8 Random Leadership Axioms

My mind thinks a lot about leadership.  Leadership is hard… If it were easy, everyone would be doing it…and everyone is not.  Leading well is even more difficult to do.  Not all my thinking fits into a specific post.  That’s one good aspect of the 140 characters of Twitter.

Here are 8 random leadership axioms that came to me recently. Some have been Tweets…Others I saved for this post:

  • Part of leadership is the willingness to make hard decisions no one else on the team wants to make…
  • Sometimes a leader’s worst day is the organization’s best day…
  • Leaders initiate needed change, even uncomfortable change, in the organization…
  • The leader has a responsibility to do the right thing for the organization, regardless of whether it brings instant popularity….
  • Loneliness in leadership often comes with the position of leader…
  • Don’t stop doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is receiving more celebration. That party won’t last.
  • Some of a leader’s best work is not what the leader does but what he or she inspires to be done…
  • Leaders don’t shy away from hard conversations, conflict or challenges…

Do you have any to add to the list?  Which of these, if any, should I expand into a blog post?

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

I’m seeing and hearing more about controlling leadership lately. I regularly talk to young leaders through my blog and many of them feel they are working for one. The odd thing, however, is that many controlling leaders never really know they are one.  One reason I annually ask our staff to evaluate me, is because I know I have this tendency (It’s even one of my “strengths” on StrengthsFinder) and I have to guard against it.

I’ve written about this form of leadership in previous posts:

10 Reasons Not to Call Yourself an Empowering Leader

Leading People Versus Controlling People

Are you still wondering if you might be one?

Here are 7 warning signs that you may be a controlling leader:

  • People start apologizing prior to approaching you with a new idea..
  • You don’t really know how people feel about you, but you assume they all approve of your leadership…
  • You assume you are always right…
  • You enjoy keeping others with less information than you have…
  • You think you should be involved in making all the decisions…
  • You fear others being in control of a project…
  • You ARE the final word on every decision…

Have you ever worked for a controlling leader? Are you one?  How would your team answer these questions about you?

What would you add to my list?

7 Ways to Maintain Respect as a Leader

As a leader, one of your most valuable assets is the respect of the people you are leading.  If a leader is respected, people will follow him or her almost anywhere.   If a leader loses the respect from the ones he or she leads, it becomes very difficult to regain that 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.

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

  • Return phone calls and emails promptly…
  • Do what you say you will do…
  • Act with integrity…
  • Use fairness in your approach…not too harsh…not too soft…
  • Show others respect…
  • Learn continually and encourage growth in yourself and others…
  • Work as hard or harder than others…

Maintaining respect is a matter of acting in a respectable way.  How are you doing in that area?  (You may want to ask the ones you are supposed to be leading…Read how I do that each year HERE.)

What would you add to my list?

If I Could Rewrite the Myers Briggs Type Codes

Let me warn you this is a random post…from my random thoughts….

I have used the Myers Briggs personality profile for years.  I even became certified to instruct and administer the assessment.   I have shared and talked about my type HERE and have written mostly about the difference in the Extrovert/Introvert preferences.

I think it’s a great tool for leadership development, relationship enhancement, and personal and career evaluations.  I’ve used it with our staff, with couples, and with our small groups.  I love the application of the tool, but if I were to rewrite Myers Briggs, I would change a few of the titles. I think at times it has been confusing.

Let me explain…

I’m happy with the E and I…

E is for extrovert...most people can hear that term and have a decent idea what it means…they are more social by preference, although, in my experience, extroverted people are less likely to think they are extroverted than introverted people know they are introverted.

I is for introvert...introverts are desperate for alone time…it’s where they get their energy for life…in years of working with Myers Briggs, I seldom meet an introvert who doesn’t already know they are one…

The S and N terms can be a little confusing…S is for sensing...a person prefers to use the information available, using the five senses, to make decisions…N is for iNtuition…and these prefer to make up their minds by adding their own information to what’s apparent…(You’ll normally find the creative types here…)

I’d probably leave the S and change the N to the letter R…for random…these people (like me) tend to have more random thoughts…not tied necessarily to one of the senses…

The T and F cause me the most problems as far as the title of the preference on a consistent basis…

T stands for Thinking…it’s a preference for making decisions based on the rational facts at hand…

F stands for Feeling…it’s a preference for considering the people or values aspect involved before making a decision…

I just don’t think these are the best terms…

In my experience…

Men resist being an F…because of the word “feelings”…

Women, especially the mom-types, resist being a T…

And the fact is (There’s my T at work) there’s nothing wrong with a man or woman being wired with either type….

