7 Reasons People Who Could Be Leading Aren’t

We need leaders. When Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…” I’m confident some of those workers should be leaders of other workers. Throughout the Scriptures God used men and women to lead others to accomplish great things – all to His glory.

But, I’m equally convinced, just as there are not enough people working who should be working – some of the workers who should be leading are not leading.

Why?

7 reasons people are not leading who could be:

They weren’t ever willing to face their fears.

Fear failure, fear of rejection, and the fear of the unknown are very real fears. But, fear is an emotion – not necessarily based on truth. Faith is a substance based on a certain – though unseen reality.

They never had the self-confidence to allow people to follow.

I know so many people who sit on the sidelines, even though people believe in them, but they just don’t believe in themselves.

They felt it was self-serving to step into the role of leadership.

One of my new favorite sayings is “Don’t trip over your own humility by refusing to do the right thing.” Yes, leaders can be in the center of attention, and some people are too “humble” to step into that role, but in the meantime, we are missing your leadership.

They waited for someone else to do it.

They had a call – or, at least, they knew what needed to be done, and they could have taken the initiative and made it work, but they never did. Maybe they are hoping and waiting for someone else to make the move.

They tried once – it didn’t work – and they gave up too soon.

Failure is a part of leadership. Certainly it is a part of maturing as a leader. If you give up after the first try you miss out on some of the best leadership development available.

They couldn’t find their place, they didn’t make one, and no one made it for them.

Find something to lead! The world is full of problems. Choose one you are passionate about and start leading. We need you! And, if you see someone with leadership abilities – make the ask! Plug them into leadership.

They thought they didn’t know how to lead.

I’ve been a student of leadership for over 20 years – in leadership positions for over 30 years – and my answer to that one is simple. Who does know how to lead? Sure, there are skills to be acquired, leadership is an art to be shaped, but leadership is new every morning, because there world is ever changing. Leadership involves people. When we can completely figure them out – we can completely figure out leadership. Until then watch, listen, read, learn, ask questions. Leaders are all around you. You can learn some skills of leadership if you are teachable. The best leaders are still learning how to lead.

Are any of these the reason you’re not currently leading, but you know you should be?

7 High Costs of Leadership Every Leader Should Pay

Leadership should be expensive. If we desire to be leaders it should cost us something. Leadership is a stewardship. It’s the keeping of a valuable trust others place in you. Cheap leadership is never good leadership.

Here are 7 high costs of leadership:

Personal agenda

Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization.

Control

What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity

Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular. I wrote a whole chapter about this principle in my book The Mythical Leader.

Comfort

If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear

Good leadership goes into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness

I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But, there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change…when it involves risk and unknowns – this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcomes

We follow worthy visions. We create measurable goals and objectives. We discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for good leadership. It’s not cheap!

The Ineffectiveness of A Team Without a Leader

I’ve seen many leaders make a common mistake. They believe in teams, so they create a bunch of them. They charge the teams with carrying out a specific mission or an assigned task. The team is part of a accomplishing the greater vision.

And, it’s a great concept. I believe in teams.

I even love the word – TEAM! It sounds cooperative. Energy-building. Inclusive.

I think we should always strive to create great teams.

But, here’s what often happens. The team doesn’t work. Nothing gets accomplished. There may be a lot of meetings, but there is no real forward movement.

The team flounders.

Why? They had a great team. The team was full of great people. They were part of a great vision and everyone may have known exactly what they hoped to accomplish.

But, this is where the common mistake exists among many teams.

They never had a leader.

When I arrived at our current church we had a committee structure in place. Committees were well-defined in their tasks. They had rotating terms and an appointed chairman. The problem was they were too structured for effectiveness. Plus, you had to be in the church at least a year before you could serve on them – which, in practice often means you have to be there for many years before you were ever “known” enough to be placed on a committee.

This process worked well for certain committees – such as finance committee, which we still have, but it didn’t seem to work at well for others, such as the garden committee or the usher committee. We needed lots of people in those areas and needed to be able to plug new people in quickly and let them get to work. We needed more of a team concept than a committee structure.

