5 Thoughts on Leadership from the Life of David

A businessman at the entrance to a maze

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

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

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

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

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

Have you experienced a situation like that as a leader?

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

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

Read some more of the story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ethical Things to Know when Blogging about Struggles in Your Current Position

Middle age woman working on her blog

I had an interesting question recently:

Do you have a “7 ethical things to know if you are going to blog while serving in a local church” blog post?

Although not always as succinct as that one, it’s actually a fairly common question. Basically, how should you blog about — or more popular — speak about problems in leadership when the problems exist where you are currently leading?

When you don’t agree with leadership, but you don’t feel released from your position, is there anyway to ethically talk about that?

Well, I would say first and foremost: BE CAREFUL!

That’s a slippery slope. You should know the risks in advance. People likely read your blog that you don’t think read your blog. (And, your other social media also.) I previously blogged about ways I blog about current leadership problems.

But, if you must, I do have some suggestions.

Here are 5 suggestions when blogging about current leadership struggles:

Be humble. God resists the proud. And, as if you need another reason, it’s wrong to be otherwise. You can usually spot a weak or arrogant leader by one who refuses to be challenged. Don’t be that one. And don’t assume your way is the right way. It might be. It might not be.

Be helpful. The reason to blog is not to get your opinion out there. Honestly, not trying to be cute, but who cares if that’s the only reason? Everyone has an opinion. The ethical thing to do is to write in an attempt to help others. That controls many times how you say something as much as what you say.

Be truthful. Whatever you say — say it honestly. Don’t share innuendos. Don’t insinuate hoping people will read more than what you wrote. You can do more harm than good and may implicate and injure people you don’t intend to hurt. If it’s worth sharing — especially if you feel convicted to do so — do it with complete transparency about what you’re talking about. That doesn’t mean you have to name names, but it does mean those who are in the “know” shouldn’t be wondering if you mean them.

Don’t be hurtful. That goes along with the be helpful one, but it merits a stand-alone mention. Don’t try to divide people. Your point may force people to choose. It may indeed divide. But, this is not the way to fight a battle. It’s not fair to those above you and it never helps to build a team. It won’t accomplish what you hope to accomplish.

Be general. Again, your goal should be to be helpful. Most people will not care about nor be able to identify with all the unique aspects of your situation. It creates confusion and is harder to translate into another context. The more you can generalize your thoughts the more others will be able to implement your suggestions.

Those are my suggestions. Sorry I didn’t get to seven.

It should be noted that there may be times the only way you have to express yourself is in writing. I’m talking primarily about settings where the “boss” is not completely out of your reach — you know them. I’m not addressing national issues, for example. But, some of these could apply there as well. I personally have a hard time finding the reason to ever use writing as a forum to do harm or cause further division. Seems like we have enough of that.

7 Actions When You Can’t Respect the Leader

A picture of a young furious businessman screaming over white background

It’s not uncommon that I receive a message from a staff member of another church struggling with the current leadership. The question is usually how they can continue to be where they don’t support the vision and direction of the pastor. They want my advice on how to responding during this season of ministry.

This situation is obviously not unique to churches, but also happens frequently in other organizations. I don’t believe all hope is lost during times like this. An individual can continue to grow even with a leader he or she cannot respect — sometimes even more.

Here are 7 actions I suggest when you don’t respect the leader:

Talk to God – That’s an obvious answer from a pastor, but sometimes it’s the thing we do the least. We complain faster it seems — at least I do. Ask God to reveal to you His purposes for your life during this season. It could be He’s preparing you for something, stirring the nest so-to-speak, or that you are in a time of testing. Don’t assume God is absent during this time. I assure you He’s not asleep at the wheel and has a plan. The closer you are to Him during this time the sooner you’ll understand that plan.

Keep working – Most of us need a paycheck. Be grateful while you have one. Unless you know for certain you are to quit, it is destroying you or your family, or you sense something immoral is happening, there’s nothing wrong with working until you find something else.

Do your best – While you are there be above reproach in your work ethic. Make it your aim to prepare for your successor and to leave your area of responsibility better than you found it when you arrived.

Respect the leader – I know. That’s the tough one, but as long as you’re there you must respect authority. That’s our Biblical command. You may not respect them as a person but you can respect them as the boss.

Learn all you can – The fact is we learn more during the stressful and difficult times, so be a sponge. You may gain all the wisdom of what not to do when you are in control, but you will learn something if you try.

