7 Reasons Introversion Works Well for Me as a Senior Leader

Sarcastic background

I read an article recently that suggested the majority of senior leaders think extroversion is necessary to be an effective senior leader. Obviously — and hopeful I am correct — I disagree. In fact, I see benefits in being an introverted senior leader.

I also know people who can’t believe I can pastor a large church and be introverted. I’ve written before about the false assumptions of introverts. Introverts can be just as caring, loving and “shepherding” as extroverts. It’s a personality trait, not a heart monitor. But, again, I see benefits in being a lead pastor and an introvert.

Here are 7 ways introversion works well for me as a senior leader:

I think first and speak later. I don’t stick my foot in my mouth very many times. I’m not saying extroverts do, but I am saying that as an introverts I tend to choose my words very carefully. One characteristic of the personality is we don’t speak quickly. We choose our words more intentionally. Understand, I do say things I regret, but it doesn’t happen often.

I’m less likely to struggle with the loneliness of leadership. This is a real leadership emotion, and I certainly have it some, but I’m very comfortable being alone in a room to my thoughts. Long runs by myself are energizing to me. I know many extroverted leaders who can get very lonely — and some days for them are very difficult, especially when they are in the midst of harder leadership decisions.

I create intentional moments. My introversion forces me to be very intentional about my time interacting with others. I say continually to introverted leaders — introversion should never be a crutch or an excuse for not engaging with people. Leadership is a relational process for all of us. But, my relational time is very focused. I tend to make the most of my time. A calendar is one of my essential leadership tools. Sunday mornings I’m the most extroverted person in our church building. It’s strategic, intentional, and I enjoy it — because I truly love people — even though it is draining.

It’s easy to concentrate on the big picture. You’ll seldom find me chit-chatting. It’s not that I don’t have casual conversations — I certainly do when I’m connecting with people — but communication for me is usually very purposeful. As a result, I tend to be able to be very big picture oriented. Very strategic in my thinking. I step back and observe everything often. I’m a deep thinker. Those are traits especially strong with most introverts. That has proven to be very profitable for my leadership and the teams I lead.

Processed randomness. People often wonder if I know how to have fun. “Pastor you seem so serious” or “What do you do for fun?” I hear comments like that frequently. Those are usually people who only see me when I’m working and don’t know me very well. And, I do work hard, but I can sometimes be seen as the class clown too — by those who get to know me. Some of that comes through online. But when those times occur, they are usually intentional times. My work is caught up, I have done all the things I have to get done, and I’m ready to “come out and play”. That quality can be in extroverts or introverts, but for me as an introvert, they are more intentional moments than spontaneous.

I network intentionally. I recognize the value of every conversation I have. So, I have lots of conversations. Every Sunday is a gold mine of networking opportunities. Plus, I meet dozens of people every week in the community where I serve. I enjoy meeting people knowing that people are my purpose — and I love people — I really do. More than that, I love how God wants to develop and grow people, and I see my role in that as a teacher. People are the reason for everything I do.

I tend to listen well. People on my team usually have a very good chance of having their voice heard, because in any meeting setting, I don’t feel the need to be the one always talking. My introversion allows me to be quiet, sit back, listen, and reflect and offer input when and where most needed.

Sure there are struggles with being an introvert at times, but I have found it to be a blessing in my leadership. It is who I am — it is NOT a curse. Much of that has to do with how I manage my introversion in an often very extroverted world.

How does introversion make you an effective leader?

5 Things I Learned in Church Planting

Typical Rural Icelandic Church under a blue summer sky

I’ve planted two churches. In each plant, God overwhelmed us continually with what He did among us. I feel humbled and blessed to be a part of such healthy environments God uses to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I have learned a few things in the process. Some of these were new insights and some of were things I had confirmed, but all are things I would suggest other church planters consider.