Also, we all think and we all feel…just to lesser degrees of each…

I’d prefer to title the T – Logic

I’d prefer to title the F – Values

Those seem to fit better for how I see these preferences played out in a personality.

The ones wired for “Thinking” tend to make decisions based more on logic….They can’t dismiss the facts of the matter….the rational, logical, cold hard facts…

The ones wired for “Feeling” tend to make decisions based more on their set of values.  That could be people, or it could be a set of principles important to them, but when a value gets in the midst, it affects how they make decisions.

There are two last terms J and P…for Judging and Perceiving (again, pretty confusing terms)…Basically a J prefers to have things decided and a P would prefer to stay open to new options….

I’d change the J to a O for Ordered…because these types tend to prefer a more orderly life…where the future is more scripted.  I’d change the P to the letter N for Now…these folks seem to prefer to live in the moment…Let life evolve.  (They appear to have less stress too!)

Perhaps I’ll write more about each of these at another time…These are just my random thoughts…I’m sure there are even better terms…I’d just prefer to see some of them changed.

Have you ever had an official Myers Briggs administered to you?  What’s your type?  Do you enjoy personality profiles or not? (If you don’t, it’s possibly largely due to your personality…there are some letters for that…)

For those of you who know Myers Briggs talk…what changes would you make?

3 Critical Aspects of Planning for Future Growth

The main battle for your organization’s long-term success doesn’t exist where you are…it exists where you are going…

Regardless of how great or bad something may be now, this moment will pass. The successes created today will soon fade and current struggles don’t necessarily indicate future victories.

Take writing for example. Unless you are Rick Warren or a handful of others, the best selling authors have to continue to create new material to stay on the best sellers list. In the business world, the hottest products are only as hot as the next great update or until another “greater” product is introduced. Momentum dies…people lose interest…motivation for what you are promoting fades and something new is needed to keep growing.

On the other hand, if an organization is struggling today that doesn’t always mean they’ll struggle tomorrow. Sometimes one big break turns things from stagnant to growing to thriving. Obviously attention has to be current to survive, but struggling organizations often need to focus even more intently on the future.

At some point, to remain viable and to succeed, organizations have to concentrate on days ahead, because a new day is coming. These principles are truer now than ever before. If an organization wants to be successful over time, then it must be winning the battle for the future.

Here are three aspects or planning for future growth every organization must have:

Strategic thinking – There must be a concerted effort placed on thinking about next steps for the organization. If strategic thinking isn’t a leader’s strength (although I think it’s difficult to lead well without this skill), someone in the organization must be delegated the task of strategically thinking forward. The future is coming…things are changing…and the organization must be able to strategically respond.

Flexibility and adaptability - Today’s leader must remain flexible enough to adapt to change quickly. Most likely the plans you set today will be altered in some way tomorrow. As a leader, you must be open to change personally and learn how to lead others to embrace change within the organization.

Staffing and team-building - An organization will only be as good as the people who make up the organization, so the future is dependent on attracting and retaining the best people. Great leaders are planning ahead for staffing needs, always on the lookout for good people and intentionally seeking to develop people in the organization. Great leaders allow people to explore, possess authority and become leaders. In today’s organizations, the strength of the team is the strength of the organization.

I have been on both sides of an organization…both striving and struggling…and I believe all three of these aspects are true in both scenarios. I see these three as critical to the future growth of any organization, but I’m still learning and organizations are changing every day, so help me here. What am I missing? What would you add to my list?

5 Lessons Learned in Church Planting

We are five years into the church plant known as Grace Community Church. God has overwhelmed us continually with what He has done and continues to do among us. This is my second church plant. The first one continues to do well today. I feel humbled and blessed to be a part of such healthy environments He is using to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I have learned a few things in the process. Some of these were new insights and some of were things I had confirmed, but all are things I would suggest other church planters consider.

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned in church planting:

Don’t shy away from leaders, even though they are churched…you’ll need them – When we started, if a person showed up who regularly attended another local church, we shied away from them. We weren’t rude to them, but we really didn’t pursue them as we did other visitors, simply out of respect of other churches. What I have learned, however, is that many times this was standing in the way of something God was doing in the person’s life. At the same time, we were suffering from a leadership void not having enough people ready to lead in a church setting.

Don’t be afraid to talk about money…you’ll need it - I know this is a problem for many church planters, because many of the people we are reaching are repelled by money talks. They wrongly feel that’s all churches talk about and so they push back anytime money is mentioned. I know Jesus talked much about money (some say more than any other subject), but in an attempt to be attractional to unchurched people, church plants often avoid any money talk whatsoever. What I’ve learned is that it takes money to minister to people. Additionally, part of the spiritual growth process of a person is how they view and handle money and one of my roles is to help them mature in this area. I can’t do that unless we talk about it.

