Simplified 7-Step Roadmap to Success

In an organizational sense…

Here is a 7 step roadmap to success for a team:

Have a big God-given dream…

Get a clear vision of what success would look like…

Organize a great team…

Formulate a strategic plan of action steps to create a win…

Assign specific tasks to everyone on the team…

Keep pushing forward, even during difficult days, encouraging one another…

Celebrate along the way…

Have you served on a successful team? 

Are You a Leader or Manager?

Are you a leader or a manager?

Every organization needs both, so don’t be ashamed to answer either way, but it’s important that you know the difference, which one you do best, and then try to arrange your career where you can realize your best potential.

In the book “Reviewing Leadership”, the authors Banks and Ledbetter write, “Leadership and management are two distinct yet related systems of action….They are similar in that each involves influence as a way to move ideas forward, and both involve working with people. Both are also concerned with end results. Yet the overriding functions of leadership and management are distinct. Management is about coping with complexity – it is responsive. Leadership is about coping with change – it too is responsive, but mostly it is proactive. More chaos demands more management, and more change always demands more leadership. In general, the purpose of management is to provide order and consistency to organizations, while the primary function of leadershp is to produce change and movement.”

I think that’s a great summary of the differences between leadership and management for organizations and individuals to consider. Too many times we ask good managers to be great leaders or good leaders to be great managers. The problem with being in the wrong fit is that we tend to burn out more quickly when we are not able to live out our giftedness. In addition, we frustrate the people we are supposed to be leading or managing and ultimately we keep the organization from being the best it can be.

Do a self-evaluation of which you are more skilled at doing. Are you a better leader or a better manager?

Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Through experience I’ve learned I identify with one of these roles more than the other. One description fires me up…the other bums me out. (Can you guess which one fires me up?) One comes more naturally for me and the other I struggle to learn…and attempt to delegate when possible.

What about you? Are you in your proper fit? Do you see the difference?

You might also read:

Don’t Be Afraid of Good Management

One Contrast Between a Leader and a Manager

(This is a revised post)

20 Words Associated with Leadership

Here are twenty random words associated with leadership…

  • Purpose
  • Integrity
  • Values
  • Strategy
  • Principles
  • Humility
  • Passion
  • Delegation
  • Empowerment
  • Sincerity
  • Risk
  • Confidence
  • Commitment
  • Wisdom
  • People
  • Honesty
  • Compassion
  • Sensitivity
  • Determination
  • Courage

Plus yours…

What would you add to my list?

Bonus round:

If you had to choose only 5 as being most important…

Which would you choose?

7 Critical Abilities Senior Leaders Must Have

I want to address some critical abilities that a senior leader must have to be effective. The intent of this post is not to appear arrogant as a senior leader, as if I have qualities others may not have, although I’m confidant some will take it that way. (Isn’t being misunderstood part of being a senior leader? :) ) I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses…of which I have many…but there are certain abilities senior leaders need to do their job well.

  • I remember how many people told me I wouldn’t understand parenting until I was a parent. They were right.
  • I remember how many people told me I should enjoy parenting at every stage of life while my boys were home. They were right.
  • I remember how many told me that I would adjust to being an empty-nester. They were right.

The point is that sometimes we can’t understand something until we experience it firsthand.

That’s the way it is with being the senior leader in an organization. All leadership is challenging, but the senior position is a pressure unlike any other. Show me a small business owner, a president, a senior pastor or CEO and I’ll show you someone who carries…in an organizational leadership sense…a heavy burden. I’ve learned from observation that some are qualified to lead from that position and some are not.

A limiting factor in one being qualified for a senior level position in an organization appears to me to be when they lack some of the abilities required of that position. It doesn’t mean all senior leaders excel in each of these…I certainly don’t…but to be effective they must be aware of the need to have these abilities and working towards them.

Here are 7 critical abilities every senior leader must have:

Ability to quickly and strategically think big picture – The senior leader doesn’t have a choice but to think big picture for the organization at all times. He or she must learn to “think strategically in the moment“, realizing that the future of the organization is always at stake.

