5 Lessons on Initiative From Alexander Hamilton

This is a guest post by Kevin Cloud, pastor and author of God and Hamilton: Spiritual Lessons From The Life of Alexander Hamilton & The Broadway Musical He Inspired.

The trajectory of Alexander Hamilton’s life could most accurately be explained by one ever-present characteristic: he lived with an intense bent towards initiative. Throughout Hamilton’s life, his determination to take action relentlessly propelled him forward. In the song, “My Shot,” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton, Miranda captures what could have been Hamilton’s life mantra.

Whether serving as George Washington’s chief of staff during the Revolutionary War, leading the attack that would end with the surrender of the British at the Battle of Yorktown, or creating a new central government in the early Republic, Hamilton’s initiative was constantly on display for all to see.

Initiative is one of the most important tools a leader possesses. A leader must constantly push progress and momentum forward. Hamilton embodies this characteristic, and he offers us several lessons for living with a bent towards initiative in our lives.

Overcome Resistance.

Author Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, writes that anytime we attempt to take initiative, launch a new project, or attempt anything good for ourselves or for the world around us, we face a common enemy. He names this enemy resistance, and calls it “the most toxic force on the planet.”

Resistance discourages, deceives, and defeats us when we give into its negativity and hopelessness. How many of our goals and initiatives are defeated in our hearts and minds before we even begin? “Why try?” we ask ourselves. “It’s probably not going to work anyway.” Hamilton expected this resistance, faced it head on, and refused to allow it to keep him from charging into his calling.

Acknowledged the power of initiative and the cost of inactivity.

Hamilton, throughout his life, displays for us the power and impact of initiative. His antagonist in Miranda’s musical, Aaron Burr, seemed to live with a bent towards hesitation, or a lack of activity.

Miranda describes the difference: “Burr is every bit as smart as Hamilton, and every bit as gifted, and he comes from the same amount of loss as Hamilton. But because of the way they are wired, Burr hangs back where Hamilton charges forward.”

So often our success in life depends on this critical choice: will we charge forward and take initiative or will we hang back and do nothing?

Communicate.

After America’s victory in the Revolutionary War, their government operated under the Articles of Confederation. This document was designed to keep power at the state level, and frustrated those who longed to form a strong central government. Hamilton and Washington both believed that a strong central government was essential for American to enter into its “manifest destiny.”

Hamilton’s strategy to establish a new Constitution revolved around an ambitious writing project called the Federalist Papers. Hamilton wrote fifty-one essays in the span of seven months to convince his fellow countrymen of the wisdom and necessity of a strong central government. Hamilton understood the power of communication, and its central role in any initiative project.

Dig Deep.

One of the most important battles in the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Trenton. Early in the morning on Christmas Day, 1776, George Washington ordered his army to cross the Delaware River to attempt a desperately needed victory against the enemy.

Hamilton almost missed the battle as he lay sick in bed that morning with a raging fever. But when he heard of the attack, he willed himself out of bed and into the action. He couldn’t stomach the idea of missing the battle. Initiative oftentimes is painful, costly, and requires great sacrifice. Will you dig deep and give what it takes in the moment of action?

Believe that when you move, God moves with you.

W.H. Murray writes, “Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred.”

Hamilton lived with a deep faith in God and a belief in His providence. He believed that when he took initiative, God was right there with him. When we live with this faith, we find the courage we desperately need to charge forward and take initiative.

7 Signs It’s Not Really A Team

In my world the word team is used almost on a daily basis. Most of us want to be in a team environment. However, in my experience working with churches – and it was true when I was in business also – more people claim to have it than actually do.

I still see more control than empowerment. I see more internal silos than I see true cooperation. I see rules and policies being used to restrict actions – or so-called “protect” the organization – than I see freedom to explore as individuals within the healthy structure of a defined team objective.

I’ve learned to look for a few signs when someone tells me they have a team environment.

Here are 7 indicators it’s really not a team:

One person makes all the decisions.

Most who think they have a true team culture will skip this one, because many times they don’t even see it happening. But, if everyone has to wait for the team “leader” to make a decision – or if things continually stall because one person hasn’t yet voiced their opinion – it’s probably less of a team than proposed. On a team, at some point, everyone sits in a seat of authority. There is a mutual trust and empowerment of others.

Everyone doesn’t have a key role.

On a real team – all players are needed. They may not all play the same amount of time and they fill different positions, because everyone is valued.

There are multiple agendas.

One thing which makes it a team is everyone is playing for the same objective. Without this there is more competition than there is cooperation.

Communication is controlled.

Teams share information. They continually update one another on what they are individually contributing to the team and weigh in on decisions. Team dynamics are damaged with only a few people know everything for when the most important conversations are held – or decisions are made for the team – outside the team.

