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!

Questions To Help Discern If You Are Ready to be a Leader

I had a young man ask me recently, “Do you think I’m ready to be a leader?”

I said:

Great question. Glad you’re asking. But, honestly, I don’t know that I’m the one to answer your question. Actually, it might help if I ask you some questions.

Here are a few questions – to discern if you’re ready to be a leader?

Are you ready to stand alone at times?

Are you ready to push through fear?

Are you ready to do the right thing even when it’s the unpopular thing?

Are you ready to be misunderstood sometimes – actually, many times?

Are you ready to sacrifice for your team?

Are you ready to see things others may not yet be able to see?

Are you ready to enter the unknown – and are you ready to enter first?

Are you ready to keep confidences?

Are you ready to be looked at for a decision even when you have no idea what to do?

Are you ready to delegate?

Are you ready to lead change – even when it’s uncomfortable?

Are you ready to be overwhelmed at times?

Are you ready to be talked about when you leave the room – in good and bad ways?

Are you ready – and willing – to allow others to receive recognition?

Are you ready for people to befriend you simply for your position?

Are you ready to see all sides of an issue?

Are you ready to sometimes feel like the weight of a vision is on your shoulders?

Are you ready to face conflict?

Are you ready to always have your integrity closely observed by others?

Are you ready to receive criticism?

Are you ready to defend your team?

Are you ready to be a leader?

7 Common Tensions During Fast Growth or Overwhelming Change

I have been part of several organizations experiencing either exponential growth or tremendous change. In business and with a few churches, we had times of explosive growth, but also times where the speed of change was overwhelming – some of that planned, but much of it unexpected.

Most of us love growth.

I have learned either times of fast growth or change both have common tensions associated with them.

Here are 7 common tensions you might experience:

Miscommunication. Growth or change brings so much activity it is often difficult to keep everyone informed about everything. This bothers those who are used to “being in the know”. The organization will need to improve in this area, but during the immediate season you can expect mishaps in communication. Systems will need to improve, but for today people must ask questions when they don’t know, avoid assumptions and often give others the benefit of the doubt when they don’t understand.

Changing roles. Job requirements will change. People will be asked do things they never expected to do – and may not feel comfortable or qualified to do them. There will be lots of “all hands on deck” opportunities. Silos will get in the way of progress. No one gets a reprieve from doing what needs to be done.

Power struggles. There will almost always be turf scuffles during fast growth or overwhelming change. One potential reason is what used to be a small, controlled group of people making decisions now needs to broaden to include more people. Positions and lines of authority may need to change.

This feels uncomfortable to some. Providing clarity of roles – as you know them – can help some, but continually reminding people of the vision seems to work best. Still, some people simply may not like the new size or shape of the organization — and may decide they are no longer a fit for the team long-term. This is one of the harder realities.

Burnout. There will never be enough leaders or people during times of fast growth or change. It may be fun for a while – or tremendously scary- but, it begins to wear on people after an extended period. New leaders must be recruited and developed. Old leaders must be continually encouraged and rejuvenated. It’s important to mix it celebrations along the way.

Confusion. “I don’t know.” You can expect to hear the phrase a lot during times of fast growth and change. And, many times the person saying it will be a leader. And, that’s okay. It’s part of the process. This is also a matter to continually work to improve upon over time, but you can’t eliminate completely- and, I’m not sure we should try. If everything has clarity we probably aren’t walking by faith and things will soon become stale again.

Complacency. When people don’t know what to do — or are uncertain the right path to take – they often default into doing nothing. This is where leadership is needed, but in seasons of fast growth and change there aren’t always enough leaders to cover all the bases. If you’re not careful, excellence suffers. It might not even be that people don’t care, even though they almost appear as if they don’t. It may simply be because they don’t know what to do.

During especially stressful seasons, leaders need to help streamline focus, give clear expectations and hold people accountable for agreed upon goals and objectives. Don’t ignore all existing structures — especially in times of fast growth or change. I’ve seen people, for example, stop using calendar programs or scheduling systems, simply because they don’t feel they have the time to keep up with them anymore. You may need better structures going forward, but some structure is needed to keep people moving forward.

Stretched structures. As stated previously, current structures will almost never be sufficient to sustain fast growth or change. The organization will never be the same. New systems and structures will be needed. Leadership must focus on development, as much as it does the growth and maintenance, of the organization. This may be some of the learning curves after this current season. This is why it is important to take notes along the way and continually be learning.