Ability to remain steadfast during adversity – The senior leader must continue to stand strong when everyone else is running from the problems. In times of crisis or controversy, the organization and community around it look for leadership. A senior leader doesn’t have the choice of burying his or her head in the sand when troubles surround the organization. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to unquestionably keep a confidence – The senior leader usually knows things that aren’t yet ready to be released or talked about publicly. He or she must be trusted to keep these confidences. A senior leader must learn how to answer questions and address issues of importance to people without divulging confidential information. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to fully release control and delegate – The senior leader must wear many hats and oversee all areas of focus within an organization. He or she must be able to trust and take risks on others to free the organization to continue to grow. Delegation is important at all levels of leadership, but for the senior leader it is not an option. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to see all sides to an issue – The senior leader can’t always side with his or her area of personal interest, but must balance all the needs within an organization. This is another part of thinking strategically in the moment. Since an organization is built with many separate but equally important parts, the senior leader must view every scenario as it relates to each individual part of the organization. (I wrote about that HERE)

Ability to make unpopular decisions – The senior leader must make the wisest decision possible for the organization, even when that means the decision will not be popular. This often produces a loneliness of leadership that keeps many from being able to handle the senior leader position. (I wrote about being unpopular as a leader HERE.)

Ability to embrace healthy conflict for the good of the organization – The senior leader can’t shy away from conflict that is critical to maintain the health of the organization. The senior leader recognizes the importance of allowing times of conflict to strengthen the organization. (I wrote about ways to address healthy conflict HERE and HERE.)

If you don’t have these abilities, don’t quit leading, but recognize an area of improvement and seek ways to grow as a senior leader.

What is missing from my list? What would you add?

Make this post better: Share examples of ineffective senior level leaders you’ve known and which of these were lacking from his or her abilities.

The Leader’s Private Life

The leader’s private life…

The leader’s marriage…

The leader’s family life…

The leader’s physical health…

The leader’s emotional health…

The leader’s spiritual health…

Impacts the leader…which naturally impacts the people he or she leads…

The leader’s private life matters to the health of the team…

You may want to read THIS POST next.

Leader, how is your private life impacting the people or organization you lead?

Not sure…ask them…

I always tell the teams I lead…and remind myself…

We must get better to get bigger…

(BTW, I help “brave” leaders do this…read more HERE.)

How I Blog about Current Leadership Problems

Let me bring you in on a little secret. All those leadership posts I do…I don’t make them up…

Most of them come from real life situations…either mine or yours…

The one about 9 Bad Boss Types

Yea, I’ve either had them, been them or seen them or heard of them through readers like you…

The one about 10 Types of Good Leadership

The one about Controlling Leadership

The one about Ways to Lead People Older than You

Yea…all me…or you…

I get asked frequently, “How do you post about people you know? Don’t they figure out you’re talking about them?”

Well, truthfully, sometimes they ask, “Is that post about me?” The reality is, however, that every situation seems to repeat itself. Many of my situations from which I draw principles come from readers of this blog sharing their stories with me. I get lots of them. Some come from other churches with whom I’ve worked. Many of the situations from which I develop leadership principles happened years ago when I was in secular business and management. Sometimes the details are cloudy, but the principles are still quite clear.

I do have a system (informal that is), however, of how I post about current leadership issues, especially those real life to me, where I know the people involved.

Here is my system:

I wait until some time has passed – The principles learned will still be good. It could be a month or a year, depending on how easy to discern the details would be. (I keep my notes in Evernote) I also try to remove emotions before I post about a situation. I’ve been burned a few times (and burned others) by posting in anger, so I’ve learned to never post until I’m back on even ground emotionally.

I consider all parties involved – I want to make sure I’m telling the story correctly. I try to capture the facts as they happened, not as someone felt as they were happening. If it’s a personal issue for me, I never share any situation I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing with the people involved. I especially don’t want people I lead feeling slammed through my blog, so I make sure I address leadership problems I have outside this blog. I frequently mention upcoming posts so they know in advance I’m writing about a certain topic.

I examine what was learned – I always want to learn from experiences; good or bad, so I ask myself how the teams involved are better and how things could improve because of this situation. I try never to post out of personal frustration, but I do try to share that which can benefit others from my experience or the experience of others.

I change details – I never share names, unless I have permission and it’s necessary for the story. I change enough details to keep people guessing as to the characters in the situation.

I post - Eventually I use the story or situation to write about a leadership problem or principle. My theory is that all leadership principles develop somewhere. Some of them may as well be with me…or you.