But, even with teams – the mistake comes when no one is ever appointed a leader.

Teams are great, but at some point in time, a leader will need to stand up – and lead.

An organizational team without a leader is like an athletic team without a coach. Would you recommend that for your favorite sports team?

I love leading through teams, but in addition to making sure people know what’s expected of them, we have to make sure every team has a leader.

I try to never appoint or release a team to do work until we make sure a leader is chosen. They can choose their own leader, we can apppoint one for them, or they may even have co-leadership, but there needs to be someone who has the assigned task of steering, motivating and leading the team to accomplish it’s mission.

Love teams – but, make sure every team has a leader.

Have you seen a leaderless team flounder?

3 Reasons I Wrote The Mythical Leader

I have been asked why I wrote The Mythical Leader

I have toyed with the idea of writing a book for years. I have an Evernote file of book ideas – some which I’ve held on to for close to a decade. I have entertained suggestions from publishers and had more than one agent approach me about writing a book.

And, it’s not because I’m a super writer – and, certainly not because I’m an expert leader. It’s because I’ve been a consistent, diligent writer.

Several years ago I self-published a year’s worth of devotionals I had written through my first online site – MustardSeedMinistry.com. I’ve blogged or written online literally since the dial-up days – over 20 years. For some reason, the first book-length work just wouldn’t seem to come together. Either the publisher thought it wasn’t a good first book for me or I wasn’t passionate about it.

Then, Mark Sweeney, who had helped me think on the agent side of things, came to the table on the publishers side of things. He had read my blog post about seven myths of leadership. He felt there would be enough there for a book. It clicked.

But, why did I write it?

Here are 3 reasons I wrote The Mythical Leader:

I have a heart for the local church. I have only been in vocational ministry about 16 years, coming out of a long career in business. But, even before ministry I loved the local church. If done well, I believe the local church can be a catalyst for good in the community. I love the way churches were once centers of positive influence in the community. I think that’s possible again.

I believe the quality of leadership in the church matters. At the expense of something good – doctrine and theology – we’ve sacrificed good leadership practices in the local church over the years. Some of the things we would never do or allow in the business world, churches are notorious for doing. Take, for example, a long-term church staffer who “checked out” years ago, but is still on the payroll. The business world would have to dealt with it much quicker than the church would – if the church ever would. But, the mission of the church is no less important (even more important) than the profit margin of the business. This takes leadership.

Repetition led me to believe there was something here. After years of experiencing the same issues in leadership, and after working through the same problems with other pastors and leaders, I realized there must be some common things we all face at times as leaders. This is what the book is really about – addressing leadership issues we all face.

It’s really been interesting to hear from people who are not in ministry – or even in leadership – who have read the book and said it was helpful. I certainly hope it helps a few church leaders – and churches.

If you’re interested in the book, pick up a copy HERE.

Thanks to all who have bought, read and supported it. My blog readers were much of the inspiration throughout the book. I would love to get a few more 5-Star reviews on Amazon. (You can give other numbers too. Give it what it deserves, but 5-Star is best.)

What To Do With Information Overload

One struggle I’ve witnessed consistently with leaders – including this one – is we drown in information overload. There are more good ideas than we can ever implement.

We are constantly fed new information we can’t effectively analyze and implement. Whether from books, podcasts, conferences or what we come up with in the shower we just don’t know what to do with all the stuff in our heads. In fact, many times we fail to accomplish as much as we could simply because we have more information than we can adequately process.

Does this sound like your world?

  • You have a million ideas
  • You have so many opportunities before you
  • You don’t lack for information
  • Your desk is covered with tiny notes or stacks of notes to yourself
  • You have various notebooks full of ideas

But,

  • You are struggling to remember things
  • You can’t keep up with all the ideas coming at you
  • You see the note again and wish you’d seen it earlier – too late now
  • You sometimes forget what the note means when you see it again
  • You fail to act more than you cease the opportunity

Here’s a quick tip:

Process the information.

Get a system now. The more organized the information – the less stress you’ll feel – and the more useful the information will be to you later.

