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?

5 “C” Suggestions for Developing Trust as a Leader

serious executive business woman team leader

Trust is like gold in leadership. Without it a leader will fail to build a healthy following. Change will be difficult to implement. Retention and recruitment of leaders becomes near impossible.

Developing trust takes time. It is seldom granted with position or title. Most people have been injured in relationships which keeps them from trusting blindly or quickly.

Three years into my current position, I recognize with many in the church I pastor I’m still developing levels of trust.

If any leader wants to be successful, much will be determined by the level of trust he or she can attain. One goal of every leader, therefore, should be trust development.

How do we do this?

Here are 5 suggestions for developing trust as a leader:

Compassion. Trusted leaders have shown people by experience they care for others — not just in lip service, but with genuine heartfelt compassion. Trusted leaders love people. Seeing others succeed around them is a high and celebrated value.

Competence. Trusted leaders have knowledge in a subject matter, and, when they don’t know something, a willingness to yield to those who know more. They aren’t always second guessing themselves or the team. They believe in themselves, in God’s ability to work through them, and in the people with whom they surround themselves.

Consistent. There is an expected approach or methodology upon which people can depend upon with a trusted leader. They have a consistency in character so, whether through good and bad times, the integrity of the leader is above reproach.

Communication. Trusted leaders have a process, which shares in transparency and full disclosure to the teams they lead. You don’t have to continually guess what they are thinking, what they are dreaming, or what’s next on their planning agenda. They include others in the decision-making process and keep them informed along the way.

Courage. Trusted leaders aren’t sitting still while the world passes them. They make decisions. Even hard decisions. They are willing to lead their team into the unknown while they hold their position boldly in front — even willing to take “arrows” for the team when needed.

Those are a few of my suggestions. Let’s be trusted leaders. Let’s get things done.

3 Ways for Christians to Respond to Tragedies

TV interview

I wrote this for a weekly update I do for our church in response to the shootings in Oregon. Some thought it was helpful, so I share it here.

Let me share three ways to respond to this week’s tragedies.

There are more. These are three which come to my mind this morning.

Pray. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for the people who live in the area. Tragedies like this always shake a community even more than the broader world. Pray for the response of government and law officials. Pray for our world. These are desperate times. Pray for the Gospel to have opportunities to shine through darkness. “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Remember. This world is not our home. You believe that, right? We who believe are here on temporary assignment. We are pilgrims on a journey — passing through as we head towards our eternal home. Our God is on His throne. He is not surprised. He is not unprepared. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4)

Overcome evil. What if with every tragedy and every negative news report believers decided to do something good for others? Not requested. Unexpected. Just random acts of goodness in the name of Jesus Christ. What if we displayed peace and joy in the midst of sorrow? What if others who have no faith saw us who believe responding in faith? “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)

It is natural for children to respond with fear when they see these type tragedies. I wrote an article in response to this issue a couple years ago. I post it here in case it is helpful dealing with your children. http://www.ronedmondson.com/2012/12/7-ways-to-help-children-cope-with-fear.html

Top 5 Obstacles to Having a Great Christian Marriage

happy couple 2

I love marriage. I love the idea of marriage and the process of marriage.

But, marriage isn’t easy. It’s actually hard to have a good marriage.

One of the toughest verses in the Bible to obey is Ephesians 5:31 which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

One flesh.

The process of blending two very different people is what causes stress to many marriages.

In my work with marriages, I’ve identified 5 of the major obstacles to making a great ONE out of two very different people. Sometimes simply understanding what obstacles exist and knowing they are common to most marriages — you are not alone — can help us learn to see them not as obstacles, but as God-given opportunities to grow a stronger “one flesh”.

The 5 major obstacles I have seen are:

Lack of Biblical knowledge about marriage

There is very little premarital training in churches today or even in most homes that are raising children who will one day marry. When my boys got their driver’s license we sent them to four Saturdays of classes. How much training do most of us get for marriage? The fact is that most of us are somewhat surprised by marriage and we don’t really know how to make it work. We need to do a better job training people for marriage.

