10 Sets of Words We Often Confuse in Leadership, Part 1

Words

I’ve noticed we confuse a lot of words in leadership. They seem related, and are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. I decided to break this post into two parts, so I will share 5 more in the next post.

Here are words we often confuse:

Possibility with probability – Just because something has a chance of happen, doesn’t necessarily mean the chances are good. In making changes, for example, I want to know what’s possible…what might happen…but also what is probable…what probably will happen. The leader needs to be clear as to the risk involved…not pretending a possibility is a probability…and vice versa.

Opportunity with obligation – Just because I could do something…doesn’t mean I have to do it or even that I should. This is incredibly important for those of us who struggle to say no at times. We could easily become ineffective if we make every opportunity an obligation.

Challenge with impossibility – Sometimes we dismiss the hard work, because it seems impossible, when really, if we are honest, it’s just a bigger challenge than we are willing to accept. We don’t always like the things that make us walk by faith into the unknown. But, really, what’s impossible if it’s of God? I know numerous pastors, for example, who have made change in the church they pastor seem impossible, when really it’s just harder to implement than they care to tackle, so they live with status quo.

Delegation with assignment – Some leaders I know confuse assigning someone a task with delegating. Delegating is far more than that. Giving an assignment is easy. I tell someone what to do and get to walk away from it. Delegating involves much more. It’s ensuring the person assigned a task has the skills, knowledge and resources to complete the task and then following through with them until the task is complete.

Responsibility with authority – This is a personal pet peeve of mine. Responsibility means I have to do it. Authority means I have the actual ability to get it done in a way that matches my skills and talents. If you want me to be a good follower…give me responsibility. If you want me to develop as a leader, and feel like a valuable part of the team…give me authority.

I will share 5 more next time. I also realize all of these could be blog posts of their own. I have expanded on some of them previously. Which would you like me to expand upon?

Add to this post. Maybe even guess some I will have next time (It’s already written, but can always be improved). Can you think of any other words we confuse in leadership?

5 of the Worst Leadership Traits I’ve Observed

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Someone asked me a great question recently. It came from a young pastor. He appears to be doing a great job leading, but he wants to do better. I admire that. I hope he (and I) continue that attitude throughout his career (and mine).

His question was this:

Knowing what you know now about leadership, what would you say are the biggest traps to avoid? What are the worst leadership traits that you’ve seen limit a leader’s potential to lead well?

That’s a hard question, because depending on the circumstances I think there could be many different answers. I wrote the “most dangerous” traits previously, but this question seemed different to me. It wasn’t addressing the dangerous traits, as much as the ones that were just bad. You can have these and perhaps still see some success as a leader, but they are still bad leadership traits….the worst. And they keep one from leading well. Eventually, they may derail a leader if not addressed.

There are many I’ve observed. I’ve seen laziness, for example, cripple a leader. But, with the right team around him or her, even a lazy leader can experience success. I thought of incompetence, but I have seen some dumb leaders (like me at times) smart enough to surround themselves with wise people. But, what about the worst?

So, I’ve narrowed my list to the following 5 of the worst traits I’ve observed personally. Feel free to disagree or add to my list. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

Here are 5 of the worst leadership traits I’ve observed:

Poor character – Nothing can overcome a flawed character. Dishonesty in a leader, for example, will always overshadow even the most worthy vision. You can’t hide a corrupt heart. Immorality always shines brighter than competence or ability. And it can be argued whether it should be called success, but I’ve seen some bad characters leading what appears to be very successful organizations.

Avoidance – The leader who ignores problems invites trouble to the church or organization. Problems never go away on their own. They fester and eventually explode. It may take a long time for them to be exposed but they will eventually catch up with the leader. Yet I have seen some leaders survive a long time while avoiding the real problems.

Indecisiveness – Every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion and there are always at least two. Most of the time many more. But, leaders are called to make decisions when no one else can or will. Indecisiveness stalls progress and frustrates people. Yet I have talked with countless staff members of very large church who say their senior pastor can’t or won’t make decisions.