Surround yourself with some encouragers…some days they’ll keep you going - The work of church planting by itself is tough and places a strain on the planter and his or her family, but church planting also has plenty of naysayers. The church world can be very competitive and church planters are not always the most popular pastors among the established church world. I’ve learned I need enough people around me so that on the days when I’m down they can encourage me to pick my head up and keep moving forward.

Know what to control and what to let go of…you’ll be stretched if you don’t - There are some things to hold on to very tightly, such as vision or senior leadership positions, but I’ve learned to let go of things such as how the vision gets implemented or what color we use for rugs in the preschool area. (I never would have stressed about that last one…but you get the idea.) The more I can allow others to do and take leadership of, the greater success we will have in reaching our overall vision as a church.

Embrace hurting people…as much as it hurts - We have extended so much grace to people…and we have been burned a few times. I have been personally hurt by people to whom I invested so much love and support, but I also know God rewards this sacrifice. Some of the best leaders we have were hurting, broken people when they arrived. God still does miracles with people when we extend His grace and truth.

I am not sure these are unique experiences to church plants, but since that is the context in which I live I decided to frame them that way. We are still learning things every day. My personal hope is that others will learn from our experiences.

Which of these do you most need reminding of today? I’d love to hear from some fellow church planters or pastors who have other things you have learned in the process.

5 Suggestions for Tennessee Titans Leadership Now

Driving back from Nashville yesterday I listened to sports talk radio. The subject was the same I have been hearing for weeks. Everyone wants to talk about what’s wrong with the Titans. Everyone has his or her own theory. As I said in a previous post, (Read it HERE) I am a not an avid sports fan.  I love sports, I love watching sports, but I don’t memorize player’s names or keep up with many statistics, I just enjoy sports.

I do keep up with leadership however, and as I said in my previous post, I think the main issue for the Titans now is a leadership problem.  When leadership is uncertain or unsettled, it will impact the entire team.  That’s an organizational leadership principle, and it’s true because it deals with people, which mean you can see the principle at work in business, in churches, and on professional football teams.  (This post could have been titled “Suggestions for leadership when your team is in trouble”, which would have worked for many organizations…)

So, as one who does understand the subject of organizational leadership, here are 5 leadership suggestions I offer the Tennessee Titans leadership:

Get united at the top – Owner Bud and Coach Jeff need to get on the same page again.  Period.  The team will be unsettled as long as they are unsettled.  There have been times before when the talk was whether Jeff could keep his job, and some think that time is here again (read THIS), but Bud Adams and Jeff Fisher have mostly had a great relationship.  They need to close the door, talk (or yell) it out, then decide to be united (or not) going forward.

Decide who’s in charge - If Coach Fisher is continue as coach, he must have freedom to run the team as he thinks best.  The team needs to know he is the one making the calls. An owner can and will always have input, but on the playing field the leader on the sidelines needs control…and the team needs to know it.  That includes what to do with key players under huge contracts.

Remember the Titans – The team needs to remember who they are as a team. They’ve been known for comeback victories.  They’ve had a history of the unexpected come from behind wins. Remind the team. Energize the key player leaders on the team. Let it spread through the team and change team morale and motivation.

Get back to basics - The Titans know how to win games. They know how to run the ball strong and make the big defensive plays.  Just do what the team does best.

Play ball - At some point, the team and the coaches have to ignore all the critics and play ball. That may mean they need to quit doing interviews, quit reading the sports page, or quit talking internally about what’s wrong and focus on the winning games.  Win a few games and the talk shows will find a new subject.

That’s my suggestions.  Call me naive if you want since I’m mostly a quiet observer in the field of sports, but I think these steps would help in any organizational sense, including football.

What do you think?  What would you do now if you were in leadership with the Tennessee Titans…or an organization in trouble?

7 Non-Negotiable Traits to Work on my Team

I wrote a post recently about what it takes to be on the staff team of Grace Community Church.  We recently discussed this at an all staff meeting.  You can read that post HERE.

I thought it was only fair to share what it takes to be on my team.  I am an open leader. I like transparency on the team, so as a team leader, I believe it’s important for your team to know your expectations.  (I also recently wrote the 3 problems with unknown expectations.  Read that post HERE.)  This is different from a previous post of what it takes to be a great team member.  (HERE is that post.)  These are personal to me.

