Warning: Don’t Be the Senior Leader Unless…

Warning

Here’s a warning:

Don’t Agree to Be the Senior Leader Unless…

You are ready to lead alone at times…or at least feel like you are.

You aren’t striving for popularity, knowing that every decision you make is unpopular to someone.

You can make the hard decisions, even the ones involving people or conflict.

You will try to see all sides of an issue.

You are comfortable with change and thinking outside the box.

You are okay when others receiving credit; even for something you initiated.

You can delegate leadership…and truly empower others, believing things are better when other people help make decisions.

You don’t let criticism derail you for long, but stay committed to the task before you.

You can think beyond today and help others join you by casting an engaging vision.

You highly value people and their contributions.

And _________?

Senior leaders…share yours.

Do You Lead or Control People?

controlling leader

In my years leading in business and churches, I have known many people who claim to be leaders, but they are actually nothing more than controllers of people. There is a huge difference in leading and controlling.

In fact, the differences are almost exact opposites:

Here are some characteristics of environments that lead people:

  • Creativity is encouraged and mistakes are seen as part of the process
  • People are developed more than programs
  • Healthy relationships and teams are part of the DNA
  • Delegation thrives and people are empowered
  • Everyone has value on a team
  • People follow willingly, because they feel respected and valued
  • Leadership development is part of the DNA

Here are some characteristics of controlling people:

  • Personal growth is stifled
  • Creativity and independent thought is discouraged
  • Followers are kept as a distance from leaders
  • Leaders insist on their way and are never wrong
  • People are taken for granted
  • Positions and policies rule more than relationships
  • People are employees more than team members

Apparently, to some leaders, it appears easier to simply make people do what the leader wants them to do. By force. I’ve had bosses like that. Making people carry out your agenda simplifies things…it seems. But, that’s not really leadership.

Leadership is more of an art than that. Leading people effectively means helping people with different skills, talents and interests, even ideas and temperaments in a way that makes them feel valued and yet accomplishes the established vision and goals.

That’s not easy. That’s not even always fun. But, it certainly is truer of leadership. The fact is you can’t truly lead people and control people. The two don’t work well together.

Have you ever worked for a controller?

Be honest with yourself, are you leading people, or do you claim to be a leader, but you are really a controlling people?

Something I’ve Learned as a Senior Leader

Money Worries

I was talking with a young pastor recently who is having to make some hard decisions in his church. He’s praying, seeking wisdom from other pastors and leaders, allowing input from the church. He feels confident he is making the right decisions for the life of the church at this time. None of the changes are clearly addressed in Scripture. He feels. Majority of the people support him, but still, he’s got some who continually question the decisions he makes.

It reminds me of one thing I’ve learned about leadership.

Not everyone will understand all the decisions a leader makes unless they sat where the leader sits.

The leader can explain. And, he or she should try. The leader can walk with them through the decision. And, he or she should. The leader can listen to the objections. And, he or she should.

But, there will be times when the leader has to make decisions based on the information available. the leader must consider all aspects of the decision, how it impacts every person (not just a few), every ministry, and how it helps accomplish the vision for the future of which he or she feels charged to lead.

And, not everyone will understand.

That principle is equally true for…

Pastors

Business owners

Parents

Elected officials

Teachers

A friend of mine uses the term “second chairitis“. It’s similar to “back seat driver”. Basically it means it’s natural to question the actions of a leader, when you aren’t carrying the full weight of the team. The “outside looking in” view isn’t always the clearest view.

For the leader, I would encourage you as I did the pastor I reference above:

  • Make sure you are obedient to God and His word.
  • Make sure you are seeking wise counsel.
  • Make sure you are open to correction.
  • Make sure you are leading with integrity, in your public and personal life.
  • Make sure you allow people you trust to speak into your life.
  • Make sure you stay true to the vision.
  • Make sure you consider the interest of others, even more than your own.
  • Make sure you develop methods to measure progress.

Then make decisions…the best decisions you can, based on the information you have, realizing in advance that not everyone will always understand. Hopefully, someday they’ll look back and realize you were making good decisions, even when they couldn’t understand. Sometimes you’ll look back and realize you made the wrong decisions. Admit those times. They are like gold for your future leadership decision making.

But, leaders aren’t called to be popular. They are called to lead.

So lead!

Have you ever had to make decisions others couldn’t immediately understand?

Are You Ready to be a Leader?

Elegant leader

I had a young man ask me recently, “Do you think I’m ready to be a leader?”

I said:

Great question. Glad you’re asking.. But, honestly, I don’t know that I’m the one to answer.

It might help if I ask you some questions:

Are you ready to stand alone at times?

Are you ready to push through fear?

Are you ready to do the right thing even when it’s the unpopular thing?

Are you ready to be misunderstood sometimes…okay…many times?

Are you ready to sacrifice for your team?

Are you ready to see things others may not yet be able to see?

Are you ready to enter the unknown…first?

Are you ready to keep confidences?

Are you ready to delegate?

Are you ready to see all sides of an issue?

Are you ready to sometimes feel like the weight of a vision is on your shoulders?

Are you ready to face conflict?