Control – Inflexibility on the part of a leader limits the church or organization to the level of performance solely of the leader. That’s always bad. Even if the person is a genius, there’s a lid placed upon the organization or church’s future. People feel squashed of their potential and under appreciated, producing half-heartedness and poor morale. Who needs that? But, there are still growing organizations with controlling leaders (I didn’t say healthy…growing).

Pride – Perhaps the worst trait I’ve personally observed is the arrogance of a leader. It turns people away in disgust when they hear a leader brag on all his or her accomplishments. The braggart feels good personally, but is never as popular as he or she perceives. I’ve found if a leader is really good at what they do, they won’t have to tell others about it. And, yet, know any arrogant leaders who apparently lead “successful” organizations…even churches?

That’s my list. Again, these are all bad leadership traits, in my opinion and observation. Some will argue you couldn’t have these and lead successfully. That would depend, I suppose, on your definition of success, but regardless they are still bad traits…I would even say…the worst.

What would you add?

7 False Thoughts of a Pastor or Church Planter

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Here are 7 false thoughts of a pastor and church planter:

If we build it, they will come – They might. They might not. Actually when God builds it they will come.

We need to pay someone to do this – You could, but chances are there are people with margin in their schedule, looking for a place to serve, who don’t necessarily need your money right now, as much as they desire the opportunity.

Some people will always stay – They won’t. Period. Some will leave even if you do everything the way they wanted you to do them. And if you change anything you may be helping some make the decision they may have been talking about but just haven’t done.

I need to know everything that’s happening in my church – You could try, but the church would be very small and the potential will be very limited. And, I like to ask myself…is it my need to know or my need to control?

They couldn’t do this without me – Yea…that sounds impressive. Not true. At all. The more we think it the less it’s probably true.

People will give when they are ready – They won’t. Period. You’ll have to encourage them. Give them a reason to give. Provide them opportunity. Teach them.

I’m responsible for everyone’s spiritual maturity – You’re not. Period. You teach. God’s spirit grows as they yield to Him.

Any you would add?

7 “Must Do’s” for Long-Term Leadership Success

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If you want to last in leadership long term and you want to genuinely make am impact that outlasts your leadership, you will have to be intentional. It isn’t hard…okay actually it is hard…but it can be much easier if you are purposeful in your approach.

Here are 7 suggestions for long term leadership success:

Abiding – Sit with God regularly to talk and listen. Do more listening than talking. Learn to take your relationship with Christ into every aspect of your life, not just into your quiet time.

Health – Get sufficient rest. Exercise. As my muscles stretch, so does the mind. Be reasonable in what you eat and drink. You only have one body and you want it to last for the duration.

Friendship – Be accountable. Allow a few people the freedom to speak into your life. Have some relationships that are beyond surface level. Live a transparent life.

Learning – Do it continually. Read. Sit with other leaders. Attend conferences. Continue your education. Learn something new everyday.

Sharing – Spread the load. Learn to be a friend and an expert at delegation.

Investing – Spend energy on the next realm of leadership.

Celebrating – Learn to enjoy the smallest moments of life.

What would you add?

When it doesn’t make sense…

complaint

People complain.

We went to a restaurant in a major city recently. The only parking available was valet parking. The funny thing was that we drove to the parking lot where we would be valeted. We parked our car, got out of the car, handed the keys to the valet, and watched him drive it about ten feet into a parking space. Then we paid for parking and (felt obligated to) tip the valet.

It didn’t make sense. We didn’t complain out loud. (I’m a pastor, you know.) But, we did complain to each other. And, we heard others complaining.

Sure, the restaurant is good enough and is in a location where they are always busy and can “get away” with it, but it still was frustrating to out of town visitors.

It was a reminder to me in leadership. As much as you can:

  • Eliminate confusion
  • Share the vision
  • Give details
  • Allow questions
  • Answer questions
  • Don’t assume people know
  • Keep it simple and understandable

All that said, that doesn’t meant there won’t be times when you’ve done the best you can to explain and it still makes no sense to people. Leaders have to take people to unknown places at times. But, as best as we can, we need to bring people along to better understandings of the why behind what we are doing.

Because…

When it doesn’t make sense…people complain.