Here are 5 lessons I learned in church planting:

Don’t shy away from leaders, even though they are churched — you’ll need them – When we started, if a person showed up who regularly attended another local church, we shied away from them. We weren’t rude to them, but we really didn’t pursue them as we did other visitors, simply out of respect of other churches. What I have learned, however, is that many times this was standing in the way of something God was doing in the person’s life. At the same time, we were suffering from a leadership void not having enough people ready to lead in a church setting. There’s a huge difference in recruiting and accepting people churched people into a church plant.

Don’t be afraid to talk about money — you’ll need it - I know this is a problem for many church planters, because a perception is that people church plants reach are repelled by money talks. Granted, some people wrongly feel that all churches talk about is money and so they push back anytime money is mentioned. We can know and tell people that Jesus talked much about money (some say more than any other subject), but in an attempt to be attractive to unchurched people, church plants often avoid any money talk whatsoever. What I learned, however, is that it takes money to minister to people. Additionally, part of the spiritual growth process of a person is how they view and handle money and one of my roles is to help them mature in this area. I can’t do that unless we talk about it. And, the pushback when we do, if handled with truth and grace, is far less than I expected it to be.

Surround yourself with some encouragers — some days they’ll keep you going - The work of church planting by itself is tough and places a strain on the planter and his or her family, but church planting also has plenty of naysayers. The church world can be very competitive and church planters are not always the most popular pastors among the established church world. And, because things are new and in the discovery phase of building a church, not everyone will agree with every decision. (That’s in every church setting.) I’ve learned I needed enough people around me who believe in me and the vision of the plant so that on the days when I was down they could encourage me to pick my head up and keep moving forward towards what God had called us to do.

Know what to control and what to let go of — you’ll be stretched if you don’t - There are some things to hold on to very tightly, such as vision or senior leadership positions, but I learned to let go of things such as how the vision gets implemented or what color we use for rugs in the preschool area. (I never would have stressed about that last one — but you get the idea.) The more I allowed others to do and take leadership of, the greater success we had in reaching our overall vision.

Embrace hurting people — as much as it hurts - We extended so much grace to people — and we were burned a few times. I have been personally hurt by people to whom I invested so much love and support, who quickly fell back into their old way of life. I know God rewards this sacrifice, but it still stings. The fact is however, that some of the best leaders we developed over the years were hurting, broken people when they arrived. God still does miracles with people when we extend His grace and truth. (And, those have to be extended on an equal basis.)

I am not sure these are unique experiences to church plants — in fact, they are true now that I’m serving in church revitalization, but certainly church planting was where these paradigms were shaped in me. It was a learning process every day — as all leadership positions are, but my hope is that others will learn from our experience.

Which of these do you most need reminding of today?

10 Tweetable Pieces of Advice for Pastors

senior pastor

I was in the business world longer than I’ve been a pastor, so I’m still relatively “new” in the field of vocational ministry. I do have many years of experience with life and leadership. It has been amazing to watch how those principles have transferred for God’s glory into the work in the church.

One of my favorite things to do is to invest in other church leaders. I am frequently asked by pastors what my best leadership advice is for them. I don’t know how I could contain all I’d share in a single conversation or post. Plus, I’m still learning. I learn something new everyday.

So, this post is random. And, this post is not exhaustive.

Here are 10 Tweetable pieces of advice I share with pastors:

1. Don’t trade searching for a “Word” on Sunday for searching for a personal relationship with God. That’s where you’ll get your “word”.

2. Don’t allow a need to protect your reputation to keep you from welcoming accountability. You need it!

3. Never compromise one Biblical principle to keep another (shepherding the flock/caring for your family). Your family needs you and so does your church.

4. Don’t waste energy on those people who aren’t trying to help you build a ministry, but trying instead to tear it down.

(A pastor friend of mine once said, “Seek your need for affirmation among the people to whom God has sent you to minister.”)

5. Allow criticism to shape you, but not control you. Every leader doing anything of value attracts critics.

(BTW, criticism often has some elements of merit, so don’t dismiss it completely, but realize the source of your critics, their intent and how it fits with the vision God has given you.)