I hope our team already knows these things, because we live them everyday and have talked about them individually.  I’m not sure I’ve written them down before.  (Hopefully they read my blog…Ha!)

Here are the top 7 non negotiable traits to work on my team:

Responsiveness - It may be a pet peeve, but I believe it is imperative to respond to people in a timely manner.

Honesty – If we can’t be honest, we can’t be a team.

Respect - I plan to respect my team.  I think it’s only fair they respect me.

Openness – I don’t like hidden issues.  If it’s important to you or the team, let’s talk about it.

Follow Through – Do what you say you will do when you said you will do it.

Limited need for oversight- I can’t stand micro-management.  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.

Participation – No one sits on the bench on my team.  This plenty of innings ahead…let’s play ball.

So what do you think? Fair? Harsh? Reasonable?  What would you add or take away from your list?

Don’t Be Afraid of Good Management

Opinion: We have almost created a culture where the term management is seen as a negative. I believe this is dangerous.

With the rising interest in the field of leadership, the task of management is starting to get a bad name. Organizations don’t look for people with good management skills anymore, they look for leaders. It seems unpopular or not as appealing to say “I’m a manager” as it is to say “I’m a leader”.

In organizations today, leadership has overpowered management as the desired function. I have to be honest in saying I feel more qualified to talk about leadership than I do management. I’m frankly a better leader than I am a manager, but the reality is that good leadership includes a healthy element of good management and vice versa. Both disciplines are equally important for a healthy organization.   (Read my post on Three basic needs of every organization. Management fits in more of the maintenance category of those three and it’s my least favorite of them.)

The problem for the practice of management these days is that it naturally deals with an element of control, which is now seen as a negative. Read the current books and blogs on organizational health.  It is popular to talk negatively about any control issues. Leader types (like me) often rebel against any mention of control in favor of releasing people to dream and explore.

We want environments where team members are free to create, but every team also needs some guidelines and someone who can hold the team accountable to reasonable boundaries it sets for itself. Management’s role in implementing a vision is to ensure tasks and action steps are met. Good management helps the team stay on target. While leadership motivates the team to reach the vision, without management a team will have a lot of dreams but no measurable results. Managers help develop and maintain a structure that allows healthy growth to continue.

Don’t be afraid of good management. If you are a leader, part of your role is also to see that management is in place.  If you aren’t reaching the goals you have for the organization, it may not be a lack of good leadership, it may be a lack of good management.  For smaller teams, one person may have the responsibility for both functions, which is hard for many wired more towards being a leader or a manager type, but great organizations need good leadership and good management.

Have you seen this trend towards embracing leadership to the detriment of management?  How is your organization responding?  Do you see the difference in the two functions?

For further thoughts on this issue, you can read my post about leadership versus management HERE. You may also benefit by our experience learning of the need for structure and management in THIS POST.

3 Problems with Unspoken Expectations


I was talking with a youth pastor recently. He was experiencing tremendous disappointment in his current position. He felt he was doing everything well, but his pastor never seemed pleased with his progress. As we talked, it became clear to me that he and his pastor had different expectations of what makes a healthy youth ministry, but the youth pastor was uncertain what it would take to make the pastor happy. Unless the two of them get on the same page, this youth pastor is destined for many disappointing days ahead.

This is not a unique scenario. In fact, if I’m not careful, this is one struggle I can have in leadership. I have seen many leaders, including myself, who hold people accountable for a high level of success, but are never clear on what the success they are seeking even looks like. It’s hard to hold someone responsible for meeting an expectation you’ve never given them.

There are three problems with having unspoken expectations as a leader:

Expectations are misunderstand – Many leaders assume everyone will come to the same conclusion they would, so they fail to give adequate direction. If left unspoken, the senior leader’s expectations are never met and team member’s remain confused and frustrated.

Expectations are never met – The team member will make up the expectations when not made clear. That’s okay when the leader delegates this task but when the leader has defined expectations, but they are never made clear, a team member has no choice but to move forward on their own.

Everyone is disappointed - One of the hardest times for a leader is watching his or her team or organization suffer through mediocre results. One of the most frustrating times for a team member is realizing they aren’t living up to potential or that they aren’t appreciated on the team. Both sides lose when expectations aren’t made clear.

If you want your team to achieve the expectations you have for it make sure the team knows clearly what’s expected of them. Don’t assume they read your mind. If you are not sure how to make sure they understand you, read THIS POST.

Have you worked for someone who didn’t give you clear expectations of what they expected? Tell me about it.

Leaders, how do you make sure your team understands what you expect? Share your secrets.