How to Stop Being a People Pleasing Pastor or Leader

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I received this email after a recent post:

Ron,

Have just finished your blog post “7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership“. I recognize I am a People Pleaser Pastor. How do I turn the tide on this? How do I stop? I am seeing tension mounting on the team. There is frustration on our staff and it is even spilling over to our spouses, and my vision has hit a brick wall. I really want to move away from this but I am finding it most difficult.

Signed,

One frustrated pastor

Here is my reply:

Frustrated Pastor,

I’m impressed with your boldness and honesty.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

Get firm again on the vision you are trying to accomplish – It appears you have one, but people pleasing must be more important to you than accomplishing that vision. Not trying to sound harsh, but that’s the reality. We tend to do what we value most. You must begin to value the vision more than making people happy. Make sure it’s God-honoring and God-ordained. When you are leading a church, obviously you want to do the will of God. He gives us latitude I believe, but we want to make sure whatever we do honors Him and gives Him glory.

That vision, though, is what should hold your feet to the fire. If it detracts or doesn’t line up with the vision God has given you, you shouldn’t be as enthusiastic about it…regardless of who brings it to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other things, but you can clearly say…”I’m sorry, but right now I’m chasing this vision God has given me.” Imagine the pressure Moses was under as a leader to please the people, but he had to hold to the vision God had given him and not cave to the pressure to always please people.

Get buy in with a team towards reaching the vision – You need a team around you committed to the same defined vision you have. Be careful who you surround yourself with here. Make sure they are people who are not self-serving, can see a bigger picture, and will protect your back should it come to that. You’ll need others, however, that can back you up when you’re tempted to give in and be a people pleaser.

When you recruit them, make sure they understand the vision and are committed to seeing it to completion. Be honest with your propensity to cave to pressure from others. Share with them your desire to complete the vision and given them permission to speak into your life when they see you pleasing people more than accomplishing the vision.

Assign responsibility and timelines – Give people real responsibility towards accomplishing the vision and measurable timelines toward achievement. This is hard for some pastors, but you have to release responsibility for decisions made. This process is vital, because it keeps tasks moving forward and therefore makes it easier and more palatable when you have to say no to other things. It’s hard to argue with success.

I often find it’s sometimes easier for someone closer to a task to say no to something new. For example, if a group wants us to start a new mission somewhere outside our focus area, the people who currently lead our mission efforts are often better at protecting the vision we’ve already set in place than I am. If I let those who lead in a specific area of ministry help make the decisions in their area, we will protect the vision more often.

Allow these same people to hold you accountable to sticking to these determined goals and objectives. You will be less likely to cave to people pressure if you know things are on track to reach the vision. I give people on my team the right to tell me when I’m veering from the vision we have before us.

Discipline yourself – The reality is that if you recognize people pleasing is a weakness in your leadership, you’ll have to discipline yourself away from it. This will take time. It probably has been a weakness for a while now, so don’t expect it to disappear immediately. When you sense you are making a decision purely to please others, give yourself a gut check. Put it in your schema. Tie a string around your finger if needed, but by practice and consistency, recall the bigger picture.

When needed, call in the trusted advisors again. Renew the passion for the vision again. Slowly, over time, you’ll find yourself better able to say no when needed so you can better realize the vision God has placed on your heart.

Those are my initial suggestions. I’m praying for you frustrated pastor, but I’m believing that you can do it. God has called you to it. He will equip you accordingly as you surrender to His will.

Ron

Ever been a people pleaser? What suggestions do you have?

5 Alternatives to Gossip

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This is a guest post by Matt Mitchell, a local church pastor and the author of Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue a new book on a topic about which I care deeply.

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So, you don’t want to gossip, right? If you’re like me, you don’t want to fall into a pattern of sinful gossip because you know how hurtful and harmful it can be and how much God hates it.

But it’s not always that easy to resist, is it? The Bible says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8, 26:22). The choice morsels are those little bits of food that are hard to say “No” to and, once swallowed, have a lasting effect on our hearts.

One of the chief reasons why it’s hard to resist gossip is that we often can’t see any alternatives.

