7 Enemies of Organizational Health

chess play

I love organizational leadership. I especially love attempting to lead healthy organizations. I have been in both environments – healthy and non-healthy. I prefer healthy.

If truth be told, I’ve probably been the leader in both extremes. And, there are seasons when every organization is healthier than others.

Over the years of leading I’ve observed a few things which can be the enemy of organizational health. They keep health from happening and – if not dealt with – can eventually destroy an organization – even a local church.

Here are 7 enemies of organizational health:

Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to creating a healthy organization. I’ve known leaders who think they can read a book, attend a conference, or say something persuasive enough so everything turns out wonderful. Organizational health is much more complicated. Success is not earned through a simple, easy-to-follow formula. It takes hard work, diligence and longevity. Leaders must be committed to the process through good times and bad.

Satisfaction – Resting on past success is a disruption to future growth, which ultimately impacts organizational health. When an organization gets too comfortable – boredom, complacency and indifference are common results. The overall vision must be attainable in short wins, but stretching enough to always have something new to achieve. 

Selfishness – Organizational health requires a team environment. There’s no place for selfishness in this equation. When everyone is looking out for themselves instead of the interest of the entire organization – and this starts with the leader – the health is quickly in jeopardy.

Sinfulness – This one is added for those who feel every one of my posts must be spiritual. (Just kidding.) Seriously, healthy organizations are not perfect (and we all sin), but it doesn’t matter if it is gossip or adultery – sin ravages through the integrity of the organization. When moral corruption enters the mix, and is not addressed, the health of an organization will soon suffer. This is why it is so important a leader stays healthy spiritually, relationally and physically.

Sluggishness – Change is an important part of organizational health. In a rapidly changing world, organizations must act quickly to adapt when needed. Some things never change, such as vision and values, but the activities to reach them must be fluid enough to adjust with swiftness and efficiency.

Stubbornness – Let me be clear. There are some things to be stubborn about, again, such as vision and values. When the organization or it’s leaders are stubborn about having things “their way”, however, or resistant to adopt new ways of accomplishing the same vision, the health of the organization will suffer. Most people struggle to follow stubborn leadership, especially when it’s protecting self-interest rather than organizational interests.

Structure – As much as we need structure, and even though we should always be working to add better structure, bad structure can be damaging to organizational health. When people feel they are being controlled by rules, more than empowered by their individuality and passions, progress is minimized and growth stalls. People become frustrated under needless or burdensome structure. 

What enemies of organizational health would you add to my list?

 

5 Questions to Ask When Facing Rejection as a Leader

Rejected

When I started an insurance business from scratch, I made hundreds of cold calls. Lots of people told me no. I’ll be honest, I hated this part of starting the business, but in time I got accustomed to rejection. It still hurt sometimes, but I learned it was a natural part of successful selling. I couldn’t get to a yes (which paid the bills) without a lot of no’s. 

Life is this way also. People aren’t always going to buy-in to what you’re selling or presenting. This is never more true than as a leader. No one is going to love every idea you present. 

Leaders lead to somewhere they are hoping will be better than today. But, this in lives change – and there is always tension with change. Always.

And, for the leader – part of their success may be their tenacity through rejection.

The fact is no one likes rejection.

Your proposal. Your product. Your presentation.

You love it. You believe in it. You want it to go forward. How could anyone reject what you’ve put your heart into?

It’s difficult not to make rejection personal, but it should be understood rejection isn’t always against you. Many times – maybe even most times – people reject because of their own level of comfort or acceptance of whatever they are rejecting.

When my ideas are being rejected, I like to ask myself some questions.

Here are 5 questions to ask when facing rejection:

Is the rejection based on truth?

Many times rejection has no basis of truth. People may reject because of their own misunderstandings or their unwillingness to accept something new. If you are selling a product, they may not want what you have to sell. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have a poor product, it simply doesn’t match their needs. 

And, then, there are rejections based on truth. The idea you are proposing is not good – or it has some flaws. You need to hear this rejection – discernment is a huge part of leadership. Be willing to listen and learn. If you will allow it, their rejection may actually make your idea better.