Differences in Men and Women

Men and women are designed differently by God — not just physically, but emotionally. We look at the world differently. We process information differently. We expect different things from relationships. We have wrongly tried to equalize everything when it comes to men and women. I strongly agree we need equality when it comes to things like workplace treatment or educational opportunities, but when it comes to matters of the heart, and especially marriage, we better know that God designed a difference in men and women.

Communication styles 

Because of our differences, men and women communicate differently. Men tend to communicate thinking to thinking; while women tend to communicate heart to heart. One of the reasons Cheryl and I might have conflict is because I say things I intend for her mind to hear and it’s received with her heart. We need to remember that we communicate differently.

Outside influences

Every marriage has influences beyond their immediate control, but that have profound and direct impact on the marriage. Some of those influences include:

  • Children
  • In-laws/other relatives
  • Friends
  • Pressures of life/stress
  • Devil

All of these are normal influences in any marriage. Some of them are even welcome influencers in the marriage. The key is not to let ANY of them distract from the plan God has for the marriage to become one flesh.

Differing Goals/Objectives 

Remember every couple is made up of two unique, differently designed individuals. That means each one brings unique qualities, personalities and opinions to the relationship. Again, that’s part of God’s overall design to make two people one.

Some of the major differences include:

  • Outlook on life; usually one is more positive and one is more negative.
  • Differences in family backgrounds
  • Personality differences Introvert/Extrovert; Thinker/Feeler; Organized/Disorganized
  • Parenting Objectives

The overall goal of marriage is not to make both parties in the marriage like one of the parties.  It’s to make ONE new unit out of the two. Discovering how to blend one flesh out of two different people takes years and requires practice, patience and lots of hard work. Remembering that differences are a part of God’s plan and can actually help us build stronger marriages.

Remember also God didn’t promise this would be easy. In fact, the very next line after the difficult verse I shared in the opening of this post says, “This is a profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). If you are married, praise God for the mystery He gave you today.

What other obstacles have you seen to having a great marriage?

One Suggestion to Take Stress from the Hiring Process

Handsome business man outdoor

There is so much stress involved in hiring the right person for the team. I am a very strategic person. This is especially true when hiring new people to our team. It’s one of the few areas I have such a strong voice in how it’s done and I am slow to add people.

Still, I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

If you get stressed about hiring the right person I have a suggestion which may help.

I have done this with great success in hiring several staff positions for our team.

Build the job description around the person.

It’s that simple.

Set an overall vision for what you’re trying to achieve — hire the best person you can find — then build the job description — with the person’s help — around the person you hire.

If they excel in administrative tasks then the job description may have more administrative tasks.

If they excel in creative tasks then the job description may have more inventive tasks.

Find people around whom you believe you can shape a team.

This is true whether they are paid or volunteer.

This approach allows you to hire for character, competence, experience and fit with the team. In fact, I think the culture fit may be most important. But, this approach doesn’t limit you to finding an exact replica of a clearly defined, narrowly focused job description.

Here’s the deal. I ultimately just want a strong team. I want people who share an overall vision with me. But, I don’t want to script how they accomplish their specific part of the vision.

This way of hiring allows me to be a leader instead of a manager. It frees people to be leaders instead of employees. It helps us achieve more than a rigid structured environment ever could.

And, I best of all — it makes for a much happier team.

Find the right people and you can build the right team.

6 Reasons Why Anxiety, Worry, & Fear are Particular Problems for Christians

Desperate man holding his face in hands appears in a miserable state of unhappiness.

As a supplement to the message I did on anxiety and trust I asked my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler to do a guest post on my blog with her thoughts and observations on the issue of anxiety and Christians.

A psychologist, life coach, author, speaker, wife, and mom, Jennifer is passionate about helping people create healthy, successful relationships. You can find Dr. Jennifer podcasting and blogging about marriage, sex, parenting, friendships, and spiritual and personal growth on the Healthy Relationships Rx website at http://healthyrelationshipsrx.com.

About 20% of the US population has an anxiety disorder. That’s about one in five people, or 40 million adults. If you were allowed to pick your psychological disorder, pick anxiety because it’s very treatable. Not every psychological condition is treatable, but anxiety responds very well to treatment; however, only about 1/3 of suffering anxious people ever seek treatment. If left untreated, anxiety can lead to depression.