Be thankful for the connections and experience – You will be gaining connections in the church (work) world — or at least you have that opportunity. It’s easier to network when you’re in the field than it is once you are no longer working. Be thankful for that opportunity.

Be a cheerleader for life – You may not enjoy your work setting but you can still be a positive life influence for those around you. Use your smile and your pleasant disposition as an encourager for others. You’ll feel better about yourself after you eventually leave.

Keep watching – Be open to what God will do next in your life. It may not be what you are expecting. Chances are good it will stretch you and require a leap of faith. Prepare your heart, family and attitude for that opportunity when it arrives.

Keep this in mind. I firmly believe we are called to a person — Jesus — more than any location. Even any other leader. At the end of the day, you’re biggest concern is to be faithful to your call — to Jesus.

Have you ever been in this position?

What advice would you give?

5 Bad Reasons to Plant a Church

young woman showing her denial with NO on her hand

I love church planters. I moved into church revitalization and part of the concern I had for doing so is that I might not have a foot into church planting. That would be tough for me. After two successful plants and having worked with literally hundreds of planters, I think it’s in my blood. (Interestingly, I learned a few years after my first plant that my mom served on the core of a church plant during her years before marriage. It’s truly in my blood.)

But, I’m concerned.

Can I change gears in the conversation that quickly?

I seem to find some planters — or want-t0-be planters — who are in it for the wrong reasons. The fact is we need people called to ministry in the established church. We need them in church revitalization. Not everyone needs to be a church planter.

But, the bigger issue is that without the right reasons, if we are not careful, a church plant could become just a part of a growing fad and no ultimate good will come from it. And, that’s not good for the planter or the Kingdom.

So, we must be careful to plant for the right reason. And, not the wrong reasons.

Here are 5 bad reasons to plant a church:

You’re running from authority.

I’ve worked with some people who didn’t want to follow the rules. In fact, I am that person sometimes. That’s not a good reason to start a church, however. And, when that is the reason — just offering this as a heart-check — it is usually out of pride and arrogance. God can never honor that. You’ll have authority in a church plant — if you’re smart — or you’ll find yourself in deep trouble. All of us need some authority in their lives.

You want to do things your way.

I understand. Really. Especially if you worked for a controlling leader or for someone who had no passion or vision. But be careful. Sometimes a desire birthed in good can quickly become something birthed in rebellion. And, when that happens, many times you close yourself to ideas other than your own. You then become the controlling leader.

You want to be close to mama.

Or mama-in-law. I get that too. You love your family. Free babysitting. It’s pretty common to love family, isn’t it? Don’t we all? But our callings are bigger — and stronger — than that. Sometimes God gives us huge latitude in location. And, that may be exactly where you want to plant. I hope He does. Sometimes, however, He doesn’t. But, the decision is always His. Never ours.

Your buddy is doing it.

It’s popular to plant a church these days. As I write this I am at a church planting conference. There are several — actually lots — of those these days. And, that’s a good thing. We need lots of new churches. Tons. It’s just not a good reason to plant a church because everyone else is doing it. It’s not.

You’ve got the cool factor.

Don’t we all? In our own context at least. I needed to clarify that because I was almost 40 when I planted my first church and I had long passed the day I could wear skinny jeans. Church plants — anything new — attracts cool. (It’s funny, when I attend church planting conferences there are lots of similar looks. Styles change but church planters keep up with the styles.) But, cool does not make a good church planter. It doesn’t hurt — I should be honest — but it isn’t a reason to plant a church.

By the way — I have to say this — church revitalization needs cool too. Don’t forget that.

So why plant a church?

There is really only one reason to plant a church.

You are fully convinced God has called you to plant a church.

5 Things Every Leader Needs to Hear

Applauding

Sure I’m a leader. So this may appear to be a self-serving post. I understand — and accept — the risk.

The fact that I am a leader, however, gives me a certain credibility in speaking on behalf of leaders.

I wrote this post several years ago, but decided to edit it and post again. More convinced than others.

I recently returned from encouraging dozens of church planters in Chicago. One of these planters has worked for several years without seeing a single person come to faith in Christ. Yet, I saw first hand the good work the church is doing in a very hard community. Others have seen their work grow only to have the world change again as a third of the church moved away in one year.

I was reminded again — there are certain things that every leader needs to hear that fuel his or her passion for leading.

This is true regardless of whether or not the leader is considered a “good” leader. In fact, sometimes a mildly successful leader can transform into a superior leader simply by receiving these words of encouragement.

