When You’re The Pastor But Not The Leader

Funny scared man

I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with the church where he serves. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grow again — or so the search committee convinced him — but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own.

They won’t take his suggestions, voting them down at business meetings. 

They consistently undermine his attempts to lead.

They expect him to speak each week and visit the sick, but they won’t let him make any changes he feels need to be made.

It has made for a very miserable situation and he feels helpless to do anything about it. He’s ready to quit and the situation is negatively impacting every other area of his life.

It isn’t the first time I have heard a story such as this. I hear it frequently from young leaders in churches and the business world. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I didn’t want to mislead him either. The bottom line in this young pastor’s situation:

He is the pastor of the church but not the leader.

(Of course I’ll get kickback from those who want to remind me Jesus is the leader of the church. I couldn’t agree more, but He does use people to lead His work and this pastor is not the one.)

Perhaps you share this young leader’s dilemma. If no one is following your attempt to lead it could be because:

You haven’t been given authority to lead.
You haven’t assumed the responsibility you’ve been given.
No one is leading in the organization and no one wants anyone to – because that would mean change has to occur.

If this is your situation, you have a few options as I see it:

  • You can live with the power structure in place and complete the role within the authority you’ve been given. And, probably be miserable.
  • You can fight the power structure, lining up supporters, building a coalition in your corner – and be prepared to win or lose.
  • You can figure out how to “lead up” — build a consensus for leadership, confront where needed, win influence and the right to lead — even sometimes learning to lead people who don’t want to be led. (Read THIS POST on how to lead people older than you.)
  • You can leave.

Think through these options and see which feels best in your situation. Every situation is unique and this post is not an attempt to solve your problem — perhaps if anything it can help identify what the problem is in your unique circumstance. You will have to own your response to this information. Obviously, you should spend consistent time in prayer.

And let me add a few other thoughts. If you know God has you there then you must endure until He releases you. He always has a plan. But, I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in the call. Our call is to Him and to obedience. And, most likely, there are thousands of places where God could use your talents and abilities. As I read about the Apostle Paul, for example, there seemed to be more opportunities than Paul’s time would allow. I suspect the same may be true for most pastors today. The potential harvest is plentiful. 

With this in mind, I would say if you are miserable now and things are not improving you shouldn’t wait long without doing something. Life is short and many have left the ministry because of situations like this. Don’t be a casualty. Address the problem!

I would also say – and as hard as this is to hear you need to hear it – you will learn from this season. You may even learn more in this season than in a future season where everything appears wonderful and the church easily follows your leadership. Attempt to soak up wisdom now, which you will use later, rather than become bitter. You must protect your soul and the reality of your calling to Christ. 

One final thought, don’t handle a situation like this alone. Reach out to someone you trust, probably outside the church or organization; someone who has more experience in situations like this than you have. And, don’t let the stress from this destroy your family or personal health. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were given the responsibility to lead without the power to do so? What did you do?

5 Shared Characteristics Needed to do Church Planting or Church Revitalization

Typical Rural Icelandic Church under a blue summer sky

Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. So is church revitalization. I’ve been trying to make the case we need both — planting and revitalization. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for those who want to start a church or transition it to grow again.

I’ve been blessed with both experiences. In fact, having only been in ministry about 15 years, my only experience is in one of the two. I’ve been in two churches needing to revitalize and two church plants.

And, from this experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective in both worlds:

An entrepreneurial spirit

There is an element of enjoying risk — certainly of being willing to assume risk — in most church planters and church revitalization pastors I have met. You have to love things which are new and growing. There needs to be an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embrace change readily and becoming bored with status-quo. This characteristic can bring it’s own problems, which leads to number two.

Willingness to be patient

Effective planters or revitalization pastors are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge, because church planters and revitalization pastors are wired to want continual growth, but to be effective they must develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people, and then wait as God does His work among them.