Have you ever posted in anger or had someone question if you were writing about them in your post?

Where have you learned your best leadership principle?

If I’m Your Leader…It’s Your Business…

“This is probably none of my business, but…”

Do you ever hear that as a leader?

Recently one of our staff had a question for me. He had observed that Cheryl and I sold our house and bought a condo downtown. He wondered if there was some hidden motive; like I was preparing to travel more, or perhaps become a full-time consultant and maybe even leave my role as pastor. (Evidently he doesn’t read my blog. I explained the move HERE :) )

So, he bridged the conversation by stating, “This is probably none of my business, but can I ask you a question?”

It could have been other issues…

  • You seem distracted…is something wrong?
  • You look tired…are you feeling well?
  • I saw you without Cheryl…are you guys okay?
  • We haven’t spoken lately…are you mad at me?
  • I don’t understand that decision you made…what were you thinking?

Chances are…if you are a leader…you’ve had people think things like this before…

Some will ask…some may not…

If they do, they may start with, “I know this is none of my business, but…”

Here’s my take on that…

I don’t get upset when someone asks me a personal question…

In fact, I welcome them…


If I’m your leader…it’s your business…

Some things may not be the average church member’s business…

Or a reader of this blog :)

But if you look to me for leadership…

Then it’s your business…


Because I believe strongly that the health of the leader affects the health of the team… ***

I also think that trust in a leader is paramount to the health of the organization…

If the leader wants respect, he or she needs to be clearly understood…


If I’m your leader…it’s your business…

Feel free to disagree with me, but do you think the health of someone leading you is your personal business?

***Read THIS POST and THIS POST for a further explanation of this principle.

7 Tips for Hiring the Right Person for the Team

One of the most important decisions a leader makes is adding to the payroll. In the church world, it’s often difficult to remove someone once they are added. (That’s somewhat of a pet peeve of mine after spending much of my years in business, but that’s another blog post.) Regardless of the industry, however, adding to a team is a critical decision; perhaps one of the most important a leader makes. New team members change the dynamics of a team; either positively or negatively.

Here are 7 tips I’ve learned by experience for hiring the best person:

Biblical qualifications – In a church position, especially a called position, this is first and foremost. I wonder, however, if there aren’t good Biblical standards for hiring even in the secular world…at least for the believer who is hiring, and not just the couple passages we tend to use for elders. I realize this is cause for criticism, but it seems to me the “fruit of the spirit” is a good measure of character for anyone I’d place on my team, in the church or in business. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…would you hire someone with those qualities?

Know them – I have told my boys that in their generation, they will most likely never have a job where they didn’t know someone connected to the organization. The more you can know the person, the more likely you are to make a wise decision. This is one reason we often hire from within our church whenever possible. If it’s not possible to know the individual personally, try to know people who know the person. I’ve found there is usually someone connected to the person on our team, in our church, or in my social network. (If there’s no way to know the person, that doesn’t eliminate them, but it does generate a slower decision-making process.)

Investigate them – I don’t insist on background checks on everyone. I understand some do and I’m okay with that, but I do believe in asking questions of those who know the person. Knowing them personally helps eliminate some doubt, but if there is any unanswered questions in your mind, it is better to be awkward in the beginning than surprised in the end. (I’d be curious in the comments if your organization does background checks and if so, what kind.)

Meet the spouse – I have always held a simple policy in business and ministry, especially for any position with authority. I won’t hire someone whom I wouldn’t also hire his or her spouse. Period. Most likely, whether you know it or not, you are hiring both anyway. Both spouses will certainly impact the organization either directly or indirectly.

Chemistry – The ability to get along with others and especially the team often trumps a pedigreed potential employee. We can make a team work with people who work well together and are sold out for the vision of the organization.

Talk them out of it – I get push back on this one when I share it, but I’m really not trying to be a bad guy here. I want to make sure someone knows all the negatives of me and our church before they agree to join our team, so before a person accepts a position, I tell them everything I can think of as why they shouldn’t accept the job. I did this in business and in the church world. If it makes you feel better, to date I’ve never had anyone decide not to join us. (That will be another blog post possibly when I have my first! :) ) I have had some good, honest conversations as a result of this tactic and feel people have come better prepared for what they would face once they joined our team.