6. Don’t get so comfortable to where you refuse to walk by faith. God called you to a life of faith-walking.

7. If God is stretching you, it may be uncomfortable for a while, perhaps even hurt, but eventually you’ll love the new shape.

8. As a leader, you’ll seldom make everyone happy. In fact, if that’s your goal, you might consider whether or not you’re a leader.

9. The more you know and trust the heart of God, the less you’ll stress when you don’t know or understand the ways of God.

10. I’d rather lead with character than competence. I can surround myself w/competent people, but no one can make up for my lack of character.

7 Hints You’re About to Make a Bad Leadership Decision

No keyboard key finger

I’ve made many bad decisions in my leadership. Thankfully, the longer I lead, the more I develop warning signs I’m about to make another. I think these may apply to all leaders.

These aren’t full proof. They don’t mean you are definitely making a bad decision. But, they are hints you might and worth considering before you make the decision — especially major decisions.

Here are 7 hints you’re about to make the wrong decision as a leader:

It makes everyone happy. Chances are you’re settling for less than best. The best decisions almost never please everyone.

It’s easy. Some decisions are. Most aren’t. Especially major decisions.

You made it alone. Plans fail for the lack of counsel. With many counselors plans succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)

You made it too quickly. Some decisions need time to gel in your mind and heart. Most major decisions need a good nights sleep — or several.

You made it too slowly. When you’ve wrestled with it long enough — and you know the right thing to do — some decisions just need to be made — even without having all the answers.

It changes nothing. Change is a part of leadership. In fact, without change you don’t need a leader. People can stay the same on their own.

Your gut tells you otherwise. You have a gut for a reason. Most likely it was developed over the years. It’s dangerous to ignore it.

Put some of your major decisions through this grid. I’m speaking from experience or many bad leadership decisions. It might help you avoid some of my mistakes — and make better ones.

What are some ways you diagnose a potential bad decision?

Would Regionalism Work for the Church?

image

I was in a community program recently talking about regionalism. 

Websters defines regionalism as: 

1 a: consciousness of and loyalty to a distinct region with a homogeneous population 
b: development of a political or social system based on one or more such areas

2: emphasis on regional locale and characteristics

This particular gathering was a regional leadership development program sponsored by regional economic development groups. We were representative of several adjoining counties trying to decide how we could work together better to promote the greater interests of everyone in the region.

We could promote each others activities for tourism. We could share information that helps each of us better compete globally. If one company is a better fit for another county than for ours, we could suggest the other county. We could realize that what is good for one county is good for the entire region. 

Simple stuff but huge realities were shared. 

People in economic development are thinking regionalism and it was fun to put my business and former political hat back on again. 

But I couldn’t help but think, if people in economic development are thinking regionalism…

Should churches?

Would it even work?

Could churches do a better job in their regions if they came together for a common good?

I recognize some of the fears and hesitancy towards regionalism. The mixing and perhaps confusion of messages. The conflict of styles and traditions. The threat of a loss of individuality or control. The uniqueness of cultures.

I’m not suggesting it would be easy. Nothing really good ever is easy.

But, is regionalism something the church should consider?

That’s all I’m asking.

Maybe we could start by asking questions such as…

What are our shared values?

What are common goals?

What are initiatives we can do together?
 
How can your church help my church?

How can my church help your church? 

Regionalism. 

Worth considering for the church?

Or am I bringing too much of my business background into the church again? 

Just wondering.

7 of the Hardest Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

mindset word cloud

One of the hardest parts of leading for me has been the things I’ve had to learn or do that may have been contrary to the way I would have naturally done them.

For example, I like to be in control of my surroundings. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. There have been several incidents in my personal life which have shaped that in me as a person. Yet as a leader there are many times I don’t have the privilege of being in control. To some that may sound like the opposite of being a good leader. Learning to empower people, however, has proven to actually be a better leadership model for me.