Here are a few ideas: 

Make a checklist of information in Excel

Go “old school” with a paper folder system

Learn Evernote

Find the best iPad app for information processing

Get training in Google docs

Those are just a few suggestions. There are so many others. I am by no means an expert on which system to use. I personally use the Notes app on my phone, iPad and laptop, because it quickly syncs with iCloud and then I transfer the information (if it’s worth keeping) into a more permanent Evernote system.

It really doesn’t matter as much what system you use as long as you find something which works for you. Developing and learning a system for processing information is a key to being effective in a world of mass information.

Here’s my suggestion. If you implement it then it will be worth your time reading this post. Invest some time setting up your method of handling information. If you’re like me that’s a laborsome process. It seems so unproductive for people wired to get things done. Get some help if you need it. But, the better the system the better you’ll be as a leader. The right system to process information can dramatically improve your leadership capacity.

Don’t let information overwhelm you. Become excellent at handling large loads of information.

The better you learn to process information, the better you’ll be at making information work for you.

There are certainly people reading this post who are better wired to process information than I am.

How do you process information?

4 Ways an Introverted Pastor is Extroverted on Sunday

In my book “The Mythical Leader”, I have a whole chapter on introversion – mostly because every time I post about introversion I hear from pastors and church members who talk about how introversion negatively impacts their ministry. And, I have heard from well-meaning (hopefully well-meaning) people who don’t believe an introverted person can serve effectively as a pastor.

And, obviously, as one who if there was a scale of 1 to 10 of introversion – I’m probably a 7 or 8. (I can be a 9 some days.) So, I understand the plight of my introverted pastor friends, and I don’t agree with those who think introversion prohibits one from serving in a senior role. (In fact, in my book, I share some thoughts on how I think it actually makes me a better leader in some ways.)

All that said, as pastors, the interaction we have with people is a key role in growing and leading the church. I’ve written numerous times that just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I don’t love people. There may be some pastors who don’t really love people – and I personally don’t see how they can be very successful if that’s the case – but introversion is a personality trait. It’s not an indicator of how deeply a person loves people.

I love people. Really. I love all kinds of people. One standard I have for my ministry is whether I’m loving the people who are difficult to love. I strive to do so. And, I especially love to help people get excited about what God is doing in their life. That motivates me.

My introversion, however, if I’m not careful, can keep me from interacting even with people I love.

The fact is, however, if you asked most people in the churches where I have served as pastor, other than those who know me really well, they are surprised I am an introvert based on my Sunday interactions with people.

I’m very extroverted on Sundays. 

The point of this post is to share a little of how do I do that.

Here are 4 ways this introverted pastor is extroverted on Sunday:

I am very intentional in my work.

I have to work at it. I’m not saying it is easy, but is anything worthwhile ever easy? I realize that Sunday is coming. I plan my week around it. I intentionally plan introverted moments during my week.

For example, I am very careful what I plan for Saturday night, because I know I need to be at my best for Sunday. It is rare for me to schedule a large social gathering on Saturday nights. In fact, I’ve found Cheryl and my Saturday date days are the perfect preparation for an extroverted Sunday. (Obviously that’s easier for us now as empty-nesters, but I was equally protective of my Saturday night when we had children at home.)

I work out of the office at least one day a week. This helps with my sermon preparation, but also gives me “down” time. Interruptions will always come, but the more intentional I am with my calendar the more prepared I am when Sunday comes.

My family understands me and cooperates.

This is often the hardest one, because it obviously involves other people. The key for us is my family knows me as I know them. They understand Sunday takes so much out of me mentally and physically. They realize I need time to recover from a very extroverted Sunday. The ride to the restaurant for Sunday lunch is usually pretty quiet. Over the years, when the boys were home and now that it’s just Cheryl and me, my family has learned if I have my introverted recovery time I’m more engaging with them the rest of the day. It is a way they partner with me in ministry. When our boys were home they knew I would intentionally give them some of the best part of my day, but they also knew there were times I would be quieter than others.

