10 Traits to Identify Potential New Servant Leaders

Team in the office. Asian businesswoman standing in the foreground smiling, her team of co-workers in the background

One of the most important tasks of a leader is to identify potential new leaders. If a church or organization is to grow, finding new leaders is critical. 

Equally vital is the quality of leaders being discovered. Good leaders learn to look for qualities in people which are conducive to good leadership. If you want to have a culture which reproduces leaders, read THIS POST first.

But, where do you find these people who can be future servant leaders?

I find it helps to look for certain qualities, which all good leaders need or qualities which, consistently over time, seem to make good leaders. Of course, in context of the church, the Bible gives us clear guidance in selecting senior leaders (who will hopefully also be servants). But, my church is always in need of new servant leaders – from the parking lot to the hallways every Sunday. Where do we find a continual pool of new leaders?

The following are traits I look for in leaders I hope to develop or with whom I want to work.

Here are 10 valuable traits when looking for new servant leaders:

Concern/Love for others – You can’t lead people effectively if you don’t genuinely love people. I’ve seen people in positions who have great power, but they don’t appear to love others. These leaders often produce followers – if only seeking a paycheck – but they never reproduce leaders.

Not a complainer – Candidly speaking, leadership encounters complainers regardless of what we do. I certainly don’t want to add complainers to my team of leaders. A positive attitude will get my attention every time.

Teachable and open to suggestions – A person who thinks they have all the answers will repel other leaders. People with no desire to keep learning rarely find their place on my team of leaders.

Excellence in following – This is a biggie for me. I try to follow people I lead, because there are times they know more than I do. Many times. Someone who isn’t willing to follow is seldom ready to lead. I look for a servant attitude – willing to do what needs to be done for the benefit of others. 

Reliability – Leadership is about trust, and trust is developed over time and consistency by doing what you said you would do. I look for people with this quality.

Interest – The people with a burning passion for the church or organization often make great leaders. You can train someone to lead others, but you can’t easily train them to have interest.

Good character – Character counts. Not perfection. Not flawless. But, good character is necessary to be trusted on a team. Integrity. Honesty. A humble desire to always be improving as a person – this kind of character.

Potential – God always saw potential in others they themselves couldn’t see. I try to have eyes to see potential in others.

Confidence – Leaders have to move forward when others are ready to retreat. This takes confidence. Not being prideful, but a genuine willingness to lead through the hard times – to do what others aren’t willing to do.

People skills – This goes without saying, but you can’t lead people if you can’t communicate with people. You don’t have to be the life of the party (I’m a strong Introvert), but you do have to be able to engage people and make them feel a part of things.

Well, those are some traits I look for in potential leaders.

Do you have other traits you look for in recruiting leaders?

5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

Mature man cupping hand behind ear

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

I have personally made this mistake many times. We assume what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Wrong.

Wow! Time has proven this repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully – many times – they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

This can be frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful! If the organization is limited to my abilities it is going to be very limited. (Duh!)

So, if you recognize the need and want to lead people who are different from you – and you should – you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led.

I’m just being candid here – frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would such an environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term much, because I think better leadership is a we – but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person – even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions.

Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

This is huge. I want to know, as best as I can – not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input.

This probably should have come first, but this is – honestly – more of a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep soft drinks in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns. I used to keep candy, but then health insurance became tricky.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought.

Here I am referring to the DNA – the culture – for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders which encourages people to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

3 Inexpensive Ways to Develop as a Leader

power meeting from above

I was meeting with a young pastor who wants to grow as a leader. He lives in small town. He is young, but his staff is even younger. There are not a lot of seasoned leaders in his church – or at least he not discovered any. (I usually think there are leaders who simply haven’t been tapped, but I understood his dilemma.)

The church looks to him to lead and, wisely, he knows he needs to develop his leadership skills.

His question was simple.

Who invests in me?

He recognizes the need to grow as a leader, but he’s not sure where to find it. His church is in a recovery mode financially, so he doesn’t feel he can afford (or doesn’t think it can) to send him to conferences or hire a coach.