Here are 5 things every leader needs to hear:

Good job – In spite of a passion for the vision — even if the leader is a thick-skinned, high confidence person — every leader needs to be recognized for what he or she is doing right.

You are making a difference – Leaders are inspired by progress. Every leader wants their work to be meaningful and worthwhile. Numbers, while they are important, aren’t the only indicator of success. Context is always relative. (The fact is, it’s easier to produce growth in a church where I live than in most of the 70 plus unique communities in Chicago.)

I trust you – Leadership is about influence. Leaders are acutely aware that if they are not trusted, no one is truly following. To know you have someone in your corner — who believes in you — that’s golden motivation for a leader.

I believe in you – Leadership can be a frightening place to be. At times, every leader feels he or she is alone and needs to know there is someone in their corner who will be there even when things don’t look or feel that successful.

I’ll follow your lead – Most leaders question their ability at some point and are often timid about making the first move towards something new. The best leaders are never 100% certain. That’s where risk and faith and trust come into the life of the leader. When a leader knows that someone will follow that step of faith is easier to take.

Are you trying to follow a leader?

Make his or her job even easier…and possibly even more successful. Speak some words of encouragement today.

7 Things Great Leaders Do: Advice For Today’s Young Leaders

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Recently I was asked to speak to a local youth leadership program on — well, it makes sense — leadership. That’s what they are attempting to learn.

I’ve led in the business world, elected office, and now in ministry – and on dozens of non-profit boards. Along the way I’ve observed a few things about leadership.

And, some great leaders have appeared along the way.

I culled together 7 things I’ve observed and shared with the group things I felt they should know.

Here are 7 things great leaders do:

Great leaders never quit learning.

Never. So, if you want to be a great leader. Systematize your learning. Read one chapter a day that you don’t have to read. Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes. That may sound trivial. It’s not. It helps you remember but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed.

Side note: If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people that’s what you are doing. They’ll assume you’re not paying attention.

Fact is, we gather far more information than we can retain. Get a system to help you keep up with the information that comes your way. I use Evernote. Find what works for you.

As soon as you think you already know what the teacher, professor, or someone older than you is talking about you’ve mentally closed your mind to learning anything new. I’ve got 3 post high school degrees and that’s about enough education to convince me I don’t know everything.

Great leaders never underestimate a connection.

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will come back around and work for good. Never burn a bridge. Be careful what you place on social media. Those are future connections. And, Respect your elders. Showing respect to people older than you now will ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Great leaders have great courage.

The fact is, if you’re a leader, you’ll not always know what to do. Seldom will you be 100% certain. The best leader is not always the smartest in the room. In fact, the best leaders I know surround themselves with people smarter than them. The best leader isn’t the most outgoing or the most extroverted. I’m perhaps one of the more introverted people in the room, but on Sundays, I appear otherwise.

The best leader is usually the one who is willing to lead others places they aren’t willing to go on their own. The one who has the courage to face the risks of the unknown.

Great leaders are motivated to lead for the good of others, not for personal recognition.

As a leader, you’ll many times feel under-appreciated. This is so huge — especially for your generation. You’ve been accustomed to rewards for achievement. Life isn’t always like that. There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. Great things. Trophy-deserving things — and people will act — it will seem at times — like no one noticed and no one cares.

And, that may not be true. They may simply not have taken the time to let you know what an impact you had on them. Eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of “I did the right thing” as much, if not more, than the public recognition of that work.

Great leaders learn the words of successful leadership early.

The words of a leader carry great weight. If a leader makes it “my” team no one will buy-in to the team except the leader. But, then is that person really a leader?

Anyone can be a boss. To be a great leader your words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Great leaders know they can’t get there on their own so they become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. They don’t brag on themselves they brag on their team.

The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win. Be an encourager — invest in others — and people are more likely to follow you.

Great leaders know that success often starts with humble beginnings.

Never underestimate the power of a moment.

All of the best things in life happened in a moment.
· A wedding proposal.
· A child is born.
· A college scholarship award is received in the mail.

We often look for the grandiose occasions, but the seemingly smallest moments can often have the biggest long-term impact. Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. That’s still a viable option — and the reward feels greater when you built it the hard way.

Great leaders learn to discipline themselves to decompress.

It’s not usually built-in to the system. No one makes you rest.

During the busy seasons of life — when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence — which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself.