Is the rejection about you or your presentation?

If it’s personal rejection then it’s a bigger issue, but if it’s rejection of something you only represent then it should be viewed differently – not taken personally. You’re simply a messenger. This goes for a product you sell or a Gospel you tell. If someone rejects the Gospel they aren’t rejecting you as much as they are God. Let Him deal with rejection. 

If rejection is about you may need to ask yourself bigger questions, such as: Am I too pushy? Do I have a caring approach? Do others genuinely think I care for them? How can I communicate the importance of whatever I’m proposing, without devaluing them or their opinions?  (You may need to get coaching and insight from others if your ideas are constantly rejected because of your approach.) 

Am I the wrong person to present the idea?

Sometimes rejection comes because you’re not an opinion which matters to them. This may sound harsh, but you weren’t called to minister to or lead everyone. A mentor once told me to find my affirmation among the people God sent me to minister to. Great advice. As a church planter, I would have many ideas (ideas dealing with methods, not theology) which were easily rejected by people in established churches. But, they weren’t to whom God had called me to minister. Why should I be bothered by their rejection? 

I’ve learned I’m not always the one to propose something to an audience. I’ve had ideas, for example, which I believe could make our community better. I’ve learned those ideas are often more easily accepted when I can get some seasoned business or community leaders excited about them first. Their opinion often matters more than a pastor who has only been in town a few years. The same is true in the church. Some ideas come better from a volunteer than a paid staff member. 

Is the rejection permanent?

Sometimes people say no – even many times – before they say yes. They have to warm up to the idea. They need to process it in a healthy way. I’ve found these people often become the best supporters, because they have wrestled through their objections first. 

Persistence often makes the difference with great salespeople – and some of the best leaders. No one likes a pest or someone who can only see their ideas as valuable, but don’t be quick to dismiss an opportunity after initial rejection. It may prove to be the best idea ever if you wait. Timing is often everything. 

Is the rejection based on a part or a whole?

This can be huge. Did the rejection have more to do with the overall idea or just some aspect of the idea? This is where you have to learn to ask good questions, know your audience, and be willing to compromise on minor issues and collaborate on major issues. This is where good leadership is necessary. You may have to educate people on what they don’t understand. You may have to allow input to make the idea stronger and more acceptable. If it doesn’t impact your overall goal or mission, be willing to listen, learn and make the final result even better. 

Rejection doesn’t have to mean the end. Instead, it could only be an obstacle and be used to improve things in the end. The best destinations are met with many roadblocks. Standing firm through the rejections are a part of good leadership. 

10 Things Which Drive Me Crazy in Leadership

aaargh!

There are some things in leadership I could honestly say I despise. Ways people behave. Things they do. I should note – not the people involved in them, but the actions.

And, I have probably been guilty of some of these also in my career. But, I hate when I did them as well.

Perhaps you have your own list, but this is mine.

Here are 10 things which drive me crazy in leadership:

Responsibility without authority – If you ask someone to lead something – let them lead. Don’t make them jump through humps, constantly come back to you for approval, or second-guess everything they do.

Small-mindedness – I like big dreams and those who dream them. I’ve never once out-dreamed God. Neither have you.

Naysayers – There is always someone who says it can’t be done, it hasn’t been done this way before, or no one will support your idea. Listen to wisdom, even constructive criticism, but don’t fall for the person who has never met a good idea in their life.

Laziness – Not only is it a sin, if it is allowed to fester it can be contagious or disruptive to an organization. I believe in protecting my Sabbath. I have learned and teach on the need to protect our soul – to rest – but, work is work. And, we there is much work to be done.

Settling – Even if it involves conflict, I want to push for best over mediocre. Settling eventually means no one wins and everything stalls.

Popularity seeking – Leaders who say what they think people want to hear in order to be liked – it drives me nuts. (I’m not even sure these types are technically leaders.)

Power hunger – Leaders who are easily threatened by others or who always try to control others limit people and organizations.