(Side note – when I reached my new church we were in a very difficult financial condition. Budgets had been cut, but in my opinion – we had cut some things we shouldn’t have cut – such as marketing and staff development. But, I understand this is a natural reaction in difficult times – especially in the church. Churches notoriously will keep people on payroll who shouldn’t be and cut funding for items which would actually fuel growth. But, that’s another blog post.)

So, what could my pastor friend do? How can he develop as a leader inexpensively – maybe even free?

Here are 3 suggestions I gave him:

Form a peer leadership group

There are people in the community who own small businesses. They meet a payroll. They have guided an organization to success. Even in the smallest communities, someone owns (or manages) the local grocery store or serves as the bank brach manager. For a group like this, I like to keep it relatively small, no more than 12, and 6 might even be a better number.

The group would share stories, talk about experiences, and learn from each other. You’ll have to spend time getting to know each other and developing trust, but it will be mutually beneficial. I have had such groups numerous times in my career. These groups are usually comprised of believers – although not professional ministers. In these meetings I’m trying to learn leadership and management practices – not theology.

Start a book club

Recruit leaders in the community to read a leadership book together. These can be mid-level managers or senior executives. The learning is from the book being studied and the reflection of the group based on personal experiences. In this type group, the size can be as any size between 2 and 25 people. The larger groups often provide the broader range of perspective.

The only cost is the book. Everyone buys their own. You can assign one person to lead each session. They guide discussion on what they learned from the book in that chapter or section and open the group for discussion. With a good enough book – people will discuss, and the learning experience is rich. For this group, you might use a Christian leadership book (such as a John Maxwell book), but I wouldn’t limit the group to believers only – or even dictate a Christian book. It’s a great way to interact with the community in a non-threatening way, while gaining valuable leadership and management insights.

Ask a community leader to mentor you

There are leaders in every community (usually multiple leaders) who are further along than you are in the process of leadership. There will always be leaders in the community from whom you can learn. Always. While some may disagree with me, this usually is a believer for me, but doesn’t have to be. I want them to be honest, moral and have a good reputation, but knowing in advance their specific walk with Christ is not a prerequisite for this type mentor. (I have multiples in my life, depending on the need.) Again, I’m seeking development in the areas of leadership and management – and, I think my presence with them actually influences them for good. I have other spiritual mentors.

You don’t have to live in a large town or spend a lot of money to develop as a leader. You simply have to possess a desire to grow and be intentional.

What you’re looking for is people skills – how to handle conflict – how to delegate and how to motivate and cast a vision. You can learn those things hearing from other leaders’ experiences. Leadership development doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is to be intentional.

Do my suggestions trigger others you have?

Making Decisions versus Finding Solutions

easy hard

I once worked with a pastor on a leadership issue, which was causing harm to the church. The pastor wanted me to help him think through how to address the issue. It was a personnel issue – which are always the hardest.

One of the staff members was considered a lousy team player by the rest of the staff. He was lazy, divisive, and disrespectful to the senior pastor. He really didn’t add a lot of value to the team – mostly because he had checked out years earlier. He wasn’t happy, but too comfortable in his position (and pay) to go elsewhere.

I was asked to help the church find a solution to the dilemma. 

Just based on what you know so far it seems like an easy decision to make. If I were simply encouraging them to do the right thing – he needs to go, because of the flippancy he’s shown towards his work and leadership.

But, life and leadership are seldom this easy – are they?

Of course, you could almost see it coming – he was extremely popular with the people in the church. They loved him. They loved his family. They had watched his children grow up and now the children were also very popular in the church. There was hardly a family not connected to them in some way. On Sundays – and Wednesdays – there was not a more well known or more respected staff member. (Churches notoriously struggle with this type personnel issue.) 

The problem was there are 7 days in a week – not just two.

The pastor and key leadership realized a change needs to occur. He had been counseled and threatened with his job numerous times – over a course of years, but he knew he was popular. He knew there could be huge ramifications by dismissing him and, therefore, he refused to change. He was, according to the pastor, even arrogant about his job security at times. The pastor, who had been at the church less time than the other staff member – and very much still gaining the trust of the church – felt he may never recover from letting him go.