I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard someone say, “But if we didn’t gossip, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about!” Of course, that is not true. But it often feels as if it is.

Everybody around us is doing it. Talking about others behind their back is fun and exciting. Gossip is juicy and attractive, and it just doesn’t feel like we have a lot of options.

In Resisting Gossip, I dedicate two whole chapters to planning alternative strategies for when we get into potential gossip situations.

Here are five good ones:

1. Say Nothing At All

As the saying goes, “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” Silence can be golden. Proverbs 17 says, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (17:27-28).

Abraham Lincoln put it this way: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let them think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” This rule of thumb goes not just for face-to-face talking but also for texting, messaging, emailing and every other kind of communication through which gossip could flow.

2. Commend the Commendable

Often we can do even better than silence. We can say something good. Offer encouragement, commendation, affirmation and approving words. If we are tempted to talk about someone, then we should talk about that person’s good points.

Don’t lie. Do not commend something that is not commendable, but in most situations, we can find something positive to share instead. The next time you are tempted to gossip about someone, talk about how good that individual is. That is what Jesus’ Golden Rule implies. Speak about people in the way you would want them to speak about you.

I get this phrase “commend the commendable” from Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation. In one chapter entitled “100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck,” Crabtree offers a terrifically long list of options. We can do this!

3. Talk to People, Not About Them

When there is a problem between us and another person, the overwhelming temptation for us is to run to just about anybody other than the one with whom we have the conflict. The way forward in conflict, however, is not to talk about the other person but to talk to the person in love. Jesus says, “First go and be reconciled to your brother” (Matt. 5:24).

Did someone offend you at church? Talk to him about it. Did a co-worker hurt your feelings in a meeting? Bring it up with her. Did your parents’ recent decision mess up your plans? Take it up with them.

Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, had this rule for managing conflicts at her mission station: “Never about, always to.” Conflicts are fanned into flame when we talk about people, but they can be resolved when we talk directly to the person with whom we have the problem.

4. Offer Words of Mercy

Ephesians 4:29 says that our words should build up others “according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Proverbs says, “The lips of the righteous nourish many” (10:21).

I have a friend who is that kind of person. Dan always has something good to say, even when there is not much good to talk about. He’s not afraid to confront someone in love when they are offensive, but he goes above and beyond the call of duty and encourages the people he’s confronting! He’s the first person I call when I have a problem, not just because he is wise but because he is nourishing. He uses merciful words, and people love to be around him. Dan is what I call “a party waiting to happen,” because he’s so full of grace.

You and I don’t have to say everything we think. In fact, we can be merciful because our heavenly Father is merciful (see Luke 6:36). Often we can do better than just staying quiet or even commending the commendable. We can go the extra mile and speak words of grace.

5. Practice Avoidance

Proverbs says, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (20:19). Don’t go near a gossiper. Walk on the other side of the street. Get away from that person. You and I might even need to skip out on some social situations if we know that all we will hear in them is sinful gossip. It might be a sacrifice, but it might also be worth it.

Sometimes we cannot avoid a person who gossips, simply because of our relationship to them. They are our mothers, sisters, brothers, co-workers, and fellow church members. In cases like these, we need to avoid not the person but the topic. We need to redirect conversations, if we can, to avoid the gossip in them. It’s not wrong to push a conversation in a new direction.

That may sound a bit sneaky, but it is really just shepherding a conversation and acting as a leader. The Bible says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Prov. 26:20). Just removing the gossip can change the temperature in a room.

Of course, these five strategies are impossible for us to successfully follow without the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s make it our prayer today that He would navigate us through the treacherous waters of everyday gossip with godly alternatives.

7 Reasons I’m Dumping Delegation

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I’ve always strived to be a delegator. I know I’ve written posts on it before…how to do it successfully…that kind of garbage. But, that’s before I knew the skinny on delegation. So, that’s it. I’m done. No more delegation for me.

I’m dumping delegation for good.

Here’s what I discovered…

7 problems with delegation:

I might appear to be doing less – Everyone knows I’m the leader. What will they think if I’m not the one doing everything?

I will lose authority – Delegation…done right at least…means I give up the right to control. Does that even need an explanation? Seriously?

