7 Barriers to Growth Every Leader Needs to Eliminate Today

As a consultant and senior leader, I have had multiple opportunities to come into a church or organization, assess where things are, identify barriers to growth, and offer suggestions to address them. 

(This type thinking actually fuels me as a leader, so let me know if I can help you.) 

It might appear that change is a difficult process in helping an organization grow again. And certainly it is a difficult part. Change is always hard. But in my experience, often identifying the things that need to be changed most and when to change them is the harder decision. 

And there are several reasons why, even leaders who want change have a hard time determining what needs changing: 

  • Leaders tend to get comfortable with the way things are being done. 
  • Just like the people they lead, they become protective of the way things operate. 
  • After something is done a certain way long enough it’s hard to see how they are barriers stalling growth. They are just “normal”. 

Here are 7 common barriers I’ve seen that every leader needs to eliminate today: 

The lid of capacity. As leaders, we often set an unwritten limit to where people can go within the organization. The lines of authority sometimes dictate where ideas can originate or who is involved in strategic-thinking. Some of the best ideas are not even welcomed simply because there is not a clear avenue for them to be shared. 

This may need to be the subject of another post, but one example of how I have tried to address this lid is with what I call “focus groups”. Whenever we are stalled in an area of ministry, I like to invite different voices to brainstorm and develop new ideas. New people always bring new capacity. 

A culture of fear. When people are afraid of making a mistake they are less likely to take a risk. Leaders must create cultures where even failure is embraced as a tool for discovering new insights. 

One way I have attempted this is by calling new initiatives an “experiment”. Make it known up front we are trying something and we aren’t sure if it will work. 

The absence of hope. You don’t even try where things appear to be hopeless. In the darkest of days, the leader should provide hope that the future will be bright. 

In most every sermon message and every staff or church-wide meeting, I try to paint a picture of hope for people. The world is full of naysayers and doomsayers. We need to be agents of hope. 

The limitations of resources. Granted this takes creativity, especially when finances are stretched, but always hearing “we can’t afford that” or “we aren’t big enough to do that” is never motivating to a team. 

I wrote a post on innovative ways to develop people, as an example. One way I address this lid is by continually asking this question such as: What would we do if the life of this ministry depends on doing something new, but there were no resources to do so? With good leadership desperation can often lead to innovation. 

Burdensome bureaucracies. Structure is good. We need good managers and good guidelines to keep us legal and accountable. When structure begins to get in the way of progress it needs to change. 

This is probably one I challenge the most as a leader. Partly this is because I’m not a good rule-follower. Mostly it is because I have seen this one cause the most limitations to growth in established churches. 

The vision-less organization. Where are you going and why are you going there? People will work to achieve things they can understand the why and they believe in it.

The leader must continually be sharing the why behind the decisions being made. I try to do this every time I assign a task or make a request of someone on our team. 

(By the way, sharing the vision often forces the leader to ask hard questions too. Sometimes you end up realizing there’s not a good why. When that is the case, perhaps you don’t even need to do it. Now you have time to do something else.) 

Meaningless meetings. Most people have more to do than sit in a meeting that only happened because it appears regularly on a calendar. And when they are forced to do so it keeps them from doing more productive things. 

Get rid of meetings just to meet. One thing I try not to keep the same standing meeting schedules for too long. Being willing to review when we meet and why, at least on an annual basis, keeps things fresher, helps ensure the right people are in the room and makes meetings more effective. (This includes keeping me out of meetings where I’m simply not needed.) 

These are a few barriers I’ve observed and continually try to address in organizations where I lead. Again, I’d love to come help your team analyze and address some of these. Let me know if I can help. 

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Ron Edmondson

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