It was a reminder of an important principle in leadership.

Making a decision is often easy, but the solution can often be hard to find.

As I analyzed the situation, I saw three options on the table. One, the senior pastor could fire this staff member – and live with the consequences. Two, the pastor could quit – life is short. This situation is making his life misearable and he could simply begin again elsewhere. Or, three, the pastor could simply learn to live with the problem. Perhaps in time he will have enough trust developed to do something about the problem. 

There – easy enough, isn’t it? I had done my job – provided a clear path for a decision to be made. Pastor, choose the one which seems best to you. Make a decision. You could even draw numbers out of a hat for one if you can’t decide. (One for fire, two for quit, and three for live with it.) 

But, again, finding the solution to a problem is much more difficult than picking numbers out of a hat. Answers may appear easy, but finding a solution is a more delicate process.

Finding the solution involves making hard decisions and dealing with hard consequences. It could be either of the three easy answers, but a solution is bigger than making a decision. To be a solution it would involve the follow through, clean-up, and the working of the situation for the ultimate good of the church. This is the hard, messy, difficult work of leadership. Sometimes we hope if we talk to enough people there will be some easy answer out there, which is also the solution. This is seldom the case.

There really were only three options, in my opinion, towards finding a solution – the three I mentioned. Oh, there are tons of scenarios within each one, but ultimately it will come to one of these three. And, I didn’t feel I could make the decision for this pastor. He would have to live with the consequences. So the solution would have to be his to own.

And, I think the pastor already knew what he had to do. The question was – would he make a decision (and doing nothing is making a decision) – or would he solve the problem.

Making decisions – Easy
Finding solutions – Much more difficult.

Great leaders don’t simply make decisions – they find solutions.


7 Suggestions When the Team is Stalled and Struggling for a Win

A man calling for help to repair a stalled car

I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. It could be a pastor, a ministry or non-profit leader, or a businessperson.

I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like this many times. Every team experiences times of decline. They are often seasons.

What you do next – when these seasons come – almost always determines how long they last and how well you recover.

First, I should say, every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Don’t take principles or suggestions – even these I’m sharing here – and think they are like a magic pill.

Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone from a paid consultant to trading a friend a favor who leads another team. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.

With those disclaimers in mind, I can offer a few suggestions to shape your current thoughts.

What do you do when your team is stalled or struggling for a win?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Admit it

Pretending there isn’t a problem will only make things worse and delay making things better. Most likely everyone on the team and in the organization knows there is a problem. Again, this is where the leader must be humble enough and wise enough to recognize and admit the problem.

(I realize the next question is “What do I do when the leader isn’t this wise or humble?” This would be the focus of another post, but hopefully this post will help. Perhaps you should email it to them.)

Recast vision

People need reminding why they are doing what they are doing. You would think they know – and they might – but, all of us need reminding periodically. You should have a vision big enough to fuel people’s energy towards achieving it. If you don’t have one, spend time there first.

If you already do – and most teams do – now is the time to tell it. Again. Frequently. (For my pastor friends, you have a vision given to you – we know it – we just sometimes get distracted by other things. Tradition. Programs. Systems. Stuff.) The why behind what you’re doing should always be the fuel for what we do.

Evaluate

Times we’ve stalled are also good opportunities to ask hard questions? What is going wrong? Who is not working out on the team? Where have we lost our way? Where are we stuck? How did we lose our way? What are we missing? This is a great place to bring in some outside perspective if needed. But, I have learned often the answers are in the room if we ask the right questions. The less you try to protect personal agendas here the greater chance you’ll have of recovery.

Introduce change

You need to try something new. Growth never happens without change. Perhaps you need several somethings new. We tend to hold on even more to our traditions and what has worked in the past in times of stalling, but now is not the time to resist doing something different. Obviously, what you’ve been doing isn’t working – which is the point of the post.

Take another risk – as scary as it is. Explore again. Be intentional and make sure the changes line with the vision, but encourage movement. Movement often spurs momentum. Especially new movement.