Caution out of fear – Some leaders refuse to take risk. They take the safe route every time – especially when pressure rises against them. Personally, I prefer a bold faith every time.

Bully management – Some leaders get their way from force. They beat people into submission, are never satisfied, or badger people to perform. This has always seemed like cowardly leadership to me.

Passion squelchers – I’ve known leaders who never liked a new idea – unless it was theirs. They prefer to say no to people more than yes. Drives me crazy. Leaders should energize others to realize their dreams, not stifle them.

What are some things you despise in leadership?

7 Leadership Lessons from Kenny Rogers’ Song, The Gambler

card player gambling casino chips

Kenny Rogers made a song famous a quite a few years ago called The Gambler. Perhaps you remember it.

To my knowledge I’ve never really gambled in my life. I’m not even a very good card player, but the song is easy to get stuck in your head. Beyond a catchy tune, the song tells a story of a young man learning as he watched a season gambler.

While I don’t endorse becoming a professional gambler, I do endorse learning from those who have learned from experience.

Every time I hear the song I think there are a few really good leadership lessons in it. Some of these I’ve learned by experience – the hard, but valuable kind of lessons.

Here are 7 leadership lessons from the Gambler:

You got to know when to hold ’em

There are sometimes in leadership when you know you’re right, even when everyone else thinks you’re wrong. In those times, follow your heart, your gut, and the Holy Spirit of God. And, remember, God has not given us a spirit of fear.

Know when to fold ’em

You can’t win every battle. I’ve learned this one the hard way. Sometimes you are better to forfeit your right to control a minor issue so you retain your right to control a major issue. Don’t lose your leadership credibility over an issue of little lasting consequence.

Know when to walk away

There are better people on the team than me to make certain decisions. I have had numerous situations where I was asked to make the final call, but I knew little about the subject. I have often “walked away”, giving over the decision to others on the team. This doesn’t mean I’m void of responsibility, but I believe in my team enough to trust them with authority.

Know when to run

There are times to run away from something and times to run to something. When it comes to issues, such as moral improprieties, get away from them as fast as you can. Avoid the appearance of evil. On issues where you know God has clearly called you to something, run to it fast, by faith, regardless of your fears or reservations.

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table

You do the best you can to plan for a Sunday, an event, or a project. Give it everything you’ve got. Then don’t worry when you get there if the crowd is less than expected. Deliver everything you planned to deliver if the crowd was twice or four times the size. (We saw this principle lived out at a couple of our Easter services this year.)

There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done

There is a time to evaluate. You should always ask what you could have done better. Never settle on a plateau, but keep getting better. The gambler always did. (You know he practiced his poker face in front of a mirror.)

Knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep

Leadership includes a lot of balance. You have to discern good from bad, better from best. You have to choose the right leader for the right position. You have to judge timing for change and know when to spur momentum. It’s often the weighing of options. It often seems “every hands a winner and every hands a loser”.

It’s been several years since I first shared these thoughts. I’ve edited them some and hopefully made them stronger. One comment to the post mentions the idea of a poker face not being necessarily a good leadership trait. And, I agree and disagree to some extent. Certainly authenticity is necessary in good leadership. There were times in business where I wish I had shared out struggles more with people who worked for us. At the same time, the leader has to be able to display calm under pressure. When the leader panics – so panics the team.

Finally, this comment is for legalists in my life: Please understand I’m not endorsing gambling, just using it as a backdrop for a post on leadership. Love ya! 🙂

7 Things I Learned about Leadership from a Poor Management Experience

teacher-ruler

Years ago I was working in retail. I was in college, but serving in a junior management for a large department store. I was responsible for ordering the basic items in my department, making sure we were always in stock with regular sellers. One of those items was a collar extender.

(I don’t know if those are even used anymore, and I never used one personally, but basically it was a metal button extender which hooked the button and extended a new button further – allowing a man to wear a shirt longer as the man grew larger by making the neck bigger. You know you wanted to know this.)

