and emails promptly. Be accessible to real people. You may not always be available, but you can create systems where people are genuinely valued and heard.

Be consistent. Do what you say you will do. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don’t tell people what they want to hear, but speak grace and truth in all circumstances. Let people learn to trust you are a person of your word and can be depended upon based on what you say.

Have high character. Act with integrity. Be honest. Protect your moral credibility. Be transparent and open to challenge. Allow a few people to know the real you and speak into the dark places of your life.

Be fair to everyone. Don’t be too harsh. Don’t be too soft. Treat everyone with respect. Genuinely love people. (People know when you do or don’t.)

Keep growing. Learn continually and encourage growth in yourself and others. Ask questions. Be teachable. Read. Observe. Glean from others and experience.

Have good work ethic. I personally think leaders should work as hard or harder than others on their team. But, having a good work ethic doesn’t mean over-working either. It’s working smart and setting a good example for others to follow.

Be courageous. Make hard decisions. Don’t shy away from conflict. Know who you are in Christ and live boldly the calling God places on your life. Live with the aim to finish well — in spite of the obstacles you encounter.

Maintaining respect is a matter of acting in a respectable way. How are you doing? You may want to ask the ones you are supposed to be leading.

What would you add to my list?

10 Characteristics of Good Leadership – an Expanded and Revised Version

Multiethnic business team outdoor

When I first wrote about the characteristics of good leadership almost 6 years ago. At the time I had been a leader for well over 20 years and had studied the field o leadership academically. My blog was fairly new but growing.

These were designed to be informative, but honestly, even more, they served as a checklist reminder of sorts for my own attempts at good leadership.

Since then my blog influence has grown, I’ve moved from a church planter to a church revitalizer, and I’ve learned so much more. Still, when I look over these characteristics, I stand behind then. I’ve tweaked them a bit for readability purposes. (Every time I read my writings again I see something which could be improved.)

Here are 10 characteristics of good leadership:

1. Recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others – Good leaders see a large part of their role as developing people and new leaders. Leadership development takes place in an organization as leaders begin to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with others.

2. Shares information – There is a tendency of some leaders to hold information, because information is power. A good leader uses this to the team’s advantage knowing the more information the team has collectively the stronger the team.

3. Has above average character – There are no perfect people, but for a leader to be considered good, in my opinion, they must have a character which is unquestioned within the organization. Their integrity and transparency is paramount. Leadership always draws criticism, so a leader may not be able to get everyone to believe in him or her, but the people who know the leader best should trust the leader’s character most.

4. Uses their influence for the good of others – Good leaders are as interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives as they are in creating a healthy profit margin or accomplishing a strategy. In fact, people-building is a large part of the strategy. This doesn’t mean that balance sheets and income statements aren’t important, in fact they are important for the success of an organization (even non-profits – even churches), but a good leader doesn’t separate a desire for helping others from the desire for financial health. And, good leaders find ways to leverage financial health to strengthen the well-being of others.

5. Skillful, competent and professional– Good leaders are talented or knowledgeable about their field and can be depended on for their follow through. You don’t question whether a good leader is going to be able to complete a task. They may not be the smartest in the room, but if they don’t know how to do something, they will find someone who does and they aren’t afraid to ask or empower others. They will ensure a job they have committed to do is done the best it can be done. This also means they don’t commit to more than they can reasonably accomplish. They know the power of “No!”

6. Not afraid for others to succeed (even greater than their own success) – Good leaders realize some followers will outgrow the leader’s ability to develop them any further. Good leaders, however, aren’t threatened by another’s success. They are willing to celebrate as those around them succeed — even help them get there.

7. Serve others expecting nothing in return – Good leaders have a heart of service. They truly love and value people and want to help others for the good of the one being helped, not necessarily for personal gain.

8. Continue to learn – Good leaders are always learning and implementing those learnings into the betterment of the organization. That could be through reading, conferences, web-based learnings, or through other leaders, but also through people who report to the leader.