· To re-calibrate.
· Refocus.
· Rediscover the passion that once fueled you.
· Re-connect, if needed, to those you love.
· To meditate, read, play tennis or golf, go for a run.

You have to discipline for that. And, I’ve learned it’s life-essential.

Our bodies are designed, I believe created, to need rest. Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re stressed with school is to go for a walk. Never neglect your soul – it will protect you and help you sustain for the long-term – and help you finish well.

These are obviously random — but in my life they’ve become realities.

Soak up leadership principles. Keep learning from others. Whatever field of work you choose, the world is still in need of great leaders.

The Power of Tenacity By Samuel R. Chand

Young man climbing

The statistics on the longevity of pastors isn’t encouraging. A major survey of pastors says 80 percent leave the ministry within five years.(1) Jimmy Draper, former president of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and former president of Lifeway Research Group, observed that for every twenty people who enter the ministry, only one retires from it.(2) That’s only a 5 percent retention rate.

I don’t know any leaders—of churches, businesses, or nonprofit organizations—who haven’t thought about quitting at some point. Leadership is a magnet for pain, and sometimes our capacity to endure is severely challenged. We can receive some encouragement by looking at the world of sports.

Tom Fleming, a two-time winner of the New York City Marathon and now a coach, described his mind-set in races: “I was given a body that could train every single day, and a mind, a mentality, that believed that if I trained every day—and I could train every day—I’ll beat you. The mentality was I will do whatever it takes to win. I was totally willing to have the worst pain. I was totally willing to do whatever it takes to win the race.”

Sports doctors have analyzed the tenacity of the best marathon runners. Dr. Jeroen Swart, who works for the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, concluded, “Some think elite athletes have an easy time of it,” but that’s a wrong assumption. “It never gets easier” as your time improves. “You hurt just as much.” Accepting the reality of pervasive pain, he explained, leads to more realistic expectations and faster times:
“Knowing how to accept [the reality of the pain] allows people to improve their performance.”

During points in races when the pain is most intense, some runners tend to dissociate, to try to distract themselves from the pain by thinking of something else. This strategy seems to work for a while, but sooner or later they hit a mental wall that hinders their efficiency. In contrast, Dr. Swart discovered, the best long-distance athletes concentrate even more intensely on their running, cycling, or swimming when they experience grueling pain. He concluded, “Our hypothesis is that elite athletes are able to motivate themselves continuously and are able to run the gauntlet between pushing too hard—and failing to finish—and underperforming.”

The best of these athletes don’t avoid the pain; they push into it and past it.(3)

When we’re in pain we quickly notice the default setting on the human heart: run, blame, smother the hurt in busyness, or act like nothing’s wrong. To persevere, we need a vision for the future that’s bigger than our pain. We may not see it clearly, and we may not like the process of getting there, but we have to be convinced in the depths of our hearts that enduring the pain will someday be worth it. This confidence enables us to raise the threshold of pain so we can respond with courage and hope.

Wayne Cordiero wrote an eye-opening and challenging book, Sifted: Pursuing Growth Through Trials, Challenges, and Disappointments. He insisted that all Christians, especially leaders, go through a necessary process of sifting. He identified it this way: “The process of sifting, coming to that moment when our strength is spent, is how God builds our faith. It’s a process that forms new character, tearing away old perspectives and putting fresh truth in its place. Former habits are discarded and wrong tendencies abandoned.”(4)

Failure isn’t the end of the world for those who are open to God’s tender, strong hand. It’s the beginning of a new wave of insight, creativity, and effectiveness—but only if we pay attention and learn the lessons God has for us. When we receive a vision from God, we’re excited, and we dream about the steps it will take to fulfill it. We generally assume God will supply everything to accomplish the goal he’s given to us, but we often fail to realize that he needs to do a deeper work in us so we can do what he has called us to do. And the way he works deeply in us is through all kinds of opposition, stress, heartache, loss, and obstacles. In other words, God works most powerfully in and through our failures.

Do we face opposition? The civil and religious authorities opposed Jesus at every turn. Do we encounter evil in all its forms? Satan himself tempted him? Do we feel betrayed and abandoned? The crowds that yelled “Hosanna!” soon cried, “Crucify him!”

And almost all of his best friends ran for their lives at his greatest hour of need. Do we feel misunderstood? The Lord of glory stepped out of heaven to rescue sinful people, and they killed him. Do we feel vulnerable? He was stripped, beaten, and hung on a cross in public humiliation. Why did he do all this? Out of love for the very ones who had run away from him, who had driven spikes into his hands, and who jeered him as he hung on the cross.