My family understands my introversion, but I don’t think they ever feel slighted because of it. Part of intentionality here is I can’t always slight my family for my ministry. So, with Cheryl and my time now, and when our boys were home, we had time together where we were very extroverted. (One hint here is for introverted – and, frankly often for men – get them doing something if you want them to engage.) Cheryl and I walk together almost every night and she was say I am far more talkative on those walks than she is – and she’s the extrovert. All this takes communication and establishing expectations in relationships. That’s part of any healthy relationship.

I realize my extroversion on Sunday is for a purpose.

When I taught a very large Sunday school class (over 100 people), every week I’d leave the room as I was praying at the close of my lesson. It seemed the humble thing to do, and I was sincere in that, but honestly, it was the “safest” approach for this introvert.

When I came into ministry and was in my first church, I continued this practice. I would “escape” during my prayer to the back of the sanctuary. A dear older deacon pulled me aside one day and gently, in a very helpful way, said, “Ron, if as you’re praying you’ll walk to the vestibule and shake people’s hands as they leave, they’ll be more likely to return the next week.” I’ve been doing that ever since – and how right he was. One of the most frequent comments I receive from visitors is how they enjoyed meeting the pastor.

I can’t imagine it any other way now. Again, I love people, so even though this drains my energy – it fuels me for ministry. That deacon has since passed away, but I remain thankful for the wisdom he gave me.

I rely on the Holy Spirit.

The pastor who inspired me most in my spiritual walk when I was a 20-something year old trying to figure out my life direction emailed me a couple years ago. He had read one of my introversion posts and wanted to echo the sentiments in it. He said he has always marveled at how many introverted pastors he has seen God call to lead in the church – even very large churches. He wrote, “I’ve been an introverted pastor of large churches for 39 years now. Before every service I’m saying the same thing, ‘God, I can’t do this – now what are you going to do about that?!'” His humble surrender to God’s hand has shaped some powerful ministries under his leadership. I loved being able to email back to one of my mentors that I’ve had a similar prayer every Sunday – for a few less years.

Just as Moses, Gideon, and others led through what they felt would handicap them in following God’s call, introverted pastor, you can do this. With God’s help, an understanding family, and some hard, purposeful, intentional work – if God has called you to it, He will equip you. Surrender to His strength and will.

And, the reward is worth it!

10 Commonalities of Healthy Teams

I am happy to serve on what I believe to be a healthy team. It’s amazing how many church leaders I know who say their team is not healthy. 

I have often been asked, however, why I claim our team is healthy. This is simply my opinion, but I can share some things I think healthy teams have in common.

Here are 10 commonalities of healthy teams:

  • A shared vision is embraced by everyone on the team.
  • Team member’s individual ideas are equally valued.
  • The organization readily embraces change.
  • Risk taking is encouraged.
  • Encouragement flows freely.
  • People enjoy their work and relationships are deeper than just the professional environment.
  • Mistakes are used to make the team stronger
  • The structure doesn’t limit growth, but provides healthy boundaries.
  • There is freedom to offer constructive criticism, even of top leadership, without fear of retribution.
  • Conflict is not discouraged, but handled in a healthy way.

There’s my list. Are we perfect in all of them – all the time? No. Do we see them consistently and value all of them? Thankfully, yes.

What would you add to the list?

5 Necessary Ingredients In Healthy Delegation

I have seen, and probably been accused of, dumping responsibilities on people inappropriately and calling it delegation. Also from experience, this form of delegation actually appears to do more harm than good for an organization. It leaves projects undone or completed mediocre at best. It kills employee morale and motivation and it keeps the mission of the organization from reaching its full potential.

In my book Mythical Leader, I share a few stories of delegation gone wrong when I was the leader. This post originates from learning I have experienced the hard way.

The bottom line of delegation is delegation involves more than ridding oneself of responsibility. You can’t “dump and run” and call it delegation.

Delegation is an international, methodical – an most important – part of leadership.