Conflict is seen as a threat.

Healthy teams work through conflict and remain cooperative and supportive of one another. Everyone is allowed to challenge ideas and offer opposition, but in a way which can make the team stronger and learn how to work better together.

Every person is for themselves.

The greatest value of a team is in the collective wisdom and shared workload. Healthy teams cross-train so they can pick up slack for others when needed. When teams function more as individuals than as a team members can become overwhelmed, frustrated and eventually burnout.

Celebration is received individually over collectively.

It will always be moments where one member is getting more recognition than another. But, on healthy teams, wins are celebrated together. No one claims personal credit for the victories.

Those are a few clues which tell me it’s really not a team. There are certainly others. (Be a part of my team and add your own in the comments.)

You can call it what you want – could be a group, or an association, or even an organization.

But it’s not a team. I might instead call it a crowd.

One way to process this post is to discuss it with your “team”. Perhaps even let them respond to it anonymously.

It should be noted. There are times when we don’t need a team. We need a leader who will stand even if alone and lead people to places they can’t yet see but where they need to go. I have found those times to be rare when I have a healthy team. This post addresses teams – and we need them more often.

8 Questions about Church Revitalization

I was interviewed by someone who is considering church revitalization for his next ministry assignment. My answers are not formalized – it was a casual conversation, but I figured someone else might have the same questions.

After experience in church planting and church revitalization, let me say neither should be attempted without some ability to laugh – at times – other than pray of course – that’s all you can do. And, so here’s another smiley face to brighten your day.

8 questions about church revitalization:

1. What motivated you to move into revitalization vs church planting?

It’s a calling. I wouldn’t attempt church planting or church revitalization – or any ministry for that matter – without a clear one. But, the need is huge. We have more Kingdom dollars invested in non-productive, non-growing churches than in church plants. Obviously we need lots of church plants, but we also need to revive some of the older churches.

2. What questions did you specifically ask your current church before taking the position?

Here’s the bottom line: There’s not a question that will answer everything you want to know. You’ll have to take a risk. Just like in church planting and you don’t know if anyone will show up. In church revitalization, you’re going to find things out when you get there.

You are dealing with a very complex structure. The older the church the more complex. The search committee can tell you lots of things — all that they believe to be true — and still some of it won’t be true. It won’t be that they misled you, but that the culture hadn’t been fully tested until you arrived and tried to change some things that haven’t been tried previously. That’s part of the process.

But, a key I wanted to understand the best I could was my freedom to lead. Obviously, Jesus is the leader, but did they want to rely on my leadership as I yielded to God’s leadership? Was the church ready? Could I hire my staff — and release staff if needed? How are decisions made? I looked at the budget and bylaws and every policy I could find. (And, they found more after I arrived, but the policies you won’t know are the unwritten ones.)

3. If you could change anything about your transition into your current role as Senior Pastor of a historically established church what would it be and why?

I would have asked for some of the harder decisions to have already been done. Specifically dealing with structure and staffing.

4. How did you prepare your family for your role change?

It was just my wife and me. That’s a huge difference, but I read everything I could about the church. I asked lots of questions. I interviewed the staff. I asked for list of key leaders and interviewed them. Then I shared everything I was learning with my wife. We were very open and transparent throughout the process.

But, it’s important to know that while my wife is faster to move by faith – she has the gift of faith – she’s slower to let her heart change. She can know it’s what we are supposed to do, but her heart stays longer where we once lived. She hangs on to the past harder than I do. Navigating through that and giving her time to acclimate was huge.

5. What are the biggest mistakes to avoid in your first year as the Senior Pastor in an existing church that needs the work of revitalization?

  • Moving too fast to change major things.
  • Not bringing people along and establishing trust.
  • Not celebrating the past.
  • Standing still too long. (People need some quick wins.)

6. What leadership areas did you focus on first once you arrived in your new role?

Primarily staff structure, strategy verbiage, website, communication and vision-casting.

We also had 7 key initiatives: Prayer, Stewardship, Intergenerational ministry, College, Discipleship, First Impressions and Missions.

7. What books or resources would you recommend for a Senior Pastor who is moving into the work of revitalizing a local church?

For my people who can’t assume the unmentioned, let me say the Bible. Of course. And, honestly, that’s huge. People want and need sound, clear, Biblical teachings. That will revive a church.

Here are a few books I found helpful. And, there are probably many others.

Switch – Chip and Dan Heath
Steering through Chaos – Scott Wilson
Change Your Church for Good – Brad Powell

8. What one thing would you want to tell me about the work of revitalizing the local church that I have not already asked?

Be ready to embrace conflict, love people and love the vision of a healthy church. Each love will be tested.