Anyway, we normally kept a couple boxes with 12 extenders in each in stock. When we had sold one box I was to order another box. They weren’t fast sellers, so it didn’t happen often. I noticed one day we were down to our last box, so I placed an order, but instead of ordering one box of 12, I incorrectly order 12 boxes of 12 – which was pretty much enough for a decade of extender sells.

I had made a mistake.

How did “management” handle the issue?

Well, I must admit, it wasn’t by using good leadership principles.

The morning after the arrival of our new case of extenders, a memo was sent to all area managers, in every department, throughout the store. It read something like this:

“From now on, all orders will need to be signed by a supervisor prior to completion.”

I was instantly frustrated, since I knew the memo was a direct response to my mistake. No one had said anything to me. I had not been reprimanded. It was never mentioned otherwise, but now we had a new policy, which affected everyone, because of my one error. (BTW, extenders retailed for $1.25 each back then.)

The new mandate slowed down the progress of everyone, because they now had to wait for approval before they could order basic needs. It was not accepted by other managers, proved to be more of an inconvenience than it was worth and soon no one practiced it at all.

What did this experience teach me?

Weak management never produces the desired result – and is never good leadership.  

How should it have been handled?

In my opinion, I should have been called aside, made aware of my mistake (to let me know they knew), and I be allowed to learn from the experience. If I continued to make the same error, which I never did again, then further action could have been taken.

The incident helped shape some of my leadership.

I should also point out these same managers who taught me this lesson from a negative impact it had on me also taught me many, many positive lessons in leadership and management. I’m drawing from this one, because it was such a valuable learning for me, but I don’t at all mean to devalue their other investment in me as a young leader. 

Here are 7 things I learned about leadership from a poor management experience:

Never send an email (today’s memo) to correct an action.

Address the person. Be relational. Do the hard work of confronting the real problem – even if it involves people. It’s the right thing to do.

Never over-react to a minor issue.

This was not a major expense to the company. Seriously, had they addressed it to me directly – I would have probably volunteered to buy the excess collar extenders rather than see a needless policy implemented. It ended up costing more in opportunity costs as needless work was placed on others, since they added another layer to the ordering process. 

Never make a policy to correct a single error.

Policies should be few and effective. When you use a policy to address broad issues when it’s really a singular issue you burden people with needless bureaucracy, which only stalls efficiency and frustrates people. This is never good leadership.

Never single someone out publicly who hasn’t been talked to privately.

Do I need to explain this one? Seriously. This pretty much goes back to the Golden Rule. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.

Never punish everyone for the mistake of one.

This is so unfair. It builds resentment among people who should consider themselves a team. It pits people against each other.

Never act like it’s not a big deal if you think it’s a big deal.

When my managers talked to me during this incident they acted like everything was wonderful. I recall one even joked with me when I came to work the day the “memo” was released. I felt very betrayed.

Never be so weak as a leader you fail to address the real issue, or the real problem, even if the real problem is a person.

This could be a major determinant of whether someone is really a leader or not. Leaders don’t shy away from the hard conversations. They realize these are necessary for the health of the organization and the individuals involved.

I am certain I have repeated each of these myself at times, but the experience truly did shape my leadership and management practices. The best thing this experience did for me was give me a principle I have used and often shared with other leaders:

If you need to slap a hand, bring a ruler and show up in person.

To use another word – LEAD.  

By the way, if you ever need a collar extender I know where you might can find one.

(In complete transparency, it’s been over 30 years and I don’t remember all the specific details of this incident. But, I know the basics of this story are true and it shaped me greatly. Most leadership principles are born this way.)

7 Vital Steps Prior to Implementing Major Change

businessman stand on road which separate 2 way of change or same.

As a pastor and leader, I am continually dealing with change. Everyday. Change is a part of life – for all of us.

Some change occurs without us doing anything. In my context, we adjust our Easter calendar every year – without much thought of whether we will or not. Sometimes it’s in March – sometimes April. And, there is nothing we do to influence this change. There are lots of other examples of this.