Are you ready to have your integrity closely observed by your followers?

Are you ready to receive criticism?

Are you ready to defend your team?

How’d your answers go?

Are you ready to be a leader?

As a Leader of Leaders…

female leader

I often get asked, what’s the difference is between leading leaders and leading followers. Great question. It really is a paradigm of leading. It’s really in how you lead.

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out” a lot…

I often “didn’t know about that” until a decision is made, but you won’t hear me say that…because I support my team’s ability to make decisions…

I encourage learning from someone besides me…

I let people make mistakes…

I try to steer discussion more than have answers…

I believe in more dreams than my own…

I say “we” more than I say “me”…(except in this post)

I strive to empower more than I control…

I’m not afraid of being challenged by those on my team…

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision…

Do you lead leaders? What would you add?

An Example of Leading Under Pressure (Or not)

Woman expression frazzled

I had a great illustration of leading under pressure recently.

Or, to be more honest, the need to do so.

I met a friend at a local restaurant for breakfast. The place is normally busy and this seemed like a typical day, but the obvious leader (person in charge) was in stress mode. Apparently, several of her employees hadn’t shown up for work that day. Well, not, apparently, she made that quite clear as she complained rather loudly throughout our visit.

Suddenly the place was swamped, which is not an unusual happening for this restaurant, and the young girl running the cash register was overwhelmed. She had to ask for help a couple of times. She was probably sorry she did…both times. She was making mistakes, but she seemed to make more the more agitated her boss became. Her boss continually “barked” back half answers, displayed constant frustration, and grumbled excuses about the lack of manpower. She never apologized. She just complained. Several customers displayed their equal frustrations. My friend and I wondered how we could best help, but, honestly I was afraid of her. 🙂 We stayed, tried to be nice and patient, but leaving almost seemed the more helpful option.

I know firsthand the pressure of leading under stress. I’ve been there many times where it seems everything is going wrong at the same time. Honestly, however, from an outside perspective, the employee on the cash register would have performed better, less mistakes would have been made, customers would have been less tense and the overall environment would have improved, had the boss simply led through the moment, rather than overreacted.

It reminded me of an important leadership principle.

The way a leader reacts under pressure, determines how a team reacts under pressure.

If the leader remains calm under pressure. Keeps smiling. Pushes forward the best he or she can.

The team will likely remain calm. Keep smiling and push forward the best he or she can.

If the leader panics…everyone panics.

The role of a leader in times of stress may be more important than when times are good.

Leading in good times is easy (easier). When the world is stretched…when we are under-staffed, under-funded, overwhelmed, that’s when we most need leadership.

Here is your chance to help other leaders. Do you have any tips for remaining calm under pressure?

4 Ways a Leader Becomes Controlling

Manager and  joypad

One of the most dangerous forms of leadership, and one of the most frustrating, in my opinion, is the controlling leader. I have worked closely with a controlling leader, so I guess I may me sensitive to the issue. I’ve written about this issue previously, including:

7 Suggestions for Confronting a Controlling Leader

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

And others.

Under a controlling leader’s watch, leadership development is virtually non-existent. Pride is rampant. Ideas are squashed. Momentum is curtailed. It never works well.

A friend of mine and I were discussing this issue recently. His boss is a controlling leader. It has led to burnout for my friend and caused him to start putting his resume out. He’s done. Can’t take it anymore. Knowing this young leader, I realize the business is going to suffer because the leader can’t let go of the reigns. As an outsider, it appears they will be losing a quality person if they lose my friend. At this point in the life of the business, it will be a devastating blow.

In the conversation, my friend asked an important question. “How does one become a controlling leader?”

Good question. I don’t know that I can answer for every controlling leader, (My aim has never been to speak for that group), but I have some theories.

Here are 4 suggestions:

Faith – Actually, the lack thereof. Typically, this leader doesn’t trust anyone except him or herself to do the job. They are afraid to release the vision to others. In terms of the church, our vision is shaped by Christ, and the ministry leader who struggles with their faith will always default to trying to make things happen on his or her own.

Failure – This leader has witnessed failure; either personally or in the lives of others. They are now leery of things going wrong and so they refuse to let anyone else take charge. Controlling appears to be the “safer” option.

Fanfare – These leaders thrive on attention they receive from the limelight. They want the power, prestige and privileges that come with leadership, so they shut down anyone else who may appear to be easing into a position of influence.

Fear – These controlling leaders always believe the sky is falling. They see the glass as “half empty” and don’t want to take too many risks or chances. When everything is under their control they feel a sense of security.

I don’t know that any of us can answer this question as it applies to every leader, but these are some theories I’d suggest.

Have you ever worked with a controlling leader? Anything you’d add to my list?

I believe in challenging leaders, so here goes. Leader, do you have controlling tendencies? (We all do to some extent.) Do any of these apply to you?

Questions for Brainstorming

Businesspeople

Brainstorming often leads a team to the answers you can’t seem to find any other way. The best brainstorming begins with great questions. For example, what if the team is trying to discern what went wrong on a project? Perhaps there has been some major fall out and the team has suffered damage, either financially, in reputation or in morale. The questions you ask could determine how well you recover.