So I decided to share some of the hardest paradigms I have had to learn in order to be effective as a leader.

Here are 7 hard paradigms I had to learn to be an effective leader:

I had to develop the ability to say no more than I get to say yes. I love to say yes. It’s easier. It makes people happier. It’s such a more positive word. And, I’m a positive person — the glass is always half full for me — three-fourths even. But, I’ve learned that always saying yes makes me very ineffective as a leader and eventually leads to my burnout. How healthy is that for our team?

I have to live with sometimes being unpopular. The natural tendency is to believe that the leader is well known and, frankly, well liked. I’ve learned however that every decision I make seems to make some people happy and some not so happy. I’ve even made some people angry — with some of the decisions I have made — even some that in time proved to be the best decision.

I have to move forward sometimes in uncertainty. I’ve never been able to have all the answers before a decision has to be made. That would totally remove the faith factor and it would stagnate us. I’ve learned to be an effective leader I have to be willing to go into the unknown.

I had to get comfortable challenging mediocrity. If you don’t know, you can ruffle someone’s feathers if you challenge the way they’ve been doing something. That includes if what they are doing isn’t working and they’ve “always done it that way”. But, I’ve learned that as a leader it’s part of my job to challenge us to improve — in all areas. Granted, sometimes we can push too hard or too fast, but it’s incredibly difficult to recover from complacency.

I had to lower my pride and admit I can often be wrong. I came into leadership, as most leaders do, believing I had some answers to offer. And sometimes I do. But I’ve also learned that my team often knows more than me. In fact, if I surround myself with the right team — that statement would be — my team always knows more than me. At least in the individual areas they lead. I have to yield to them and empower them for us to achieve our maximum potential.

I had to come to a reality that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything. As a creative, my mind has a tendency to wander. If I’m not careful, I’ll try to be too involved in everyone else’s work and the work I’m supposed to do suffers. I want to help the discipleship ministry, the mission ministry, the music ministry, and the administrative ministry of the church, and every other ministry — in an in depth way. Granted, I need to be involved at some level, and part of my job as leader is casting vision for the entire church, but micromanaging never produces healthy or the best results. Disciplining myself not to always have an opinion has proven to be a more effective form of leadership.

I had to realize that sometimes the best thing to put on my calendar is rest. I’m from a generation and a family history of work. Rest doesn’t come without discipline for me. How can doing nothing be a good thing? I am wired for it to seem counter-productive to me. I’ve learned, however, that without proper rest, I’m eventually very ineffective as a leader. There have been days — extremely busy days — where the best decision of my day was to stop take a nap and started again. Needing proper rest is true of days, weeks, and seasons in order for my leadership to remain effective.

Those are some that come to my mind. I’m sure there are others.

What paradigms have you learned that have helped you be a more effective leader?

2 Things We Don’t Talk About That Leaders Desperately Need

next up

This is a guest post by my friend Jonathan Pearson. Jonathan is the Orangeburg Campus Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church and Assistant Director of The Sticks Network. He is the co-creator of MillennialLeader.com, an online community for young leaders. His book Next Up releases today!

2 Things We Don’t Talk About That Leaders Desperately Need

One of the things we hear about everywhere right now is dieting and exercise. Turn on any info commercial or look at any magazine and you’re going to see a variety of different programs, products, and fads designed to get you “shredded” or “ripped” in just a few weeks or months.

If you’ve ever tried any of these brilliant, cure-all inventions, you’re probably like me and you’ve been left disappointed and slightly mad at yourself that you spent your hard earned money on that pill or that book or that program (again).

Several years ago a hot new weight loss pill came out that promised (at least in the commercial and the larger letters on the bottle) that it would help anyone who tried it to lose weight and look better without changing their diet or exercising. Being someone that’s always looking to try new things, I gave it a shot. Thirty days later, I gained 3 pounds because I had quit thinking any about what I was eating because I didn’t want to “change” anything.