Take risk – After I’ve done my homework, I hire the person my heart tells me to hire. Many times it is a gut-instinct. I often bring Cheryl along on interviews and I heavily rely on her recommendation. She’s got a much better feel for people than I have sometimes. In business, and since we started Grace, I’ve taken some huge risks on people. I’ve been wrong a few times…a few too many times in business, but overall, we’ve created great teams and I’ve even found a few superstars along the way.

What about you? What tips do you have for hiring the right person?

You may also be interested in the non-negotiables for my team. You can read them HERE.

Leaders Lead…So Others Can Follow

Leaders lead so that others can follow…

You’ll see it among organizations everywhere…

The team is no more intentional than the leader…

The team gives up when the leader gives up…

The team works no harder than the leader…

The team slacks off when the leader slacks off…

The team takes no greater risks than the leader is willing to take…

The team believes the vision no more passionately than the leader…

The team becomes negative when the leader becomes negative…

If you want others to follow your leadership, give them an example worth following…

Leaders lead so that others can follow…

What other examples of a leader’s impact on a team come to mind?

7 Suggestions for Confronting a Controlling Leader

I received this comment on a post recently:

Any chance there is an upcoming post or two on how/when/where to confront a controlling leader? Especially for those of us who have had it drilled into our heads from childhood to not question authority? Some practical, nitty gritty tips would be really helpful.

That’s a pretty big request, but I think it’s a topic worth considering. I wrote previously 3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader. This would be the “challenge” response. I should point out that while I believe the Bible teaches to respect authority, I don’t believe it says we must ignore the abuse of authority. All children should honor their parents, for example, but respect is never an excuse for abuse. There are times when it is appropriate to confront authority. Jesus certainly did during His earthly ministry.

If you have a controlling leader, here are 7 suggestions with how to approach them:

Discern the need – Pray about it. Talk it through with others. You should make sure your perception of this leader is correct. Is it him or her…or is it you? Then ask this question: Is this my responsibility? Do I sense the burden to do this? Will it make a difference, and if not, do I feel compelled to do it anyway?

Consider the timing – When addressing any conflict, timing is everything. Pick a day when things are going well…from the leader’s perspective. Find the least stressful, calmest time you can. You want to catch the leader in the best mood possible.

Plan your approach – What are you going to say? How will you say it? Will you do this alone or with someone else? You may want to write your response first and rehearse it. In stressful situations I think it is okay to bring notes. It shows you came prepared and have thought about the issue. Make sure you show as much respect for the leader as you can. Balance your critique with ample and genuine compliments. (There are even times, depending on the expected response of the leader or your expected ability to keep your composure where I would recommend writing a letter. I wrote about how to do that HERE.)

Bite the bullet – You can keep putting it off, but at some point you’ll have to approach the controlling leader if you hope to see a change. It will never be easy, but who knows that you were not put in this place for “such a time as this”…and by this point you’ve already discerned the need to do this.

Couch in love and respect – This can’t be over-emphasized. People don’t listen to people who don’t show genuine love for them or at least the respect the things or people they love. Most controlling leaders are hungry for respect…it’s part of their problem…so if you want to gain their attention, be respectful. (Again, because I know this is difficult for some people, but being respectful does not mean being silent, just as being meek or gentle does not mean being weak.)

Be clear and direct – Don’t make the leader wonder what you are talking about when you confront him or her. Talking around the problem will not be clear to a controlling leader. Most controlling leaders think their control is a sign of good leadership. They don’t realize they are the problem. You will not want to take this step to confront more than once, so make sure you are clear with the issues as you see them. If you’re going through the stress and preparation to confront, make sure you address the real problem.

Live with your consequences - You’ve prayed and prepared. You know you are doing the right thing for you and the organization. You confronted the leader with love and respect. You were clear about the problems. The response of the leader is out of your hands. You can’t control the leader’s response, but you can control your response to the leader’s response. Be willing to live with the consequences of your actions. After all, isn’t that one thing you could model for the controlling leader? (You may want to refer back to my 3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader post for the other options.)

You may also need to read: 5 Ways to Influence People Who Lead You (Leading Up)

Have you ever had to confront a controlling leader?

What would you add to my list?