Fuel potential

There are usually areas which are working and areas which are not. If no areas are working, you may be looking for different answers than this post can provide. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is working when you are clouded by what isn’t working, but you must try.

Again, outside perspectives can sometimes work here too. You don’t even always have to pay for this. We’ve often asked people to come in and evaluate our Sunday services, for example. They attend other churches. They are friends. They don’t charge us.

Often these are things the team is known for or things which are fairly new but are working. Wherever there is a spark of any kind, you must fuel it. This is usually the best place to spur more momentum quickly. Maybe you need to build upon something you’ve taken for granted. In church revitalization I use the term “rediscover – don’t reinvent”. Therefore, build upon the things which are working currently.

Celebrate small wins

When you have something to celebrate, make a big deal out of it. A really big deal. Put your party hat on now! Seriously, don’t go overboard over something people will quickly dismiss as nothing, but if you are seeing any signs of hope, share it. People need the energy of something going well to keep pushing forward for even more success.

Encourage one another

As a final thought, remember, the hard times as a team can actually help build your team for long-term success. Consequently, allow this to be a time you grow together as a team, figure out this together, and help the team to grow and succeed again. Pray for and with each other. Cheer each other on daily! You can do it!

Have you been a part of a turnaround team? What helped?

10 Strong Opinions I Have About Meetings

Office life: business team during a meeting

I have lots of meetings in my world. Over the years of business, non-profit leadership, elected office, and ministry, I’ve probably attended several thousand meetings. Along the way, I’ve developed some strong opinions.

I thought I’d share a few.

Here are 10 strong opinions I have about meetings:

If all the decisions are already determined – don’t call a meeting – send me an email. Don’t waste my time.

If you’re meeting at a time when people are naturally hungry – feed us. And, pay for it.

If we don’t have an agenda – if it’s simply on the calenda, but there is really nothing to discuss – well, I don’t mean to seem rude, but what are we doing here?

If every new idea is going to be shot down – would skeet-shooting be a better use of our time?

If we keep doing this the same way every time, won’t someone  – someone like me – eventually get bored.

If we are only going to talk about it – but never really do anything about it – isn’t this really just a social event?

If one person dominates all the conversation – let’s skip the meeting and schedule a speech.

If everyone is invited – nothing is getting accomplished today – let’s have a party.

If it’s past time for most people to go home – let’s postpone – you’ve lost our full attention.

If no one is taking notes – will we even remember any of this tomorrow?

Just a few of my thoughts about meetings. I’m not opposed to them at all. I think they are vital to healthy  organizations. Let’s just keep getting better at them. 

Do you have yours?

7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar

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The leader sets the bar for the organization.

If you are a leader of an organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.

I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar. Period. He is our standard. But, it would be foolish to ignore the fact God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things which happen in the church.

A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?

Here are 7 ways the leader sets the bar:

Vision casting – The God-given vision to the people is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.

Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out His standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.

Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.

Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.

Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.

Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader who stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.

Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.

Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.

Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.

7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to a Team

Value

One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed. While I agree with him on some levels – even though I’m not quite sure it’s a healthy demonstration for building team morale – I think there are ways a person can make themselves more valuable to a team.

Perhaps, even invaluable.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team. Be a cheerleader – positive-minded – willing to do whatever it takes to build upon what exists.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player. Have more good to say about the place than you have bad. Everything might not be wonderful – in fact many things may need changing – but, if you can’t love the people with whom you work you’ll have a hard time being seen as valuable by others.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team – be respectful. Recognize everyone is not like you. People like different things. People respond differently than you would respond. Other people’s opinions and viewpoints matter.

Give more than required. This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious – of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy – of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

7 Actions Which Limit Leadership Success

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My heart is for leaders. I have been in leadership roles for over three decades now. I’ve led large and small teams. Through my ministry I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders. A mentor of mine always reminds me the success of whatever is being led always reflects back to leadership.

I guess this is why I continue to share what I believer are simple principles – but often a simple idea is powerful in practice. And, it’s easier for me to think logically in lists.