What questions do you have? Any of these I should expand upon?

8 Killers of Motivation — and Ultimately Killers of Momentum

Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team. Leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.

I have found over the years that regardless of how motivated I am if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.

Which is why it may be even more important a leader learns recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.

But, here’s the greater reason.

Momentum is often a product of motivation.

When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team — in my opinion — than it is to build momentum in an organization.

So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.

Here are 8 killers of motivation and – ultimately – momentum:

Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward.

Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control, and by celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities, and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like — especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do.

Failure– Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.

Apathy – When a team loses their passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in motivation – and eventually momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation. Momentum decline follows shortly behind. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling under-valued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.

If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!

The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. We fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this will be too late to fully recover – at least for all team members.

7 Things Great Leaders Do: Advice For Today’s Young Leaders

Recently I was asked to speak to a local youth leadership program on — well, it makes sense — leadership. That’s what they are attempting to learn.

I’ve led in the business world, elected office, and now in ministry – and on dozens of non-profit boards. Along the way I’ve observed a few things about leadership.

And, some great leaders have appeared along the way.

I culled together 7 things I’ve observed and shared with the group things I felt they should know.

Here are 7 things great leaders do:

Great leaders never quit learning.

Never. So, if you want to be a great leader. Systematize your learning. Read one chapter a day that you don’t have to read. Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes. That may sound trivial. It’s not. It helps you remember but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed.

Side note: If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people that’s what you are doing. They’ll assume you’re not paying attention.

Fact is, we gather far more information than we can retain. Get a system to help you keep up with the information that comes your way. I use Evernote. Find what works for you.

As soon as you think you already know what the teacher, professor, or someone older than you is talking about you’ve mentally closed your mind to learning anything new. I’ve got 3 post high school degrees and that’s about enough education to convince me I don’t know everything.

Great leaders never underestimate a connection.

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will come back around and work for good. Never burn a bridge. Be careful what you place on social media. Those are future connections. And, Respect your elders. Showing respect to people older than you now will ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Great leaders have great courage.

The fact is, if you’re a leader, you’ll not always know what to do. Seldom will you be 100% certain. The best leader is not always the smartest in the room. In fact, the best leaders I know surround themselves with people smarter than them. The best leader isn’t the most outgoing or the most extroverted. I’m perhaps one of the more introverted people in the room, but on Sundays, I appear otherwise.

The best leader is usually the one who is willing to lead others places they aren’t willing to go on their own. The one who has the courage to face the risks of the unknown.

Great leaders are motivated to lead for the good of others, not for personal recognition.

As a leader, you’ll many times feel under-appreciated. This is so huge — especially for your generation. You’ve been accustomed to rewards for achievement. Life isn’t always like that. There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. Great things. Trophy-deserving things — and people will act — it will seem at times — like no one noticed and no one cares.

And, that may not be true. They may simply not have taken the time to let you know what an impact you had on them. Eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of “I did the right thing” as much, if not more, than the public recognition of that work.

Great leaders learn the words of successful leadership early.

The words of a leader carry great weight. If a leader makes it “my” team no one will buy-in to the team except the leader. But, then is that person really a leader?

Anyone can be a boss. To be a great leader your words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Great leaders know they can’t get there on their own so they become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. They don’t brag on themselves they brag on their team.

The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win. Be an encourager — invest in others — and people are more likely to follow you.

Great leaders know that success often starts with humble beginnings.

Never underestimate the power of a moment.

All of the best things in life happened in a moment.
· A wedding proposal.
· A child is born.
· A college scholarship award is received in the mail.

We often look for the grandiose occasions, but the seemingly smallest moments can often have the biggest long-term impact. Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. That’s still a viable option — and the reward feels greater when you built it the hard way.

Great leaders learn to discipline themselves to decompress.

It’s not usually built-in to the system. No one makes you rest.

During the busy seasons of life — when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence — which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself.

· To re-calibrate.
· Refocus.
· Rediscover the passion that once fueled you.
· Re-connect, if needed, to those you love.
· To meditate, read, play tennis or golf, go for a run.

You have to discipline for that. And, I’ve learned it’s life-essential.

Our bodies are designed, I believe created, to need rest. Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re stressed with school is to go for a walk. Never neglect your soul – it will protect you and help you sustain for the long-term – and help you finish well.

These are obviously random — but in my life they’ve become realities.

Soak up leadership principles. Keep learning from others. Whatever field of work you choose, the world is still in need of great leaders.

10 Reasons to Consider Church Revitalization — Even Over Church Planting

I meet with young church planters frequently. I hope that continues. We had great experiences in two successful church plants and it’s certainly in my heart. Currently we are working to plant churches in Chicago. I love the energy of planting. We need lots of new churches.