Have people who believe in you

Church planting or church revitalization is not to be a lone ranger activity. Without the structure of an established church, church planters must depend on people to help develop ministries and systems. Effective church planters learn to rely on volunteers for success and are willing to share leadership and responsibility with others to plant the church. Revitalization pastors are changing an establishment. This can be brutal. There must be some key leaders in the church who will back them in their work – and be there through the hard decisions where it will sometimes seem they have more enemies than friends.

Healthy family life

Church planting and revitalization is a family activity. In both worlds, to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough — this is true for all ministries, but church planting and revitalization, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must begin with and maintain a healthy families.

Close, intimate walk with God

Church planting and revitalization will test a person’s faith many times. Church planting is not always popular in some church communities and can make a planter feel like an outcast in the church community. Revitalization brings challenge to leadership from within. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge both. Like all ministries, these are acts of faith and require constant communication with God. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process. When I speak to pastors these days, I close with one word of encouragement: YOU MUST PROTECT YOUR SOUL. No one will do this for you. There will always be more demands on your time than you have time. You’ll have to discipline yourself to regularly sit with the Creator of your soul.

Again, many of these are not unique to church planters or revitalization pastors and are shared by others in ministry — even in many secular settings — but my experience as a planter and revitalization pastor leads me to believe these are critical needs for these ministries.

Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan


A few years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.

After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.

One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.

“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.

I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try. 

Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA.

In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.

What happened to me? Am I that old? :)

So, I came up with an immediate plan.

Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!

We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right?

Well, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.

Unless God calls you to something else.

And, if God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand — I have some strong advice. It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical.

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane. 

But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.

Regardless of your age – or your fears. 

And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.

God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

4 Ways I Know When to Say No to Seemingly Good Things


Age and maturity has helped me better discern what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve equally learned – through many different seasons – there are often more opportunities than time in life – even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. I have recently had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”. They were things I wanted to do. But, as much as they lined with my strengths, passions, and dreams, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing — perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are 4 ways I know when to respond no:

God’s calling on my life says no.

This trumps all the others. This applies to many decisions, but let me use my vocation as an example. I do not believe I’m called to a place as much as I’m called to a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. There are seasons of life, however, where I know He has positioned me in a place “for such a time as this”. There are things He has called me to complete “at such a times as this” God always has a right to change my assignment, but when He has made the assignment clear the decisions of yes and no should become easier. 

My heart doesn’t line up with this decision.

If I can get no “peace” about saying “yes” it’s time to wait or say no. This requires consistent prayer and wrestling with the decision, but the more I pray the more confident I become in sensing God’s specific will for my life and in this decision.

When it distracts from what God has called me to do.

I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I can only do what I can do. There is nothing wrong with taking assignments just because I want to do them. If, however, it is going to get in the way of my ultimate calling – the right answer – the often difficult, but brave answer – is to say no.

When my personal strengths and interests don’t match the opportunity and I don’t sense an urgency from God.

I have learned situational or physical limitations aren’t a factor if God is in the mix. He can part waters if they are in the way, so I can do things outside of my strengths, but in my life God seems to usually work within the experiences and gifting He has granted me. Why would He waste the investments He has already made in me? Therefore, apart from a sense God is challenging me in a direction outside my gifting, I can rest within the place where He has been preparing me and say no to those He has not.

Discerning the heart of the decision is critical and requires a consistent, close, seeking the heart of God relationship with the Father. I realize it’s much easier to write this post than to live this post, but hopefully this will help you as you too wrestle with the seemingly good, even sometimes seemingly God opportunities.

I wish I had used this paradigm earlier in life, because it would have saved me some heartache.

What “good thing/s” do you need to say “no” to during this season of your life?

10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife


This post is written to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but the spouse of the pastor may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before — I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

Three years ago we ventured out –  again – this time into church revitalization. Church planting was hard – God allowed us to be part of 2 plants – and this would prove to be our toughest assignment. And, there have been many in our years together. Some days, especially early when change seemed rapid, Cheryl came home in tears many Sundays because people took the emotions of change out on her instead of me. (I’ve never understood that cowardly move, but it happens.) 