Do you want to be successful as a leader? Of course, anyone who leads has this as a goal. There are some actions which can limit you.

Here are 7 issues which limit your success as a leader:

Trying to plan every detail – Ecclesiastes says you won’t plant if you watch the wind. Risk is always necessary for meaningful success. Is there something you feel certain you need to do – or there is a passion on your heart – but, for whatever reason you’ve not taken the risk? Leadership by definition involves guiding people into an unknown.

Lack of flexibility – Things change. People change. Times change. Have a great worthy, God-honoring vision – make sure it’s grounded in truth and don’t steer from it – but realize the road to accomplish it may change many times along the way. And, changing the method – admitting the way you always led things – to be more successful is not a bad reflection on leadership. In fact, it’s a characteristic of good leadership. What changes do you currently need to encourage?

Shunning or controlling other people – You can’t do it alone. You don’t have the corner on ideas. You need help. One of the default actions of leaders is to isolate themselves and/or to control the actions of others. Many times this is out of fear, lack of trust, or sometimes even pride. But, leadership involves knowing people. It involves utilizing the knowledge, skills and talents of others – actually people better equipped to do some things than you are. Who on your team is just waiting for you to get to know them, believe in them and let them go?

Holding on to a grudge or attempting to get even – There’s no time for it. The wasted energy of an unforgiving spirit slows you down from meaningful achievement. When people feel you are placing them in the proverbial corner because of something they did or didn’t do they become defensive, bitter, or checkout from trying again. Does this sound like a healthy plan for a team? I’ve learned over the years – leaders should be willing to go first in extending grace if they want to have a healthy team atmosphere.

Worrying more than trusting by faith – The unknown brings doubt. And, leadership is full of it. There will rarely be a major decision where you a hundred percent certain it’s the right decision. When God appears silent as to the next course of action you have to go with your experience, your gut, and the wisdom of others. Faith goes without seeing. Take your pick between worry or faith – but you can’t pick both. In my journey it seems many times God has given me freedom to move and it’s my own fear which keeps me from going forward. Peace often comes through obedience.

Being stingy with your time, money or influence – The more you try to control what you hold in your hand – the stingier your heart becomes. Stingy hearts are burdened by unnecessary distractions. (The one who loved money is never satisfied with his wealth. Ecclesiastes 5:10) Why is this in a leadership post? Because leadership at it’s heart should be improving the lives of others – not just the leader’s life. The real success in leadership will ultimately be measured by how you blessed others with how you led.

Having to do things “your way” – You got into the leadership position – most likely – because you knew how to do some things. But, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to depend on the input of others. When you limit the input of others you rob the team of expanded imagination and you discourage potential leaders from rising. Success flourishes in collaboration.

Are one of these keeping you from accomplishing all you could?

7 Pitfalls of Leadership Which Can Derail a Leader

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We all know the stories of the once successful pastor or leader who flamed out too soon. It could be a moral failure or burnout, but they somewhere they got off track and had a hard time regaining traction. So sad.

In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps which get in the way of a leader’s long-term success. I call them pitfalls.

Often, also in my experience, if we know the potential dangers we have a better chance of addressing them – and, hopefully even avoiding them.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:

Pride

When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers – watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.

Passiveness

I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days – okay, most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails – and eventually it will bite them. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Isolation

A leader who removes his or herself too much from people doing the actual work, who aren’t visible to their team, or who don’t bond well with them never gains significant influence. Even worse, they are more vulnerable to failing personally, as well. The enemy loves busyness, but also isolation – sin festers in absence of accountability. Plus, at every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.

Loneliness

Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.

Boredom

I have often said boredom is one of the leading causes of marital failure. It’s true in leadership also. Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored – and boredom can be dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.

Success

Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! These leaders are soon fighting for the success “fix” again – and often make tremendous errors in the process. Great leaders are always cognizant the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow – so they keep working on developing themselves, their team, and the organization.

Elitism

When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow – they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable. There are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader – and, the reason they feel this way is because it’s probably true in some situations where they have more expertise. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead. In fact, the best leaders I know purposefully surround themselves with smarter people.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?