Using that as our example, consider the questions in this post, some will apply and some won’t. Add some of your own, and see if they will lead you through a helpful brainstorming session. By the way, I talk almost weekly to churches in some crisis mode. This process may help with that scenario also.

Below are 4 words and sets of questions to lead your team in brainstorming. If I were leading you through this process, we would take time on each section, stopping to summarize our findings along the way. Depending on the size of the group, we may break into sub-groups to brainstorm, then come back together to summarize.

The words and questions are simply a strategy to get the group talking. Depending on what you are trying to discover, you would change the words and the questions.

Words and questions:

Reflect – What went wrong? How did it happen? What’s the damage? Who is impacted? How much did it cost us…in capital, momentum, morale and reputation? What are the long-term and the short-term ramifications?

Recalculate – How can we improve? How can we keep it from happening again? What’s the best way to recover? Who are the right players in our recovery? What are the immediate, mid-range and long-term decisions we need to make, as a result of this?

Recharge – Why are we doing what we do? Why are we needed? What’s our motivation to begin again? What are some of our examples of success? What can we do to spur new momentum?

(Don’t skip this set of questions. Regardless of the issue, this type thinking is needed every time. You’ll be tempted to ignore them, because you assume you know these, but you always need the energy this type dialogue produces. Depending on the issue, you can’t usually do this immediately as well, because the previous issues are usually clouding people’s minds.)

Reignite – How soon can we begin again? Do we need a relaunch or do a complete overhaul? What’s our strategy moving forward? Who does needs to do what? Who is our spokesperson? Who are the teams assigned to each task? When is our target date for celebration?

Asking the right questions may determine the success or failure in the days ahead.

What questions are you currently asking your team?

What Does “Healthy” Mean in Church Leadership?

silhouette of friends jumping in sunset

I was talking with a young hurting pastor recently. He resigned after several years of trying to turn around a dying church into a healthy church. The church brought him in with definite goals. He felt he had a mandate. The church began to grow. Things were exciting…or so it seemed. But, with every change there was growing resistance. Eventually, only a few people with power still supported him. when they refused to back him with changes they had agreed were needed. He was continually reminded this was not “his church”. He felt it was best that he leave rather than divide the church. (This church has a long history of short-termed pastorates.)

In the course of the conversation he asked some sobering, and honest questions.

He asked, “Is there really such a thing as a healthy church? Are there any healthy church staffs? And, what does healthy mean, anyway?”

Great questions. I understand. Sadly, I hear from pastors continually asking the same questions. There are many unhealthy environments in churches.

But, yes! There is such a thing as a healthy church. There are some healthy church staffs.

I don’t know if I know completely what “healthy” means, but I’ve given the issue some thought.

The reality is that the church is the Body of Christ. In the purest form, the church is always “healthy”, because it represents Christ. We are promised that nothing will ever destroy what Christ has established. But, local churches are made of people. And, some of those people, even well-meaning as they may be sometimes, work together to form unhealthy environments. Some work together…for the common good of honoring Christ…and form healthy environments.

So, with that in mind…

A healthy church culture…

  • Doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days
  • Doesn’t mean you won’t have tension or stress.
  • Doesn’t mean everyone always agrees.
  • Doesn’t mean there aren’t relationship struggles.
  • Doesn’t mean you have all the answers.
  • Doesn’t mean the pastor is always right.
  • Doesn’t mean problems or issues are ignored.

A healthy church culture…

  • Does mean you can disagree and still be friends.
  • Does mean tension is used to build teamwork..when one is weak another is strong.
  • Does mean meetings are productive and purposeful…not ritualistic or boring, and certainly not hurtful.
  • Does mean rules add healthy boundaries, rather than stifling creativity or controlling actions.
  • Does mean you work as a team to find solutions.
  • Does mean the pastor (and his family) is never attacked publicly or continually stabbed in the back.
  • Does mean the rumor mill is never allowed to form the dominant opinion.

I’m praying for my new pastor friend that he finds a healthy church, in which to serve out his calling. They do exist.

Have you been in an unhealthy church or organizational environment?

Have you been in a healthy one?

What do you think it means to have a healthy?

A Sign You’re On a Healthy Team

power meeting from above

I’ve often said that good leaders never assume silence means that everyone is in agreement.

I still believe that. Leaders and situations can be intimidating. Some team members simply choose not to participate.

There is one caveat to this principle, however.

When a team is healthy, the leader is approachable, and team members are encouraged to participate in discussion:

Silence can be interpreted as agreement.

That’s because:

  • The freedom to challenge is present
  • The fear of retribution is absent
  • The power of unity is prominent
  • The spirit of cooperation is elevated
  • The synergy of differences is celebrated

When you are on a healthy team, people feel freedom to speak up when needed, so if they don’t, you can often safely assume they are in agreement.

I’ll be candid, as i write this, I’m six months into leading a new team. I’m not sure we are there yet, but in the months to come, I’ll be looking to measure progress in this way.

Ask yourself this question: What does silence on the team indicate?

In that answer, if you’re honest, you may find the answer.

Are you serving on a healthy team?