9. Accessible, approachable, and accountable to others – Good leaders don’t isolate themselves from people regardless of the amount of responsibility or power he or she attains. Good leaders willingly seek the input of other people into their professional and personal lives. They desire to know people, not just be known by people.

10. Visionary – thinks beyond today – Good leaders are always thinking “What’s next?” It is a common question asked by good leaders, knowing someone must continually challenge the boundaries and encourage change. They spur growth and strategic thinking so the organization can remain healthy, vibrant and sustainable.

These are in no particular order. You may say some are more important than others but as soon as I prioritize them we can start to marginalized the higher numbers. They are all important in my opinion. 

What would you add to my list?

5 Tips for the Leader When Conflict Develops on a Team

team conflict

As a leader, one of your primary roles is developing and maintaining the health of the team. What do you do when team members aren’t getting along with each other?  How should you handle conflict on a team?

In my post 10 Tips for Handling Conflict, I primarily address team members individually working together to address conflict. The question I receive is: What happens when conflict escalates to the point where a leader’s input is needed?

First, I would say the leader being involved should be rare. Very rare. Most problems need to be handled individually. If it’s occurring frequently you may have the wrong people on the team or a bigger issue to address.

Here are 5 suggestions:

Don’t ignore

Conflict never goes away on it’s own. It usually only gets worse with time. In fact, conflict is a necessary aspect of a healthy team, so to avoid it keeps the team from discovering the best answers to issues and allows unhealthy tension to remain. I like to give conflict some time to work itself out among team members, but not long enough to disrupt the team’s progress or jeopardize the health of the team. When the team starts choosing team member’s sides of an issue and the conflict begins to be disruptive I know it’s time for me to address it as the leader.

Protect the vision

The vision of the organization or team should be the common ground for everyone on the team and it’s my role as leader to protect it. In times of conflict, I want to make sure everyone is still committed to that vision. I realize that some conflict develops naturally, just because of differing goals, objectives, and personalities. The leader must balance the bigger picture objectives. (Read THIS POST for more on that subject.) If the conflict involves a support of the vision or is disruptive to accomplishing the vision then addressing it becomes more serious. If the vision is fully supported, then conflict can be addressed among the individuals involved.

Talk it out

Once it is obvious issue is not resolving, as difficult as it may be, I like to bring the individuals in conflict together to discuss the matter of conflict. Make sure the conflict is clearly identified. Often there were simple misunderstandings that need clarity or viewpoints that a team member feels the need to express. At this point, don’t make the mistake of being too nice as a leader. (Read THIS POST about that subject.) Again, healthy teams and relationships involve healthy conflict and when it isn’t resolved or addressed it remains a stumbling block to the future health of the team. For this step, I like all parties to be in the same room when the conflict is discussed. Addressing an issue separately opens the door for misunderstandings and choosing sides and many times the discussion brings communication to the issue which helps solve the conflict.

Establish mutual respect

Sometimes team members have to agree to disagree if it’s not a disagreement at the vision level. The leader, at times, may have to serve as a third party mediator and should remain neutral in issues of conflict in order to maintain organizational health and keep the organization on track towards attaining it’s vision. The bottom line for me is that team members in conflict must be willing to respect each other and continue to work together, even if there isn’t complete agreement on an issue. Ask the question, “Can we move forward without this affecting the team?”

Move forward

After the issue has been addressed, the vision is secure, and mutual respect is established among team members, the leader needs to make sure the team moves forward from the conflict. There are times, especially in key leadership roles, where people can’t push past an issue and continue to work together, but most of the time conflict can make the team better, as team members learn to work together towards a common vision in spite of disagreements.

Leader, what would you add to my list?

How do you handle conflict on your team?

Have you seen times where conflict produced healthy results?

Have you seen conflict destroy a team?

5 “C” Suggestions for Developing Trust as a Leader

serious executive business woman team leader

Trust is like gold in leadership. Without it a leader will fail to build a healthy following. Change will be difficult to implement. Retention and recruitment of leaders becomes near impossible.