Some change is so routine it requires little thought or preparation by the leader. For example, leaders will move and new leaders will replace them – almost naturally over time. If you’ve been in leadership for very long at all you’ve probably seen dozens of leaders in the organization change.

But, when making major change – change which impacts everyone – change which may be controversial – there are some steps to take before you begin to implement the change. Failing to understand this or do most or all of these, in my experience, could derail the effectiveness of the change.

I am going to share steps I take. You may have a better system in place. If so, please help me learn from you. But, certainly steps must be taken in advance of major change. It’s naive to think otherwise.

Here are 7 steps before implementing major change:

Establish trust authority.

I wrote about this principle HERE. Leaders shouldn’t attempt to implement major change until they have enough trust of the people to solicit the support necessary for the change. You will need people to follow your leadership and this requires an established relationship of trust. Leaders need to be careful not to move until ample trust is in place for the size of the change – and knowing when this is in place takes years of practice and lots of people speaking into the process. This doesn’t mean people will trust, or even like, the change, but it does mean they have trust in the leader.

Personal confidence and conviction.

Check your heart. Have you prayed about it? Do you sense any reason you shouldn’t do it? In my experience, God gives tremendous freedom to us in how we carry out the mission. This is why there are hundreds of styles and structures of churches all carrying out the same Great Commission. But, before you do anything else, make sure you are in this enough to see it through. Would you be willing to fight the naysayers on this one? Are you willing to lose people over it? I’m not saying it will come to this, but it is the level of commitment you need to have before you introduce major change.

Leadership in place.

Make sure you get buy in from those who will most likely end up implementing the change. Personally, I’m seldom willing to move forward if the staff or key volunteers I’ve surrounded myself with don’t believe in the change. There may be times I need to vision cast better and help them see the need, but their support is critical if major change is going to be successful.

Use a focus group.

On major changes, I like to bring in a group of people who are generally supportive of my leadership, but represent all the major groups within the church. I cast the vision for the change, get their feedback and answer questions. Again, they may or may not immediately agree with the change, but I know they will be a respectful audience. I always tell them as a leader, I will have to follow the direction I feel God is leading me, but I value their input in the process of discernment. (And, I genuinely do. Make sure you are open to this as a leader.) This step always makes the change better by their input and helps build a base of support for the change.

Do a stakeholder analysis

I wrote about this concept HERE. I try to know the most interested and influential people in the particular change. We attempt to reach out to them first. Again, this step builds support among influencers and usually further enhances the change with their input and hopefully their support. Many times this group become supporters of the change, or at least they don’t work against it, because they feel included in the process. (Again, leader, make sure you are open to this input. You need people to make any change effective. The more buy-in you get early the more effective you will be.)

Major questions are answered.

(Or a plan to get them answered.) One of my goals is getting as many answers to questions as possible on the table before the change is implemented. We can never anticipate all the questions or scenarios which will arise, but the more we can address them in advance the better prepared we will be to handle them when they do. In each of the groups listed here, I always ask what questions are in the room and what questions they may sense others will have.

Plan a timetable for implementation.

It is impossible to do this perfectly, but having a planned approach to implementing the change makes the change more successful. This needs to be planned, as much as possible, before the change implementation begins. People WILL ask this question. Be realistic with your timetable, but don’t be afraid to let it stretch you either. The best change requires an element of faith.

Those are some of the steps I think through before making major change. As a pastor, I know God has called me to lead a church – with an unchanging mission and message – which will always need to be changing methods as the people we try to reach our changing. Refusing to change simply diminishes our effectiveness and shortens our lifespan as a local church. The more I can do to prepare people for change, the more effective that change can be.

Any steps you would add?

5 Times Change is Hardest to Lead

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Change is hard – almost always. Sometimes change is harder than other times. And, it’s then where leadership is tested most, tensions mount and people are more likely to object.

In my experience, if a leader knows these times it helps prepare to approach the change.

Change is necessary. While change may produce conflict, without change there will also be conflict. When people sit still – when growth stalls – people complain. Therefore, since change is necessary and inevitable, understanding these scenarios before we attempt change may help us lead change better.

