Let’s Not Complicate Leadership

Sometimes I think we complicate leadership too much.

I frequently talk to pastors and ministry leaders who are stressed out by the things they know they should be doing, but aren’t getting done. They’ve read a blog – maybe even this one – they read a book, listened to a podcast, or attended a conference and they feel defeated by things, which they know could make a difference in their churches, but they’ve never been able to implement them. Either there hasn’t been enough time in the days, they didn’t feel they had someone to lead anything new, or the task just seemed overwhelming.

I get it. Leading is hard. And, there is always something else we “need” to be doing.

I’m not sure, however, that the principles and practice of leading have to be as difficult as we make them at times.

(And, side note, I always tell our team to copy principles not practices they learn elsewhere. Everything you read in a book or blog post, hear on a podcast, or learn at a seminar may be great in principle – learn from it, but be careful thinking the exact principle will work as a practice in your context. It might and it might not.)

I often tell leaders who want to improve to think of one or two areas in their organization or church, or in their personal leadership style, that they’d like to improve upon and take some small steps to make something happen in that area. Don’t start big. Start small. Concentrate on one bite of the elephant at a time. Take one thing you learned and implement it in a small way. Get better at it. Over time, do it more.

If you need to improve in the area of delegation, for example, find one small thing you do that you can completely give away to someone else. Perhaps it’s keeping your calendar. Or taking one of your hospital visiting days. Let them own it, control it, and decide how it’s done. Yes, it’s risky. Delegation always is, but start small and keep adding until you get better (and more accepting) of delegation.

If a leader is continually doing this over time they will start to see major improvement. 

Let me give you a broader example. Say you know you need to be building new leaders. Leadership development isn’t occurring in your church. That’s dangerous for any organization and it’s simply not Biblical for the church. I don’t have to convince you of this. You know it, withou a blog, podcast, book or conference.

So you, as the leader, recognize the need. You could simply set a goal to help develop one or two leaders this year. That’s all. Start small. Don’t overthink this or start too large. Currently no leadership development is being done, so imagine adding one or two high quality leaders to your team next year. It would be powerful. You replace the lack of anything with discovering and implementing a development of just a couple new leaders.

It might look something like this:

  • You meet with them regularly.
  • You find out their strengths.
  • You discover their weaknesses.
  • You seek ways to develop their strengths.
  • You help them learn to minimize their weaknesses.
  • You talk with them through your own leadership experience – good and bad.
  • You introduce them to new resources, new opportunities, new challenges, other leaders.
  • You give them real responsibility and authority to help them grow.

I realize that’s not as simple as I make it to be, and it’s certainly not profound, but it is doable and it starts moving things in a more positive direction. With intentionality, discipline and practice, a simple effort can lead to systematizing leadership development in a larger scale in the future.

Sticking with the example of leadership development, the problem for many of us is we start at the overwhelming sense. We know we need lots of new leaders and currently we have nothing in place to build new ones. So we try to begin with some complex system of leadership development. It is too big and too fast and, therefore, nothing ever gets off the ground.

Now apply this principle to a myriad of other practices in your personal life or the life of the church. Don’t make leadership more complicated than it has to be.

You may have heard some big, lofty ideas. That’s great. They stretch you, and that’s a good thing. But, take those grandious ideas and simplify them in your mind. Place them within your current context. Make them fit where they will work for you.

Start small. Make incremental improvements. Learn from the process. Improve. Increase. Add to. Grow. Systematize. Boo yah.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Leadership is nothing but it is the practice. Any one can't be a good leader in just few days, for that they have to be strong enough to handle their own attention first. They have have to spend at least 50% of their time over leading themselves.

  • […] I posted about this subject in a post titled “Sometimes We Complicate Leadership Too Much“. This is a continuation of that thought process. Basically, if we want to improve as […]

  • kmac4him says:

    So true! Thanks for the great wisdom. I tend to do this in seasons, it creep in with my "Martha tendencies". One way that I can tell that I am over complicating things is I lose a lot of a characteristic of Jesus called kindness. Jesus was the kindest man to walk this earth. When I stop being kind, when kindness is trumped by complicated procedures that have frustrated me, I know time to back away and re-evaluate. Kindness is my tell tale sign…
    Twitter: kmac4him

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