I failed at that weight loss venture and people fail at fad diets and exercise routines because there is no short cut. Any thing worth having requires 2 things in order to get it…

Conviction and Consistency

I said it like this in my book, Next Up,

Consistency requires conviction. In order for us to do something consistently, we have to have a conviction that the end result is worth it.

The reason that many leaders fail to make the necessary changes in their lives and in their organizations isnt because they lack good ideas, but because they lack conviction and consistency. They lack the conviction that what they think needs to be done HAS to get done. Making changes in our lives and in our leadership requires that we are consistent with our actions and that consistency comes from a conviction from within.

Solid changes don’t happen from fad diets or the latest leadership book, they happen from people and leaders that are consistent in their actions and help bring about that change.

Leader, people are watching you to see if you have the conviction that the vision is worth the process. They’re watching to see if you’re consistent in your effort to make lasting change.

There’s no fad. We just have to do it the hard way. Little by little. Victory by victory.

Read more about topics like this in Jonathan’s book Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make. To find out more about the book, go to nextupbook.com. To find out more about Jonathan go to JonP.me.

Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail: Here’s Why?

Teamwork crossword

I was in a meeting recently and someone defined a leader as one who provides answers and direction to a team. 

I understood their concept. I disagreed with the application. 

In fact, I have a different theory.

Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail…

In fact…

It can be best for everyone.

It often provides the best discoveries.

It promotes buy in.

It fuels creativity.

It fosters teamwork.

As the team wrestles together for answers great discoveries are made — about the team and the individuals on the team. 

If the leader always has everything clearly defined — is always ready with an answer — then why does he or she need a team?

The Biggest Stumbling Block in Sustaining Growth

Proud

It’s the biggest stumbling block to sustaining growth.

In my opinion.

It often happens during times of success.

You can have all the right systems, momentum and motivation — won’t matter.

You can have the best vision — still can happen.

You can surround yourself with the greatest team — just as likely to occur.

I’ve seen it far too many times.

The biggest stumbling block in sustaining growth…

Is foolish pride.

I once had a prominent pastor tell me he had survived every power struggle in the church. He looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve faced my biggest opponents. There is not one person in this church who can oppose me now.”

A few years later he was voted out of the church.

When a leader starts to think…

I’ve got this.

Look what I’ve achieved.

I’m in control.

Look at me.

Nothing can stop me now.

Watch out!

The day of destruction is drawing near. It’s just a matter of time.

Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. (Obadiah 1:4 ESV)

Guard your heart leaders. Guard your heart.

Remember Where You Came From : One key to leading organizational change

History

There was a saying when I was growing up an older generation used often — I don’t hear it as much anymore.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

And, if you were one of my relatives — talking to me — you might have said it with emphasis.

“Don’t forget where you came from — boy!”

I think there’s a good leadership principle there too.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

An organization will have different leaders. Different styles. Different approaches.

But, it should never forget where it came from.

The church where I pastor has a 105 years of history. Most of those were before me. :) (103 of those years.)

We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the two years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.

I’m convinced, however, that one of the reasons we’ve grown is that we’ve tried not to forget this principle.

We have held numerous celebrations of the past. We hung banners in our halls celebrating the decades long gone. We invited past leaders back to celebrate milestones with us. I consistently remind people this didn’t start with me.

If you are attempting to grow in an established environment and culture, you need to celebrate from where you came.

Celebrate the past.

Celebrate the past leadership.

Celebrate the triumphs.

Celebrate the pain.

Okay, maybe celebrate is a tough word for the painful times, but certainly remember what the church was able to overcome.

I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all that happened in the past. That’s especially true if the most previous leader left in more difficult times. It’s sometimes easier to create new energy if you can ignore the past. I’m not convinced, however, that it’s the healthiest or best way.

Leadership may be able to move that quickly, but people usually can’t. They need closure. They need time. They need to remember — and for their leaders to remember — from where they came. Those times were important monuments in their life.

Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership, I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.

Remember where you came from — boy. (Or girl)