Here are 5 times I’ve discovered that change is hardest to accept and implement:

When there hasn’t been change in a very long time.

Change becomes more comfortable when it occurs regularly. When nothing has changed for a period of time, people feel even more uncomfortable and are likely to resist more. Leaders in this scenario should make smaller changes to get small wins to hopefully spur hunger for more change – or at least stretch the comfort level for change again. Ease into it.

When there isn’t a culture of change.

Sometimes people are conditioned against change. Imagine a work environment where everyone wears the same colored pants and shirt every day. Black pants and white shirt uniforms. Remember IBM? I was raised to believe they had “uniforms” of black suits and white shirts. Apparently, they never had a policy of a strict dress code. It just sprang up as culture. Changing the IBM culture took years. When the culture is sameness, leaders often have to address culture before they address change.

When the vision for change isn’t abundantly clear.

This doesn’t mean people will always agree with the change even if it is clear. Some people never agree with change – any change. But, when there doesn’t appear to be a compelling reason for the change, opposition is more likely to occur. Good leaders help people understand the why behind the change as much as possible. It would be better to over communicate than under communicate.

When there isn’t an obvious or capable person to cast the vision and lead the change.

People follow leaders they trust. It is vital when implementing change that a leader be in place who can carry the charge for the change. In cases where there is not a clear person to own the vision of change, I usually back away from the change until the leader is in place.

When the risk seems bigger than the return.

By definition, faith moves us into the unknown. When we can’t discern the return on the risk we are more likely to object. While this needs to be understood, it should also be understood that anything of value requires risk. Obedience to God requires faith. Every time. So the greatest things we can achieve in life will almost always appear to have bigger risk than the return we can see in the beginning. Good leaders challenge people beyond their level of comfort. Leadership is the tension between the comfort of where we are and the potential of where we could be.

Again, none of these are reasons not to change, but understanding these can certainly help us better navigate through change.

What other reasons have you noticed that make change especially difficult?

7 Criteria to be a Good Change Agent Leader

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In my observation, many leaders want change and know they need to lead for change, but they haven’t been able to actually produce change.

I think there are reasons for this.

The process of change isn’t easy. And, it doesn’t happen overnight. Some leaders move too fast. Others move too slow. Plus, not every church, business or non-profit will tolerate change – or at least to the level prescribed by a leader. The leader needs to know when to push and when to leave things alone for a while.

It’s a delicate process leading change. And, the simple fact is, some leaders simply don’t know how to introduce healthy change. (This is not intended as a slam. It’s a reality statement.)

I believe change is necessary for growth. I don’t think everything has to change. Some things never should. But, change, even the hardest kind of change, has to occur if progress towards worthy visions is going to continue to occur.

This post is sort of a gut check for those who want to lead change – attempting to reconcile some of the criteria to be a good change agent leader.

Please understand, I’m not an expert, nor am I claiming to be. I have led lots of change – some successfully and some not so much – but, I’ve worked with dozens of leaders in leading change. And, I’ve there are some characteristics which work better than others.

7 criteria to be a good change agent leader:

A willingness to fail.

Not all change will work. You can strategize and plan, but change at some level involves the risk it may not work. Good change agent leaders know this in advance and are willing to accept the challenge – and not defeated if it doesn’t. They try again in another way.

Able to withstand strong criticism.

Change invites pushback. Change changes things. (That’s deep, isn’t it?) Change is uncomfortable and people will tell you the degree of discomfort they are feeling. Sometimes in passionate – even mean ways. If they don’t tell you they will – with passive aggression – tell others who will eventually tell you. You’ll feel unpopular at times. Rumors may spread about you. Good change agent leaders keep the vision ever before them and are motivated more towards the accomplishment of it than making sure everyone is pleased with them personally.

Constantly evaluate and are willing to adjust their plans accordingly.

You can’t be a good change agent and equally be a control freak. You are leading people through sometimes muddy waters. You’ll need to solicit buy-in from others. You will need to collaborate. You’ll need to process the success rate of the change and recalibrate as needed. You’ll have to delegate – and this means release the right to determine the exact way something is done. Progress towards the goal must be more important than the exact actions taken towards achievement of them.