None of these are reasons to avoid fast growth – and often you cannot avoid overwhelming change, but awareness is the first step to addressing most problems.

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!

7 Indicators That You’re Not Leading Anymore

Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads.

I have a whole chapter on this topic in my book The Mythical Leader.

Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere. And, even the best leaders have periods – even if ever so briefly – even if intentional – when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be too long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break.

For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. I’m not leading anything, yet I’m still a leader. And, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times, I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.

But, again, those times should be intentional and they should be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.

For me personally, I like to evaluate my leadership over seasons, rather than days. Typically, just for simplicity of calendar, I look at things on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis. How/what am I going to lead this next quarter – next year? How/what did I lead last quarter – last year?

If the past review or the future planning is basically void of any intentional leadership – if all I’m doing is managing current programs and systems during that time frame – if we are in maintenance mode for too long – I know it’s time to intentionally lead something. That’s good for me personally and for the teams I lead.

How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? And, ask if those are occurring.

For example…

Here are 7 indicators you’re not leading anymore:

Nothing is being changed. Leadership is about something new. It’s taking people somewhere they haven’t been. That always involves change. If nothing is changing you can do without a leader.

You’re not asking questions. A leader only knows what he or she knows – and nothing more. And, many times, in my experience, the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.

There are competing visions. Leaders point people to a vision. A VISION. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. Competing visions arise and confusion elevates when we fail to lead.

No one is complaining. You can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is almost always settling for less than best.

People aren’t being stretched. Please understand – a leader should strive for clarity. They certainly shouldn’t aim for chaos. But, when things are changing and work becomes challenging there will always be times of confusion. Don’t equate calmness with good leadership. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.

No paradigms are being challenged. Many times the best change is a change of mindset – a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.

People being “happy” has become a goal. Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision – not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.

Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?

7 Ways Great Team Members Perform On A Team

I love team dynamics and organizational structures. I have written many times about what makes a healthy team, my expectations of team members, and elements to build health into your team.

But, how does a great team member perform on a team? How do great team members act on the team – what makes them valuable?

Here are 7 ways great team members perform on a team:

They need little supervision 

He or she catches on quickly, learning the expectations of the team, has confidence in his or her ability, and knows the vision of the organization well enough to make routine decisions. They attempt to figure out problems and ask specific questions when something is unclear. This saves everyone’s time and speeds progress. A great team member follows through on what he or she committed to do with limited oversight. They don’t need a “boss”, because they are truly part of a team. “Let’s get it done together!”

They add to the overall team spirit 

A great team member knows there is work to do as a team and limits the drama that comes from working with people. They aren’t known for gossip, back-stabbing, or pouting when things aren’t going as they would have them. Everyone has bad seasons and a good team is their to assist during those times, but a great team member doesn’t allow their personal life doesn’t impact their professional life on a daily basis. They are known to improve team spirit rather than detract from it.

They remain flexible

The work of a team requires synergy from all members. Sometimes one team member carries unequal weight for a season. Great team members are flexible to pick up slack from others. They do what needs doing. They don’t participate or foster “turf wars”.

Not to take anything away from fair compensation, but the great team player does the work to see the results of a project done well. Their key motivation is achieving the agreed upon goal of the team. They love their work – even more the work of the team – and they are motivated to celebrate when the team succeeds.

They consider the interests of the entire team

Great team members are good listeners. They value others on the team. They are humble enough to look out for good of the entire team. They aren’t self-serving. He or she wants what is best for everyone, even if that means having to personally sacrifice for the win of the team.

They add intrinsic value to the team

Great team members add something to the team no one else brings. They know themselves and allow their strengths to shine through hard work and dedication to the vision, providing a unique value to the entire team.

They demonstrate loyalty in action

No one questions the loyalty of a great team member. They are “on board” with the vision, supportive of the leadership and direction of the organization, and committed unless something unforeseen takes them away from the team.

Of course, I forgot the one about bringing homemade snacks occasionally for the break room, but I’ll save that for another post.

It also bears mentioning it is difficult to be a great team member without a great team environment and a great team leader. I get that. I have, however, known some great team members who served on a dysfunctional team. And, I’ve seen one great team member help transform an unhealthy team.

I’m confident there are plenty more ways a great team member performs on a team. Feel free to add to my list. I’d love to hear from you.

In your experience, what does a great team member do on a team?