Developing trust takes time. It is seldom granted with position or title. Most people have been injured in relationships which keeps them from trusting blindly or quickly.

Three years into my current position, I recognize with many in the church I pastor I’m still developing levels of trust.

If any leader wants to be successful, much will be determined by the level of trust he or she can attain. One goal of every leader, therefore, should be trust development.

How do we do this?

Here are 5 suggestions for developing trust as a leader:

Compassion. Trusted leaders have shown people by experience they care for others — not just in lip service, but with genuine heartfelt compassion. Trusted leaders love people. Seeing others succeed around them is a high and celebrated value.

Competence. Trusted leaders have knowledge in a subject matter, and, when they don’t know something, a willingness to yield to those who know more. They aren’t always second guessing themselves or the team. They believe in themselves, in God’s ability to work through them, and in the people with whom they surround themselves.

Consistent. There is an expected approach or methodology upon which people can depend upon with a trusted leader. They have a consistency in character so, whether through good and bad times, the integrity of the leader is above reproach.

Communication. Trusted leaders have a process, which shares in transparency and full disclosure to the teams they lead. You don’t have to continually guess what they are thinking, what they are dreaming, or what’s next on their planning agenda. They include others in the decision-making process and keep them informed along the way.

Courage. Trusted leaders aren’t sitting still while the world passes them. They make decisions. Even hard decisions. They are willing to lead their team into the unknown while they hold their position boldly in front — even willing to take “arrows” for the team when needed.

Those are a few of my suggestions. Let’s be trusted leaders. Let’s get things done.

10 Inexpensive Ways to Develop People on Your Team

safety helmet and engineering plan with drawing instrument on engineer working table against crane construction and beautiful sun set scene use for construction and land development topic

When budgets are stretched, development often is pushed to the back burner or cut altogether from the budget. This is dangerous for a team, which wishes to remain healthy and continue growing. If a team is not learning and improving, it will soon struggle to maintain any level of success.

It’s important, therefore, to find ways to develop even with stressed budgets.

Here are 10 inexpensive, or less expensive, ways to offer development to a team:

Bring in a leader – It may be cheaper to bring the expert to you than it is to attend a conference. Find someone from whom your team can learn and pay his or her expenses to visit the team.

Send a representative – You may have to draw names to decide who, but pay for one person to attend a conference with a catch — they have to bring information back to share with the team.

Read a book together – The number of leadership books easily outnumber the months a team will be together. Find some good ones, read and digest them as a team.

Use local resources – Most likely, there are businesses or universities in your community that have development offices or procedures to develop people, with people already skilled who can inexpensively invest in your team.

Online or teleconference – Technology allows for some great online conferences. Gather the team around a computer and learn without leaving the office. Additionally, if you have a telephone, you have the makings of a great way to connect with other leaders. Arrange for a joint call with one and let the team ask questions and then process the interview together.

Pool Resources – Join forces with another church to accomplish any of these ideas. Learn from each other. Swap responsibilities to lead a development activity. Share the costs of bringing in a speaker and do a combined mini-conference of your own.

Visit other churches – Allow the team to visit other churches in the area, either individually or as a group. Sometimes the quickest ways to promote change is to introduce leaders to other environments. It is a great way to develop new ideas and improve upon what you are doing as you see what others are doing firsthand. Be sure everyone goes expecting to bring something back to the team they have learned.

Learn from each other – Chances are good that everyone on your team has something to offer that can make the team better. Take turns sharing with each other something you already know or are learning.

Scavenger hunt – Assign each team member to find the best development idea and share it with the rest of the team. Whether online, in a book or through networking, seek out new ideas and improvements you can learn from one another and share it with the team. The process of sharing the idea discovered will prove to be development.

Trial and Error – The best development may be putting systems in place that allow the team to take risks, but then evaluate the success or failure in an effort to learn from them and grow. Teams should be doing this anyway, but teams often fail to intentionally learn from the process of doing normal work.

Development isn’t cheap, but it’s a necessary part of continuing to be a healthy and growing team.

Make this post better. Think development with me.