Must outlast the opponents of change.

When the naysayers show up good change agents are willing to stand strong for that which they believe is worth fighting. It will likely take longer than you hoped it would. At times you’ll feel like quitting, but good change agent leaders stand the test of time.

Think bigger than today.

Change is always going somewhere new. Always. So change agent leaders have to be able to think about the options which aren’t currently on the table. You’ve got to think beyond now and even beyond the most immediate future. You have to look for what others can’t see, choose not to or are afraid to see (or admit).

Must challenge status quo.

This the kicker, isn’t it? Change agent leaders have to go against the way things are being done and the way things have always been done. We are talking about change. Get it? Change. This means something is changing. (Oh, such a deep post.) You have to move people from the center on which they’ve grounded themselves. This is never comfortable. But, good change agent leaders are willing the challenge what has become standard or traditional in people’s minds.

Need to work within a DNA conducive to change.

Here’s another kicker – and this one has more to do with the organization or people receiving the change than the leader implementing change. Every church and every organization in which you are called to bring change isn’t wired for change. The fact is some of those said churches and organizations are going to die – they’ll stall – perhaps for long periods, but they’ll eventually just fade away. And, nothing you can say or do will encourage otherwise. In the end, you can’t lead people where they don’t want to go. The sooner you can learn this fact the quicker you can try to be a good change agent where change may actually occur.

Well, those are some hard realizations. I’ve studied and observed them by working with dozens of churches, businesses and non-profits and in the organizations and churches in which I have led. And, most of all, I’ve seen them true in my personal journey as a leader.

I should note, I believe we can grow in leaders in these characteristics. Of course, the last one we can’t do a lot about – but, even there, I’ve learned some places where others have said change couldn’t or wouldn’t occur haven’t always proven to be true. Sometimes the answer to making better changes is simply we must become better leaders. 

What have you seen as necessary criteria to be a good change agent?

7 Dangers of Prideful Leadership

Proud

I have frequently preached on the danger of pride.

If you follow this blog, you know I tend to think a great deal about leadership. I have a heart for developing good leadership in the church and in ministry. As I wrestle through this particular Biblical subject, I always think about places I see pride creep into leadership – even my own leadership. If we are not careful, our attempt at good leadership will be derailed by the pride of our hearts.

Remember, “Pride goes before destruction”. (Proverbs 16:18)

Have you ever known (or been) a proud leader?

Here are 7 dangers of prideful leadership:

Refusing to listen to advice from others – Proud leaders “know it all”. Of course, not really, but it’s often their perception of reality. Pride causes people to want you to believe they know more than they actually do. Sadly, their attempt to perpetuate the perception of superiority causes them to ignore the wisdom of others.

Making excuses for mistakes – Proud leaders refuse to admit their errors. They scoff at any insinuation a mistake was theirs and refuse ownership of the team’s failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when goals aren’t reached, mistakes are made or momentum stalls. They don’t learn from times of failure – they try to hide them.

Protecting position at any cost – Proud leaders try to keep others from gaining power or influence. They limit people’s exposure and stifle leadership development. They tend to curtail information and keep power within an arms length of their control.

Taking complete credit for a team’s success – There is only one clear winner on a proud leader’s team…the proud leader. Proud leaders take the microphone first. They have their name on every award. They keep the prime, attention-gaining assignments for themselves. They make sure they are in the “right place at the right time”, so no one steals their potential for applause.

Failing to see personal shortcomings – The proud leader becomes immune to his or her own deficiencies. Pride keeps him or her from getting honest about their weaknesses with anyone, including themselves. Proud leaders are careful to present themselves as flawless, whether in personal appearance or job performance. They may go to extreme measures to cover up any hint of an insufficiency.

Solicit grandstanding on their behalf – You’ll know about a proud leader’s accomplishment. They’ll be the first to start the cheers on their behalf. Proud leaders say things which promote the receiving of positive encouragement or feedback. They’ve been known to stage things so it doesn’t look like they initiated the recognition.