When I was in graduate school in the 1980’s, depression was the common cold of mental illness. Now it’s anxiety. Americans live in one of the safest countries in the world, but after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the anxiety levels of Americans skyrocketed.

I think overexposure to and over-consumption of anxiety-provoking material, like 24/7 scary news stories and increasingly violent movies and video games, has contributed to the rise in anxiety disorders. You would think anxious people wouldn’t watch a lot of news and crime shows, but they tend to be heavy consumers, usually because they are subconsciously watching for what the victim “did wrong” in a misguided effort to keep themselves safe by avoiding similar behaviors. Unfortunately, instead of making them feel safer, overexposure to anxiety-provoking shows and news stories just makes them feel more unsafe and keeps their brains in a hypervigilant state.

Anxiety tricks our brain, and the amygdala in particular, into activating our fight vs. flight response when we aren’t actually in danger. For example, when we watch a scary movie, our brains are tricked into thinking we are in danger even though we are safe in the theater. So our heart pounds, our palms sweat, and we breathe faster—until the movie is over. Then we realize we are safe, and our brain and body calm down.

For chronic worriers or those with an anxiety disorder, worry about the future is the scary movie. Those “What If” worries about an uncertain future hijack the brain, trick it into activating the fight vs. flight response, and cause physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. Once anxious people understand this neural hijacking, they are much less self-condemning of their anxiety and better able to use body-centered techniques to calm their anxious brain.

Here’s my favorite quote to use in conjunction with teaching clients body-centered techniques, such as mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation, which help them use their five senses to pull their anxious mind back into today. 

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me today.” Elisabeth Elliot

And, most of the time, we are okay in today. Dry, warm, fed, roof over our heads–that’s today, and we are okay in today. It’s in the imagined future that we aren’t okay.

It’s so much better to live in the Land of What Is instead of the Land of What If.

In my opinion, fear, worry, and anxiety are particular problems for Christians for the following reasons:

1) Christians over spiritualize fear and anxiety. They tend to believe it’s all a spiritual thing and overlook the genetic, personality, and trauma contributors to anxiety issues. And when believers hear another person tell of their anxiety struggles, they tend to prescribe only spiritual solutions for a mind/body/spirit problem. If you have an anxiety disorder, you are unlikely to be able to “pray it away” any more than you could pray away diabetes.

2) Christians carry shame over their anxiety and fear because they tend to believe it always indicates a lack of faith or an immature faith. They believe lies such as “Good Christians never feel afraid or anxious” or “If I struggle with worry, I am a weak Christian.”

3) Because of the shame, they tend to cover over how much they are suffering from an untreated anxiety disorder. They gloss over it, call it being “stressed out,” and don’t share their stories in community where they could possibly receive support and encouragement to get treatment.

4) Christians can give each other truly unhelpful but sounds-so-spiritual advice for managing crippling fear and anxiety, like “Just let go and let God” or “Just give it to Jesus” or “Just lean into Jesus.” What in the world does this look like practically?

5) Christians can be suspicious of helpful body-centered techniques for managing anxiety. It’s like we are Gnostics who believe the body is evil and only spirit is good, when in fact, body-centered techniques work well to reduce anxiety because of the way God made our brain.

6) Because Christianity offers peace, hope, and a certain eternal future, it is particularly attractive to anxious people. So baseline, you’ll find more anxious people in a church than waiting in line to bungee jump. I don’t have hard statistics on this, but I think the incidence of anxiety disorders in a church congregation is higher than the 20% you find in the general US population. Plus anxious people tend to also be imaginative, deeply feeling, empathetic people–the kind of people who are drawn to the kindness and compassion found in good churches.

If you are the 1 in 5 persons who struggles with anxiety, worry, or fear, please get treatment from an experienced mental health professional. While treatment may not make the anxiety go completely away, it should help you suffer much less and be able to enjoy the abundant life and peace Jesus promises.