People like you and me.

When we feel like quitting, we can think about Jesus. In the greatest act of love ever known, when he was unjustly dying for those who despised him, he could have come down from the cross and killed them all—but he stayed where he was placed.

This article is excerpted from Chapter 9 in Leadership Pain by Samuel R. Chand.

Footnotes:

1. Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc., “Why Pastors Leave the
Ministry,” July 21, 2009, http://freebelievers.com/article/why-pastors-leave-the-ministry.

2. See J. D. Greear, “Why You Should Pray for Your Pastor, and President Obama,” Archives for Leadership, www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/category/leadership/page/10.

3. Gina Kolata, “How to Push Past the Pain, as the Champions Do,” New York Times, October 18, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/health/nutrition/19best.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

4. Wayne Cordiero with Frances Chan and Larry Osborne, Sifted: Pursuing Growth Through Trials, Challenges, and Disappointments (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 10.

5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

Handsome smiling young man standing with open denim shirt

Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.

Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.

Here are 5 words of encouragement:

The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that’s why you’re planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don’t be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.

Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you’re doing. Some days they’ll keep you going.

Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you’re doing any good. You’ll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people — the work, whatever it is — God called you to. Be recharged.

Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work. Take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That’s seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah‬ ‭4‬:‭10

Protect your soul — and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened — I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.

God bless you planter. Leader. Friend.

7 Ways to Lead People Older — and Often Wiser — than You

Happy man with a notebook

In my first management position, I was a 19 year-old college sophomore working full-time and leading a small staff of four people in the men’s clothing area of a major department store. I was placed in the position almost by default, because the previous manager left unexpectedly and I was already there and eager to lead. Everyone working for me was older than I was, including one man who was in his sixties.

Today, even though I have aged considerably since then and had years more leadership experience, I continue to have positions where people older than me, with more experience than I have in many areas, report to me by position. In fact, in the current church I pastor, I didn’t just “inherit” people with more experience — I recruited them. On purpose. I do not believe we could have had the success in revitalization we’ve had without their input. We needed — and keep needing — younger voices on our team, but these seasoned leaders have helped navigate major change in ways I couldn’t have done on my own.

In our church plant, where I was the founder, most of our staff was younger than me. But, even there, I personally recruited a staff member almost 15 years older than me, which meant there were literally three generations of leadership in our church plant. It was gold for our organizational structure.

It can be one of the more challenging parts of leadership, but I highly recommend it.

I work with many pastors and church planters who, as they begin their ministry career will likely encounter the same experience with either volunteers or paid staff. I can tell you, from experience, that your leadership will be better if you learn how to lead people older — and wiser — than you are today. Don’t be afraid to recruit them.

Here are 7 tips for leading people older than you:

Recognize the difference

When a person is 10, 20, or even 30 years older they likely have different needs and expectations from their leader and the organization. They may need different benefits, different work schedules, and even different leadership styles, depending on their age and stage of life. You should maximize your leadership by adapting your style to the person you are leading anyway, but this will be especially true when you lead someone who doesn’t always “need” your leadership.

Give credit for wisdom earned

This is key. If you don’t recognize and value that age and experience has given them something you may not have you’ll never effectively lead someone older than you. Most likely there will naturally be things the other person has experienced that you haven’t. Don’t let that intimidate you. Allow it to work for you by gleaning from that wisdom.

Stand your ground, but do it respectfully

If you are in the position, then do your job. They were probably raised in a generation where they expect you to lead, but as you should with any person you lead, be respectful. If someone is older, most likely he or she will be more sensitive to a younger leader being disrespectful and react negatively when you are not. They may not say anything — because this may be part of their culture too — but you won’t have their full respect if you aren’t leading.

Learn from them

Be honest when you don’t know how to do something, such as leadership or handling difficult issue or people. If the older person knows how, let them show you. It’s okay that you have some things to learn. We all do. The older a person becomes the more in tune he or she becomes with the fact that no one knows everything. Ask good questions. “Have you ever experienced something like this before in your leadership?” “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” “Am I missing anything in your opinion?”

Be clear on expectations

More than likely a person from another generation is more accustomed to structure than you are. There were days past when expectations were more clearly defined and people knew what was expected. Organizational charts were more linear. Job titles meant more about what a person did on the team. Be aware of this. You don’t have to change your leadership to accommodate them necessarily, but you do need to recognize and understand when they may need a little more clarity on your expectations. They may wait until they know for sure you want them to move forward on a task or project.