Removing God from the supreme position – of course, God is supreme- regardless of the leader, but the ultimate danger of a leader struggling with pride is their attempt to remove God from His seat of control. Proud leaders refuse to submit to the will of God, preferring to chart their own path.

What other dangers have you seen in proud leaders?

Be honest – with yourself and God – do you see yourself struggling in any of these areas? Is pride an issue for you?

Remember, “Pride goes before destruction”.

7 Excuses I’ve Heard for Not Leading Well

exhausted man

In working with other churches and ministries, and in my experience in the business world, it seems we are desperate for good leadership. Organizations and teams thrive on good leadership.

As much as we need good leaders, it seems whenever I meet a leader struggling in their role, rather than admit it could be them, often I only hear excuses. It must be easier to pass blame than to own the problem as our own.

And, in full disclosure, I’ve probably been as guilty as anyone at times in my leadership career.

The excuses, however, are fairly common.

Here are 7 excuses I’ve heard – or used – for not leading well:

I don’t know how.

With each new season in leadership there will be a learning curve. If you’re leading, then your introducing change – you’re taking people somewhere they haven’t been before. This means there will be lots of unknowns in your world for a while. But, don’t use this as an excuse. Learn. Take a course. Get a mentor. Read some books. Ask better questions. Grow as a leader.

I can’t get people to follow my lead.

Well, we may have to check our leadership definition, but don’t give up. If God has called you to this – discover how to motivate people. Most people will follow someone if you’re taking them somewhere they need to go, but aren’t sure how to get there. Make sure you have a vision worth following, learn to communicate well and do all you can to help people attain it. In terms of communicating well – I often tell pastors – you’re best “sermon” may be the one you give to motivate people towards the change or vision. Early in my leadership career I participated in an organization called Toastmasters to help train as a communicator. 

I can’t keep up!

This can be a legitimate excuse at times – leadership can be overwhelming with the amount of change in our world, but we shouldn’t let it remain this way. Leaders have to learn to pace themselves. You have to surround yourself with others who can help carry the load. You can’t try to do everything or control every outcome. Learn delegation. And, don’t try to change everything at once. My rule of thumb is to be working on no more than 3 major changes at a time. This requires patience, because I may see 100 things which need to change. The only thing which works well though when I try to do too much at one time is I get to add to my excuses for not leading well. 

No one taught me how to lead.

And, that’s probably true. I have found many leaders are terrible at reproducing leaders. We don’t apprentice well. So, what are you going to do about it? Leaders find solutions to problems. They don’t let problems become the excuse. Learn from experience. It’s the best teacher anyway. Learn from trying. Learn from watching others. Just learn. It’s never too late to learn something new.

Times have changed.

This is true also. Times have changed. Cultures have changed. The workforce has changed. And, they will keep changing – fast! Good leaders adapt accordingly. They discover new approaches. They don’t make excuses.

It’s my team – I don’t have the right team.

Well, instead of using it as an excuse, you have a few options. Make them a better leader. Get a new team. Or, keep making excuses.

I’m burnout!

This excuse can be real also. It happens to all of us at times. But, don’t settle for this one. Get help. Heal. Rest. Renew. Regroup. Get healthier so you can lead again. Sometimes stopping for a while is your best answer – even amidst the busiest times. 

Honestly, I’m not trying to be sarcastic, arrogant, or unsympathetic. I realize each of these deserve their own post. I really do believe, however, good leadership is mostly finding a worthy vision, recruiting the right people and discovering ways to help people get there. And, we get better the more we practice.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring a spiritual aspect into this – I am a pastor. My best leadership book is the Bible. My best leader example is Jesus. And, I have learned when I am being obedient to Him I lead better naturally. It doesn’t mean everything falls into place beautifully – it does mean I have all I need to lead – even when everything around me is a mess. 

Seriously, look over the list again. Are there any of them that can’t be overcome with a little determination?

Let’s stop the excuses and make better leaders!