Yet, God’s been faithful and Cheryl has been faithful. And, for the overwhelming portion of people the church has been faithful. I couldn’t have done what I’ve been called to do without all of them. 

But, second only to God, Cheryl deserves my applauds. Not that she’d ever expect it. That’s one of the reasons she’s so great – she just faithfully loves and serves others – but because it’s right for me to honor her. And, I have this public opportunity, so here goes. 

Cheryl, here are 10 “Thank you’s” to the pastor’s wife:

Thank you for following me where God leads me — without complaining, or resisting, or refusing to move even though life was very comfortable where we were and the future looked very uncertain where we were going. Truth is, you are usually ready to walk by faith before I am. What a blessing!

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encouragement and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it is wonderful! Even if you think I’m doing wrong your message to others is one of support.

Thank you being a safe place to share — even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong. And, guts to tell me when I’m wrong.

Thank you for believing in me — even when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion – you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable. I’m always amazed how you’d rather spend time with me than anyone. I know people in your life far more “fun” than me.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that has meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry, which I can’t sense. This is why I have you help me interview people. It’s why you have protected me from people who don’t have my best interest at heart. I feel safer with you around.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need. And, you fill it completely and consistently.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here!

Better yet, also send her/him a card!

7 Suggestions for Churches Meeting in a School

school building

Over the years I have received lots of emails asking how we did certain things as a church meeting in a school. I am blessed to pastor a church now with an amazing facility, but my roots are deep in churches meeting in schools. It’s a unique ministry and opportunity. I usually figure that when several people are asking the same question that it represents a larger audience wanting to know the same answers.

Here are 7 suggestions for churches meeting in a school.

Most of these are more philosophy than actions, but with them as our paradigm it helps direct our actions.

Grow volunteers

Being in a borrowed facility forces the church to rely on lots of volunteer labor to set up and tear down each week. This can be stressful on people, but it also creates an opportunity to raise up new volunteer leadership. Our church would never happen without the countless hours of donated time, but in the process volunteers sharpened their leadership skills and realized the joy of investing in God’s Kingdom and seeing the results it brings.

Love the school

We supported the school we are in more than just on Sunday morning. We supported their activities, we attended their ballgames, and we tried to meet needs the school had as we were made aware of them.

Realize it’s not a rental situation

You may be paying rent, but more than renting a space you are borrowing a facility that has another intended purpose. We realized the school building’s primary purpose is to educate children during the week. We knew we were an added burden to the facility. We saw it as a win/win for our school, but we didn’t take it for granted we were secondary in importance at the school.

Be a blessing

At the end of our time in the school, whenever it may come, our goal was we would actually be missed by the school — and not just for the money we brought to the table. We had as a goal to be a blessing to the school. With this as a goal and mindset, it forced us to find ways to help the school outside of the money we paid for usage. We volunteered at their events. We helped with special projects. We allowed them to use our equipment at times.

Don’t interrupt school

We respected the facility as a place for education and we never tried to use our influence at the school to trump a school activity. We knew we were a secondary use and so we gladly bowed out if a school situation arose. Our school didn’t do much on Sundays, and if it did it would have created more problems, but the few times there was a Sunday conflict we tried to be accommodating to the school’s needs more than our own. We would rather be inconvenienced than for them to be because of us.

View your money as a contribution

It changed the perspective of our staff and key leaders when we saw our money going to make the education process better, not just as a rental line item on our income statement. Schools were always struggling to fund adequate resources and we believed our money helped. This made writing checks so much more pleasant!

Acknowledge critical players

The relationships you have with school officials is critical to making any agreement work. There are some people who make meeting in a school a positive or negative experience. This may include school district officials, the school administration, teachers, and custodians. We were especially sensitive to the teachers who teach in areas where we meet in the school, because we realized we were sharing space with them. Our experience was the custodian plays a large role in any churches success in the school, so we tried to respect and show appreciation to them.

Have you been a part of a church meeting in a school? What did you do to make the arrangement work?

3 Questions to Discern What I Personally Announce on Sunday Morning

Vintage microphone on the table

If you’re a pastor then you know the tension I am about to describe in a made-up scenario.