What low cost ideas do you have to offer development to a team?

One Suggestion to Take Stress from the Hiring Process

Handsome business man outdoor

There is so much stress involved in hiring the right person for the team. I am a very strategic person. This is especially true when hiring new people to our team. It’s one of the few areas I have such a strong voice in how it’s done and I am slow to add people.

Still, I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

If you get stressed about hiring the right person I have a suggestion which may help.

I have done this with great success in hiring several staff positions for our team.

Build the job description around the person.

It’s that simple.

Set an overall vision for what you’re trying to achieve — hire the best person you can find — then build the job description — with the person’s help — around the person you hire.

If they excel in administrative tasks then the job description may have more administrative tasks.

If they excel in creative tasks then the job description may have more inventive tasks.

Find people around whom you believe you can shape a team.

This is true whether they are paid or volunteer.

This approach allows you to hire for character, competence, experience and fit with the team. In fact, I think the culture fit may be most important. But, this approach doesn’t limit you to finding an exact replica of a clearly defined, narrowly focused job description.

Here’s the deal. I ultimately just want a strong team. I want people who share an overall vision with me. But, I don’t want to script how they accomplish their specific part of the vision.

This way of hiring allows me to be a leader instead of a manager. It frees people to be leaders instead of employees. It helps us achieve more than a rigid structured environment ever could.

And, I best of all — it makes for a much happier team.

Find the right people and you can build the right team.

10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

follow leader

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, consistently encourages me that I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers — maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

7 Characteristics of the Bottleneck Leader

bottleneck traffic

Leaders should aim to never be a bottleneck in the process of building a healthy and growing organization.

When I owned a small manufacturing company I had to learn the language of the field. I obviously knew the term bottleneck, but I never really understood it until it became the difference in being profitable or not. When the bottom line depends on productivity being at its highest, as the one ultimately in control, you learn what the term means first hand.

A bottleneck is defined as “A point of congestion in a system that occurs when workloads arrive at a given point more quickly than that point can handle them.” (Investopedica.com)

In an organization, the bottleneck is many times the leader. When this happens, progress stalls, growth is limited and people are frustrated.

Here are 7 characteristics of the bottleneck leader:

Every decision ultimately goes through the leader. People are annoyed because they feel devalued — like their ability to make a good decision is in question. When everyone has to wait for the leader to make a decision things become awkward and valuable time is wasted. Productivity slows. Frustration rises.

New ideas or opinions are discouraged. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves — and they want to play a part in helping it become a reality. When their input isn’t welcomed they feel stifled, unfulfilled and unnecessary.

The leader is change-resistant. I know I just typed this sentence, but I’m not even sure I believe those two can go together. Leadership in its very definition involves change. Leaders are taking people somewhere new. You can’t get to new without change. The leader should be among the least afraid of change on the team.

There is no clear vision or information isn’t readily available. People flounder because they don’t know what to do next. They don’t know how things are going or what is important to the leader. This bottleneck encourages laziness in some and discouragement in others. Leaders who spur movement in an organization are quick with information. They are transparent and continually sharing what they see as the future — as far as they can see.

The leader never delegates. When people feel empowered they think like “owners”. When the leader takes on unnecessary assignments the leader is overburdened and the team is underutilized. Both suffer in the long-term.

Potential leaders aren’t recruited — they are controlled. Leaders are built through a recruit, invest and release process. Consider Jesus. He recruited the disciples, invested in them and then sent them out to do the work. When people are controlled they never develop. And, they learn to resent the leader.

Only the leader can launch a new initiative. The best leaders I know encourage people to take a risk. They create a “go for it” environment. When only the leader is allowed to “pull the trigger” or “push the first button” the organization faces a huge opportunity cost.

Leaders, ask yourself this question: In what ways am I a bottleneck in this organization?

If you aren’t certain, perhaps you should ask your team — even doing so anonymously.

What would you add to my list? What bottlenecks of leadership have you seen?

