7 Warnings for Aspiring Leaders

These I've learned the hard way

Almost on a weekly basis I hear from young pastors who want to grow as a leader. They feel the pressure placed upon them and knows others are looking to him to steer the church on a healthy course. Most of these leaders are humble, knowing ultimately Christ is the head of the church.

They also usually know three things:

1. There are expectations of their position by the people of the church. People are looking to them for leadership.

2. Decisions have to be made which are not clearly defined in Scripture. And, there are usually varied opinions already formed around the decision.

3. Seminary didn’t train them for all the decisions they need to make.

That’s often why they contact someone like me.

Sometimes it seems I’ve given the same advice many times – either reminding myself or to another pastor. The more times I share the same concept, the more it becomes a short, paradigm shaping idea, which summarizes the basic issue the leader is facing.

What isn’t always clear is how I’ve learned these concepts mostly by living these concepts. I’ve made more mistakes in leadership than I’ve had success.

And, that’s what this post is about. These are some warnings I’ve observed first hand in leadership positions I’ve held. I’m trying not to continue to live them and I’d love to help other leaders avoid them.

Here are 7 warnings for aspiring leaders:

What you “settle for” eventually becomes the culture. And, then it is much more difficult to change. In fact, you’re probably settling because you’re fighting against culture now. Leadership involves challenging people beyond their current confort level.

Mediocrity isn’t created. It’s accepted. Oh, how I’ve learned this one the hard way. People will be average if you allow them to be. It’s easier. In most jobs, they get paid the same. That’s not even to say it’s what they prefer. Most people prefer excellence, but it often takes leadership – or coaching – to pull out the best in people.

Your actions determine other people’s reactions. During stressful times the leader’s response dictates the level of stress on the team. When it’s time to celebrate, the team will seldom celebrate more than the leader. The leader sets the bar of expectations in how the team reacts to life as a team.

Don’t assume they agree because they haven’t said anything. I actually wrote about a whole chapter about this one in my book The Mythical Leader. But, silence doesn’t equate to agreement.

You’ll never get there just “thinking about it”. And, we do more of that as a team sometimes – it seems – than we do getting work done. Every good idea isn’t even something the team should do. But, if it is, there needs to be a plan. Who’s in charge? When are we doing it? And, how will we know when we are successful?

If you’re the leader, they are likely waiting on you to lead or release the right to lead. People seldom take initiative unless you lead – or unless you create the culture which gives them permission, freedom and encouragement to do so.

What the team values becomes apparent by your actions, more than your words. And, it doesn’t matter how well spoken you might be. People follow what the leader does.

What warnings would you share to aspiring leaders?

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20 thoughts on “7 Warnings for Aspiring Leaders

  1. I am grateful to our AWE-GOD that our mistakes that we stepped into by our impulsive human conditions can and will be Kingdom translated into GOD’s Miraculous Messages.
    My mistake is paying forward temporary life by reacting to the human condition of the issue at hand instead of responding with Kingdom Perspective. The long or short of it boils down to long or short? Will I lead by reaction or response? Time with God makes reaction a bit longer, but creates a response that pays forward an eternal difference. Do I want to pay forward a temporary difference that will collapse under the weight of the human condition or do I want to pay forward an eternal difference that will stand the tests of time? Most of the time in my early leadership I reacted and oh OUCH it hurt as it created crooked paths and OH, I am so thankful for God, who continued to “grow me through” and teach me how wonderful it is to walk on straight paths. Now, I take the time needed to respond as I take my reaction to God 1st and He straightens it out by His Kingdom Perspective. Our God is sooooooo good at making crooked places straight! AWE-GOD!

    Twitter: kmac4him

  2. Wonderful thoughts! Love it. Here's what I might add.
    The inability to deal with conflict immediately and in good character WILL eventually implode your team / Church / organization.

  3. A couple of warnings:

    They're you're team and you're responsible for them (Though every warning you gave could come back to this truth)

    You will fail. It's how you recover from that determines the quality of your leadership

  4. Good word! Especially "what you settle for becomes the culture". In the past I allowed certain things to go unaddressed to avoid having to confront someone, or address an issue. It became a bigger problem, and showed others on your team what you really thought was important.