Pastor, can you announce the next meeting of the “Faithful Followers” meeting? It’s Tuesday night at 7 at Sister Rita’s house. Everyone needs to bring their favorite dessert.”

Do you announce it or not?

It may depend on several things. The size of your church. The expected size of the event. Frankly, how much pressure you will face if you don’t.

But, it’s often not an easy answer.

While I hope you never cave into pressure to do what you know you shouldn’t — I do realize the pressure. (And, even this post will upset some who won’t or didn’t get their agenda promoted.)

When we were a church plant running over 2,000 people a week I still had people who wanted me to wish someone “Happy Birthday” from stage. And, sometimes the pressure came from one of our most faithful volunteers. I get it.

But, if you want to be effective you can’t promote everything from stage.

If I promote everything I wouldn’t have time to preach, nothing would really be “special”, and pretty soon people wouldn’t listen to much of what I had to say. Plus, if I promote one thing there is automatic precedent and pressure to promote another thing. Over time you’re announcing “Faithful Followers”, “Joyful Journey” and Wednesday’s afternoon coffee club.

Where’s the line?

I think saying the pastor will never promote anything is the wrong answer. I realize the value in a pastor’s “endorsement”.

So, how do you decide what to personally promote?

I am assuming announcements are made by someone else or some other means on Sunday mornings. These are things I’m expected to say.

Here are 3 questions I ask when I discern making announcements I make personally:

What needs my personal promotion most?

This seems like a reasonable question, right? What I’m asking myself is really what is valuable to the largest amount of people and has a chance to be more successful if I say something about it? Just asking this question may or may not eliminate the “Faithful Followers” meeting. It depends on the number of people the meeting impacts within the context of the entire church. If it’s a few, I’m less likely to mention it. If it’s a significant percent — perhaps 25% or more of the church would be interested — I’m more likely to address it personally. (And, the percent is just a number. I use my best judgment here for what seems like a significant impact on the congregation as a whole.) When I talk about a men’s ministry event, for example, I know nearly half of the congregation has the opportunity to attend.

Where do I need to add credibility to a ministry?

When I arrived at the church I’m at now we had a vision to grow our college ministry. It makes sense. We are less than a mile to the center of a university and a junior college. When they had an activity, although it might impact only a small portion of the congregation, when I promoted it I raised the value of college ministry in our church. It reminded people of the importance and showed my “support”. I’ve done the same for our parking ministry which was launched shortly after I arrived. Again, I realize the weight the position brings to something and if it’s something the church needs to value more I’m likely to talk about it.

What impacts a large portion of the church and needs more attention to be successful?

We are in a growth mode. Much of this growth is from young adults and young families. Our preschool ministry is being stretched. What a great “problem” to have! I love it. But, we do need more willing servants to fill the growing needs in this area. I am frequently bringing this growth and need to the attention of our congregation. Our preschool director is thankful and apparently the personal word of encouragement makes a difference in recruiting efforts — or so I’m told. If the need can only be met fully with my mention then I know I need to bring it before the church.

Those are some of the ways I discern what to announce. Again, I can’t talk about everything our church does.

To be candid, this doesn’t eliminate the pressure from those who want something announced. It does give me some comfort I’ve at least thought through my answer. 

This also doesn’t, however, negate the importance of anything we do. Every ministry is hopefully important to achieving our mission. We have a website, social media, bulletins, a mobile app, slides in the service, and announcements someone else does on Sunday to cover other things. When there is only so much time on a Sunday I have to carefully discern what I personally mention.

In closing, these are considerations for what I personally announce. Because there is only so much information people can retain I think they may be good questions to filter all the Sunday morning announcements allowed in a church service. 

A Word of Encouragement to Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month


I came into ministry later in life after over 20 years in the business world. Maybe this explains some of why I was surprised when I entered the ministry at how hard churches can be on a pastor.

I never knew.