4 Reasons Why I Hate Policies and Rules and 4 Suggestions for Improvement

Employee Handbook and Forms

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of policies. It may be because I’m not a very good rule follower, but I honestly don’t think they work as well as they are intended.

Policies are defined as a course, plan or principle of action. They are designed to offer a sense of control. In theory, policies are to make things better. I will admit they are a necessary part of dealing with people in an organizational setting. Without some policies we would have chaos.

Even with the title of this post there are some who are already objecting. I will have some policy lovers who disagree with my wording or maybe even that I would seem against policies. And, maybe the title is too strong. I probably should say I hate bad policies. But, I certainly think many organizations and churches have too many policies.

My problem with polices is they often interrupt progress rather than enhance it. If not careful, a policy may control the success you want to see as a leader. I personally would rather have chaos with no policies than a bunch of really bad policies.

When I got to an established church we had a policy — voted on by the church in a business meeting at some point — on folded chairs. True story. It told the procedures to do if someone borrowed folding chairs from the church. It should be noted we probably no longer even had the chairs of which the policy spoke, but just in case we ever did again there was already a policy in place.

Granted, policies may make sense when they are created, but as we look at the issue from a bigger picture they can even appear comical over time. Obviously, we can figure out what led to a folding chair policy. Someone borrowed chairs. They didn’t bring them back or treat them as they should. Therefore, to prevent this from ever occurring again — write a new policy. (Not to be over-dramatic, but it almost sounds like what the religious rulers were doing when Jesus began His ministry.)

Here are 4 reasons I hate policies:

Policies eliminate a sense of freedom – Policies, by nature, are methods of control. Even for those who love rules and want everything spelled out for them, policies can add a sense of burden as you attempt (or don’t attempt) to live up to their demands. Show me an environment with a bunch of policies and Youncan almost always find some stressed out people.

Policies limit ability to think outside the box – Policies can limit thoughts to a pre-determined outcome, which keeps the random and potentially explosive thoughts from developing. They can limit people’s ability to dream, explore, redesign and imagine. If everything is spelled out for people they have no reason to actually think for themselves.

Policies stall attempts at excellence – The parameters of a policy often produce an atmosphere of mediocrity. Everything is clear. Planned. Written. Solved. No need for improvement here — until someone finds another way to mess up, of course — then add another policy.

Policies curtail the pursuit of progress – The weight of meeting a policy’s demands can take energy from pursuing things with the opportunity of greater progress.

My suggestion?

In lieu of a policy for everything, here are 4 suggestions:

Handle individual problems individually – Ask yourself if the policy is needed for everyone or just a few people. Is it needed for everyone to keep us organized, effective or legal? When the answer is it’s only for a abusers — rather than create a new policy to control an issue — deal directly with the individual who needs more control. (It works — try it.) In the case of the chair policy, rather than write a policy — go get the chairs!

Treat people differently – If a team has more than one person, then there will be more than one type of person on the team. Do you follow me? Policies treat everyone the same, which ignores individuality and personality differences. Some people may need to be in the office to get things done, for example. They may need help disciplining their time. Others may work best when the schedule and work environment is more flexible. Put me in a coffee shop and my productivity grows.

Lead more than manage – Management is much about implementing policies and seeing they are adhered to completely. And, we need good management. Leadership, however, sets a vision and guides people towards it. Less policies are needed in that process.

Purposely allow for mistakes – Policies are easier to measure. They have a pass/fail assessment attached to them. Without policies grace and forgiveness can be more freely applied and people can learn from their failures without the repercussions and fear of breaking a policy.

My bottom line:

I’m not suggesting we can do without policies, but I am suggesting they should not be the “go to” solution to a problem. Most problems in an organization don’t need a new policy. Policies can weigh down progress. Granted, leading is more difficult without policies — even a little messy, but with less policies you’ll have opportunities for greater success.

Here’s a challenge: Look through your policies and rules Tom see which were created to control people, as a reaction to a problem which should have been handled individually, or is a policy no longer needed.

And, the real challenge is to lead towards an environment which empowers more than it controls.

Be honest. Are you more likely to want a policy or resist a policy?