I will still have to be available – Supposedly you aren’t supposed to dump and run with delegation. So, if I’m going to be involved anyway…I might as well do it. Duh.

Someone might not do things the way I would – And you know my way is best.

It might get done faster and better – Faster is one thing…but better? Who’s got time for that? And, then what am I going to do with the extra time on my hands?

It might expose or grow a new leader – How threatening!

Someone else might get credit – My credit!

Do you see why I’m dropping delegation from my leadership toolbox? Brilliant I say.

What say you? What problems have you discovered with delegation? Ahh…never mind. I’ll answer myself.

(For those who struggle with a weird sense of humor like mine…or for the extremely literal among us…here’s the disclaimer you’re looking for…Is this enough? Hope so, because I’ve technically delegated clarifications of my posts to someone on our team. And, I think they’re off today.)

10 Times You Don’t Need Leadership

leadership

You don’t need leadership if there is no risk involved.

You don’t need leadership to maintain status quo.

You don’t need leadership if it doesn’t involve change.

You don’t need leadership if you already have all the answers.

You don’t need leadership if every outcome is predetermined.

You don’t need leadership to manage current systems.

You don’t need leadership to keep things the way they’ve always been done.

You don’t need leadership if only one person is making decisions.

You don’t need leadership to give everyone what they want.

You don’t need leadership if “safe” is what you’re looking to achieve.

What would you add to my list?

7 Suggestions for Navigating Change When Standing in Muddy Water

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Have you ever navigated change through muddy water?

Have you ever had to lead change when no one knew for sure what change was needed? Or when there wasn’t clear agreement on where the organization needs to go? Or when some players on the team were uncommitted or complacent? Or when the leadership pipeline…who is supposed to be leading…wasn’t clearly defined? Or when the season of decline has been so long no one remembers what success looks like? Or when…you get the idea.

It’s like navigating through muddy water. Ever been there?

Continuing with the muddy water metaphor, what do you do during those times?

Here are 7 suggestions when you are leading change through muddy water:

Analyze the water – How muddy is it? You need to know the work you have before you. How desorate is it? You’ll get very discouraged if you try to lead through semi-cloudy water and find out it really wasn’t muddy at all, but in fact, you were standing in quicksand. This process can take a day, a week or a year depending on the depth of the water and how long it’s been muddy. Give it time. Learn the issues. Learn the players. Hire a professional water analyzer for perspective if needed. But, know your mud first.

Be honest – “The change is going to impact you and it’s going to be hard.” How is that for transparency? It may sound too forward, but people know something new has to happen. They may not yet be able to admit it. They may not want change. They may even resist it, but they know change has to occur. Go ahead and admit the obvious. You can and should encourage people that things will improve, but they already know there is a problem. The water is muddy. They can see that. Maybe even taste it in their lemonade. Admit it. People will trust you more when you are honest.

Cast a clear vision – Where are you going? How clear must the water be for you to be satisfied? How do you propose to get there? What’s the timetable for doing so? As much as you know today…share it. People need to be assured that good things are being planned and on the horizon and clearer water is on the way.

Communicate well – Communication is always important, but especially during times of unrest, confusion or chaos. When the water is muddy, people become frustrated. They need to know what’s happening and what is being done to clear the muddy water. Remember, effective communication is speaking and listening. Do both. Do them often. Do them well.

Stand strong – Muddy currents can pull you under quickly. You will heed to be firmly anchored as a leader. Make sure you are keeping yourself healthy, emotionally, physically and spiritually so you can navigate the muddy waters.

Challenge when needed – During difficult times…in especially muddy conditions…there will be some who try to disrupt any positive change that occurs. You’ll have to challenge those who want to add more mud to the water. If you have to remove some who prefer to stay muddy…do so. Instead, lead with those who grab a shovel and help clear the mud.

Keep casting clearer water – You’ll have to encourage with a healthy vision of where you are going over and over again. This is the time for leaders to be very visible and very approachable. People will want to know someone is guiding the ship though the improving waters.

Have you ever navigated through muddy water? Any suggestions you’d add?