My church leadership blog has given me access into the lives of hundreds of pastors. Many are in smaller churches where they are one of a few, if not the only, staff members. Others are in larger churches where there are more staff members to spread the workload. Regardless, however, of church size many times the pastor is drowning. His spouse is drowning. His family is suffering. They can’t keep up with the demands of the church.

Honestly, I never knew. At least not to the severity of what I’ve discovered.

Some churches expect the pastor to be at every hospital bed. They expect them to know and call when they are sick. They expect them to attend every Sunday school social and every picnic on the grounds. The pastor is to officiate their wedding and then be the counselor when their marriage is suffering. Someday preach their funeral, but for today visit their neighbor who isn’t going to church — instead, of course, of them building a relationship with the person and bringing them to church (which is way more effective.)

The pastor is supposed to recruit Sunday school teachers, manage a budget and be actively engaging the community through a healthy Tuesday night evangelism program. Then, they expect a well researched, well presented Sunday message — fully abreast and addressing all the current news events of the week — one in the morning and one at night, along with a passionate leading of the Wednesday night prayer meeting.

One pastor told me he is allowed one Sunday off per year. I hesitated to do the math on the number of messages he is doing in a given year.

And, in the midst of all those responsibilities, when I talk to many pastors they hear far more negative feedback from people than they ever hear the positives.

Wow! I never knew.

And with different parameters the same unreasonable expectations may exist for every staff member of a local church.  

Now some of this is exaggeration, and no doubt most pastors reading this love their people and love their work, but in some churches it is exactly the expectation. And, in principle, the activities may be different, but the level of activity is normal for many pastors, again, especially in smaller churches.

And, even in those churches where the expectations are totally unreasonable there is probably a pastor who is desperately trying to live out the call of God and love people.

But, to be honest, I’m burdened for those pastors.

I learned when my boys were young and I was running a business, serving on the city council and on dozens of committees, if I wanted to be successful as a husband, father, and business owner, I had to be personally and privately healthy, so I could achieve more publicly.

It was then, for example, running switched from being a fun pastime to a necessary part of my week. I needed and craved the downtime and the exercise. It was then I had to get up early to make sure I had the days quiet time to fuel my soul. It was then I became diligent in scheduling my week, so I didn’t miss family activities.

If I could give one piece of advice to pastors, ALL PASTORS, especially during Pastor Appreciation month, it would be that they take care of themselves personally. Take care of your family, your finances, and your emotional health. It’s the only way you can meet the demands of your church.

You may need to share this post with some key leaders you trust in the church. You may want to have a hard conversation and establish some healthier boundaries within the church. Take some time and read Jethro’s advice to Moses. Read Acts 6.

I love you pastors.

I want you around for a while. We need you. You’re doing Kingdom work.

Take care of yourself. If needed, reach out to someone before you crash and burn. God called you to do His work, but the work He called you to do specifically, won’t be done (at least by you) if you aren’t here to do it.

I’m pulling for you !

7 Ways to Maintain Respect as a Leader


People follow people they trust. They trust people they respect.

As a leader, one of your most valuable and needed assets is the respect of the people you are trying to lead. If a leader is respected, people will follow him or her almost anywhere.   If a leader looses respect it becomes very difficult to regain respect.

Often a new leader is given respect because of his or her position as a leader, but respect can be quickly lost due to performance. Many times it’s the seemingly small things which cause the most damage to a leader’s reputation and damages respect.

I have found with a few simple (some not so simple) acts help protect the respect a leader enjoys.

Here are 7 ways to maintain respect as a leader:

Be responsive. Return phone calls and emails promptly. Be accessible to real people. You may not always be available, but you can create systems where people are genuinely valued and heard.

Be consistent. Do what you say you will do. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don’t tell people what they want to hear, but speak grace and truth in all circumstances. Let people learn to trust you are a person of your word and can be depended upon based on what you say.

Have high character. Act with integrity. Be honest. Protect your moral credibility. Be transparent and open to challenge. Allow a few people to know the real you and speak into the dark places of your life.

Be fair to everyone. Don’t be too harsh. Don’t be too soft. Treat everyone with respect. Genuinely love people. (People know when you do or don’t.)