Here are 5 necessary ingredients in healthy delegation:

Expectations

The person receiving the assignment must know the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve. They need to know what a win looks like in your mind. People will want to know they did good work. The question “Why are we doing this?” and “What are we trying to accomplish?” should be answered clearly in their mind.

Knowledge

The delegator should be sure the proper training, coaching and education have been received. The delegator should remain available during the process so questions or uncertainties of details, which will naturally arise, can be answered.

Resources

Effective delegation means people have adequate resources and money to accomplish the task assigned. Nothing is more frustrating than being asked to complete a project without the tools with which to do it.

Accountability

Proper delegation involves follow up and evaluation of the delegated assignment. Did we achieve the objectives? What could we have done better? What did we learn from this process? This process isn’t meant to be threatening or make anyone fearful. Done well it is healthy for the delegator, the person receiving delegation, and the organization.

Appreciation

The delegation isn’t complete until the delegator recognizes the accomplishment of the one who completed the task. Failing to do so limits the leader’s ability to continue healthy delegation.

Delegation may be one of a leader’s most effective methods of success. Any leader I have known who is productive long-term has continued to grow and develop as a delegator.

Leaders Must Grow as the Organization Grows

In my experience, it’s easier to hide bad leadership in a place, which isn’t growing.

However, the larger an organization gets – the more growth that occurs – the more bad leadership becomes apparent.

As a leader for the last several decades, I’ve learned the times my leadership is stretched the most are the times we are growing – and changing – the fastest.

As an organization grows:

  • People ask harder questions and challenge the process.
  • More decisions have to be made.
  • There never seems to be enough time.
  • Better systems are needed.
  • The people required to do the work increases.
  • Leadership development becomes more important.
  • Effective delegation and management is necessary.
  • Resources are stretched.
  • Commucication is often messy.
  • Tensions are high.

I have even wondered if an organization can outgrow the capacity of a leader. (I certainly think it could outgrow me.)

Here’s the bottom line.

As the organization grows – as things get bigger – the leader must be equally growing.

This can be a sobering word for leaders. But, leadership is often a sobering reality. But, the leader must understand – continuing to grow an organization always requires a leader to continually grow.

Which leads me to close with an important question:

What is your personal leadership development plan?

7 Indicators Your Team Is Dysfunctional

Chances are, if you’ve served on very many teams, you’ve served on one which is dysfunctional. It appears to me we have many to choose from in the organizational world. There are no perfect teams. We are all dysfunctional at some level and during some seasons.

In case you’re wondering- my definition of a dysfunctional team – in simple terms – is one which cannot operate at peak efficiency and performance, because it is impacted by too many negative characteristics. There’s more going wrong than right more days than not.

In my experience, there are commonalities of dysfunction. If you have been on a dysfunctional team you’ve probably seen one or more of of the common traits.

See if any of these seem familiar.

7 indicators of a dysfunctional team:

Team members talk about each other more than to each other. The atmosphere is passive aggressive. Problems are never really addressed, because conflict is avoided. The real problems are continually ignored or excused.

Mediocrity is celebrated. Everything may even be labeled “amazing”. Nothing ever really develops or improves because no one has or inspires a vision bigger than what the team is currently experiencing.

It’s never “our” fault. It’s the completion or the culture or the times in which we live. No one takes responsibility. And, everyone passes blame. Will the real leader please stand up?

Communication usually brings more tension than progress. There may be lots of information, but it’s not packaged in a way which brings clarity. No one knows or recognizes a win.

The mention of change makes everyone nervous. Either change is rare or it’s been instituted wrong in the past. Any real progress has to be forced or controlled.

Only the leader gets recognition or can make decisions. Team members never feel valued or appreciated. No one feels empowered. The leader uses words like “I” or “my” more than “we” or “our”.

There are competing visions, goals or objectives. It’s every team member for his or herself. The strategy or future direction isn’t clear.

According to my observations have you served on a dysfunctional team?

Granted, every team goes through each of these during seasons. Again, there are no perfect teams. But, if there are at least two or three of these at work current I’d say it’s a good time to evaluate the team’s health and work to make things healthier.

How many of these can you currently see on your team?