10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

follow leader

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, consistently encourages me that I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers — maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

4 Reasons Why I Hate Policies and Rules and 4 Suggestions for Improvement

Employee Handbook and Forms

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of policies. It may be because I’m not a very good rule follower, but I honestly don’t think they work as well as they are intended.

Policies are defined as a course, plan or principle of action. They are designed to offer a sense of control. In theory, policies are to make things better. I will admit they are a necessary part of dealing with people in an organizational setting. Without some policies we would have chaos.

Even with the title of this post there are some who are already objecting. I will have some policy lovers who disagree with my wording or maybe even that I would seem against policies. And, maybe the title is too strong. I probably should say I hate bad policies. But, I certainly think many organizations and churches have too many policies.

My problem with polices is they often interrupt progress rather than enhance it. If not careful, a policy may control the success you want to see as a leader. I personally would rather have chaos with no policies than a bunch of really bad policies.

When I got to an established church we had a policy — voted on by the church in a business meeting at some point — on folded chairs. True story. It told the procedures to do if someone borrowed folding chairs from the church. It should be noted we probably no longer even had the chairs of which the policy spoke, but just in case we ever did again there was already a policy in place.

Granted, policies may make sense when they are created, but as we look at the issue from a bigger picture they can even appear comical over time. Obviously, we can figure out what led to a folding chair policy. Someone borrowed chairs. They didn’t bring them back or treat them as they should. Therefore, to prevent this from ever occurring again — write a new policy. (Not to be over-dramatic, but it almost sounds like what the religious rulers were doing when Jesus began His ministry.)

Here are 4 reasons I hate policies:

Policies eliminate a sense of freedom – Policies, by nature, are methods of control. Even for those who love rules and want everything spelled out for them, policies can add a sense of burden as you attempt (or don’t attempt) to live up to their demands. Show me an environment with a bunch of policies and Youncan almost always find some stressed out people.

Policies limit ability to think outside the box – Policies can limit thoughts to a pre-determined outcome, which keeps the random and potentially explosive thoughts from developing. They can limit people’s ability to dream, explore, redesign and imagine. If everything is spelled out for people they have no reason to actually think for themselves.

Policies stall attempts at excellence – The parameters of a policy often produce an atmosphere of mediocrity. Everything is clear. Planned. Written. Solved. No need for improvement here — until someone finds another way to mess up, of course — then add another policy.

Policies curtail the pursuit of progress – The weight of meeting a policy’s demands can take energy from pursuing things with the opportunity of greater progress.

My suggestion?

In lieu of a policy for everything, here are 4 suggestions:

Handle individual problems individually – Ask yourself if the policy is needed for everyone or just a few people. Is it needed for everyone to keep us organized, effective or legal? When the answer is it’s only for a abusers — rather than create a new policy to control an issue — deal directly with the individual who needs more control. (It works — try it.) In the case of the chair policy, rather than write a policy — go get the chairs!

Treat people differently – If a team has more than one person, then there will be more than one type of person on the team. Do you follow me? Policies treat everyone the same, which ignores individuality and personality differences. Some people may need to be in the office to get things done, for example. They may need help disciplining their time. Others may work best when the schedule and work environment is more flexible. Put me in a coffee shop and my productivity grows.

Lead more than manage – Management is much about implementing policies and seeing they are adhered to completely. And, we need good management. Leadership, however, sets a vision and guides people towards it. Less policies are needed in that process.

Purposely allow for mistakes – Policies are easier to measure. They have a pass/fail assessment attached to them. Without policies grace and forgiveness can be more freely applied and people can learn from their failures without the repercussions and fear of breaking a policy.

My bottom line:

I’m not suggesting we can do without policies, but I am suggesting they should not be the “go to” solution to a problem. Most problems in an organization don’t need a new policy. Policies can weigh down progress. Granted, leading is more difficult without policies — even a little messy, but with less policies you’ll have opportunities for greater success.

Here’s a challenge: Look through your policies and rules Tom see which were created to control people, as a reaction to a problem which should have been handled individually, or is a policy no longer needed.

And, the real challenge is to lead towards an environment which empowers more than it controls.

Be honest. Are you more likely to want a policy or resist a policy?