Keep growing. Learn continually and encourage growth in yourself and others. Ask questions. Be teachable. Read. Observe. Glean from others and experience.

Have good work ethic. I personally think leaders should work as hard or harder than others on their team. But, having a good work ethic doesn’t mean over-working either. It’s working smart and setting a good example for others to follow.

Be courageous. Make hard decisions. Don’t shy away from conflict. Know who you are in Christ and live boldly the calling God places on your life. Live with the aim to finish well — in spite of the obstacles you encounter.

Maintaining respect is a matter of acting in a respectable way. How are you doing? You may want to ask the ones you are supposed to be leading.

What would you add to my list?

10 Characteristics of Good Leadership – an Expanded and Revised Version

Multiethnic business team outdoor

When I first wrote about the characteristics of good leadership almost 6 years ago. At the time I had been a leader for well over 20 years and had studied the field o leadership academically. My blog was fairly new but growing.

These were designed to be informative, but honestly, even more, they served as a checklist reminder of sorts for my own attempts at good leadership.

Since then my blog influence has grown, I’ve moved from a church planter to a church revitalizer, and I’ve learned so much more. Still, when I look over these characteristics, I stand behind then. I’ve tweaked them a bit for readability purposes. (Every time I read my writings again I see something which could be improved.)

Here are 10 characteristics of good leadership:

1. Recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others – Good leaders see a large part of their role as developing people and new leaders. Leadership development takes place in an organization as leaders begin to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with others.

2. Shares information – There is a tendency of some leaders to hold information, because information is power. A good leader uses this to the team’s advantage knowing the more information the team has collectively the stronger the team.

3. Has above average character – There are no perfect people, but for a leader to be considered good, in my opinion, they must have a character which is unquestioned within the organization. Their integrity and transparency is paramount. Leadership always draws criticism, so a leader may not be able to get everyone to believe in him or her, but the people who know the leader best should trust the leader’s character most.

4. Uses their influence for the good of others – Good leaders are as interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives as they are in creating a healthy profit margin or accomplishing a strategy. In fact, people-building is a large part of the strategy. This doesn’t mean that balance sheets and income statements aren’t important, in fact they are important for the success of an organization (even non-profits – even churches), but a good leader doesn’t separate a desire for helping others from the desire for financial health. And, good leaders find ways to leverage financial health to strengthen the well-being of others.

5. Skillful, competent and professional– Good leaders are talented or knowledgeable about their field and can be depended on for their follow through. You don’t question whether a good leader is going to be able to complete a task. They may not be the smartest in the room, but if they don’t know how to do something, they will find someone who does and they aren’t afraid to ask or empower others. They will ensure a job they have committed to do is done the best it can be done. This also means they don’t commit to more than they can reasonably accomplish. They know the power of “No!”

6. Not afraid for others to succeed (even greater than their own success) – Good leaders realize some followers will outgrow the leader’s ability to develop them any further. Good leaders, however, aren’t threatened by another’s success. They are willing to celebrate as those around them succeed — even help them get there.

7. Serve others expecting nothing in return – Good leaders have a heart of service. They truly love and value people and want to help others for the good of the one being helped, not necessarily for personal gain.

8. Continue to learn – Good leaders are always learning and implementing those learnings into the betterment of the organization. That could be through reading, conferences, web-based learnings, or through other leaders, but also through people who report to the leader.

9. Accessible, approachable, and accountable to others – Good leaders don’t isolate themselves from people regardless of the amount of responsibility or power he or she attains. Good leaders willingly seek the input of other people into their professional and personal lives. They desire to know people, not just be known by people.

10. Visionary – thinks beyond today – Good leaders are always thinking “What’s next?” It is a common question asked by good leaders, knowing someone must continually challenge the boundaries and encourage change. They spur growth and strategic thinking so the organization can remain healthy, vibrant and sustainable.

These are in no particular order. You may say some are more important than others but as soon as I prioritize them we can start to marginalized the higher numbers. They are all important in my opinion. 

What would you add to my list?