Don’t play games — even if you are intimidated

I have seen this many times. The leader is intimidated by the older team member, so he or she dances around an issue or fails to handle conflict. The leader might make excuses for not knowing something or pretend they have more experience than he or she actually has with an issue. People with life experience can usually see through that type behavior. The age and maturity will make them less intimidated by you. Be kind. Be respectful always, but be direct. Shoot straight with them. Stand firm when needed. The fact is that the older team member will probably have handled worse situations. They will welcome your secure leadership — if it’s handled appropriately.

Be patient with them

This is changing rapidly, but sometimes the older team member may not be as culturally, technologically, or trend savvy. They may need a different form of communication or you may need to explain something in a different context. But they will make up for it by adding to the team in other ways. Be prepared to allow extra training for them if needed — even in some things which appear basic for you.

There were many times in business where I would have never made it without someone helping me who had more experience than I had. That’s still true today. I continue to surround myself with mentors in life and church.

Granted, if the person is cranky, rigid, or troublesome — don’t add them to your team. But, that’s true of all ages.

Here’s the deal — When you shy away from someone for your team because they are older or more experienced than you — you ignore some of the most loyal, hard-working, dedicated team members. And, the humility in knowing you are leading people wiser than you will make you a better leader.

Do you lead people older than you? What would you add to this discussion?

7 Ways Extroverts Can Better Engage Introverts

Young woman reading on nature

I write a lot about introversion, because I’m an introvert.

Introversion is a personality preference, based on the way a person has been shaped by experiences and life.

In very broad terms, it means we are fueled more by our inner thoughts and reflections than a by social engagements and interactions with others. Alone time fuels us. Our idea of “fun” might be reading a book in a room — or field — all by ourselves. (Hence the picture with this post.)

It’s not that we don’t like people. You can read some of my other posts about that. It’s that if we had a preference of how to use our free time, many times we would spend it in quieter or more controllable environments.

Chances are you have lots of introverts on your team, in your church, your workplace, as your customers — even in your family. You’ll even find some people who appear very extroverted to be introverts. (Like many pastors I know — it seems especially in larger churches.)

I will often get requests to write about extroversion — specifically how extroverts can better understand introverts. (Extroverted people are seldom shy about asking for what they want!) 

This is generalized. No two introverts are the same just like no two extroverts are the same. Just like no two people — period — are the same. We are all uniquely made by our Creator! And, that’s intentional on His part!

But, this is an attempt to help you understand some of the introverts in your world. And, if you want clarification if it applies to them — simply ask. We can express ourselves — often quite eloquently.

Here are 7 ways that extroverts can better engage introverts:

Give us advance warning – Don’t put us on the spot for an answer or opinion. We have one, but often need time to formulate our thoughts. If you want our best answer, then you’re best not to demand it immediately from an introvert.

Don’t assume we don’t have an opinion – We do — and it may even be the best one — but we are less likely to share it surrounded by people who are always quick to have something to say and tend to control the conversation.

Don’t assume we are unfriendly or anti-social – We may not be talking, but that doesn’t mean we do not love people or that we don’t want to communicate with them. The opposite is probably more true. We just prefer to do it in less extroverted ways. Plus, we talk one at a time, so if there’s someone always talking, we may not get a chance — or take the opportunity.

Give us time to form the relationship – Introverts don’t usually form relationships quickly. We may appear harder to get to know, but when we do connect, we are loyal friends with deep, intimate connections. And we can actually be quite fun — even silly at times — once you get to know us.

Allow us time alone – All of us need personal time, but we require even more time alone than an extrovert usually does. We energize during these times — not just relax — and there’s a huge difference.

Don’t expect us to always love or get excited about extroverted activities – The social activities where you get to meet all the cool people you do not know — yea — that’s not always our idea of fun. It may even be a little scary. It might make us nervous at the thought of it. We’ll find excuses not to go, even if we know we need the experience or will have fun once we do them.(Cheryl helps me so much with this one. She stays by my side until I acclimate to the room. And, that’s usually what it takes for the introvert to really enjoy these type settings.)

Allow us to use written communication when available – We often prefer email or text over phone calls. We are usually more engaging when we can write out our thoughts ahead of time.

Are you an introvert?  What would you add to my list?