In this season of my life, God has called me into revitalization. We are positioning an older, established church, that was once in decline, to grow again. And, it’s been amazing – and challenging – and rewarding – and hard.

God began to encourage my heart towards revitalization when I considered my home church – the one where I served in lay leadership until I was called into ministry late in my 30’s. That church introduced me to Christ, help me grow, and I wouldn’t be in ministry today without them.

But, that church has seen better days. (Thankfully, they are in revitalization now and a friend of mine pastors there.) What will become of the established church? That was a burning question on my heart and God lined my heart up with a church in need of revitalization.

Now, after the experience of the last few years, when I meet with church planters, I often encourage them to consider church revitalization. I realize church revitalization doesn’t have all the attraction of church planting. I left behind my skinny jeans to enter church revitalization. And all God’s people said amen. But, here’s the thing: the attraction in church revitalization is in the mission. And, that’s hopefully the same reason anyone enters church planting.

Here are 10 reasons to consider church revitalization – even over church planting:

You love the thought of restoring history. Our church is over 100 years old. Wouldn’t it be a shame to see that history come to an end – if we can reverse the decline?

You are ready to go to work now. There are far more opportunities in church revitalization. I read that near 90% of established churches are in decline or plateaued. There’s work to be done immediately.

You like having an established base of financial support. The good thing about many established churches is that they have loyal supporters. Sometimes those are the ones holding out until the doors are closed – they never want to change, but many times those people are just waiting for leadership to take them somewhere better than where they are today.

You love inter-generational ministry. In an established church, if you start to reach younger people, you’ll see a blending of generations. That’s a beautiful experience. It’s been one of our favorites in ministry. And, personally, I think it’s healthy and a very Biblical model of church.

You like a challenge. I didn’t put this as my number one, but don’t be misled. You will face opposition if you try to change things from where people are comfortable. You don’t face that same challenge in a church plant. But, you didn’t get into ministry expecting it to be easy did you? You agreed to walk by faith, right? And, you’ll have that opportunity in church revitalization. Everyday.

You won’t run from every conflict. You mustn’t. You must stay the good course. The mission is too vital.

You enjoy healthy structure. Granted, it might not be healthy, but you’ll find structure. And, as long as you’re not doing away with structure completely, which isn’t healthy anyway – you can usually tweak structure to be healthy again.

You are Kingdom-minded. You see the bigger picture. There are more Kingdom dollars being under-utilized in stagnant churches than may ever be invested in church planting. What are we going to do about it? If you’d like to know the answer – maybe you’re a candidate for revitalization.

You can endure a long-term approach. It likely won’t happen immediately. In church planting, we could change in a weekend. That’s not necessarily true in the established church. There are many things that can happen immediately. Certainly we saw some immediate, very positive changes and the church began to grow quickly. But, the best changes have taken time, but they have paid off dramatically because of our more methodical approach.

You truly love the local church. I didn’t love everything about the church I came to pastor – or the established church I attended all my life until surrendering to ministry. But, I truly love the local church. Enough that I’d be willing to invest energies in trying to save one.

Let me be honest. Some churches can’t be – and may not need to be – saved. There, I said that. They’ve been toxic since they began running off pastors so a few families can remain in control. They aren’t interested in reaching a lost world. They are looking for a comfortable place to hang out with people just like them.

But, there are so many churches who are ready to grow again with the right pastoral leadership. And, I encourage some of our young, eager, pastors – even some who may be considering church planting – to consider allowing God to use you in revitalizing an established church.

5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.

Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.

Here are 5 words of encouragement:

The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that’s why you’re planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don’t be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.

Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you’re doing. Some days they’ll keep you going.

Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you’re doing any good. You’ll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people — the work, whatever it is — God called you to. Be recharged.

Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work. Take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That’s seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah‬ ‭4‬:‭10

Protect your soul – and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened – I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.

God bless you planter. Leader. Friend.

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And, I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer.

Learn the culture – Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market – Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons, but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited – it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community support the sports teams they support.

Develop patience – It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization – really any ministry – takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry – even knowing how difficult it might be at times.

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And, it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, has consistently encouraged me over the years I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers – maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

7 Times I Submit to People I Lead

I’m the leader.

Are you impressed?

I’m the guy others report to each day.

Impressed some more?

Don’t be. It just means I have a lot of heartburn and more gray hair than most people my age.

Seriously, I think we sometimes take leadership too seriously. We think without the leader nothing good can happen on a team. Not true.

Don’t misunderstand. We need good leadership. I might even say without leadership – in a big picture perspective – nothing of great value ever happens. I spend a bulk of this blog trying to speak into the practice of good leadership.

But, as much as leadership is important, without good followers nothing of great value ever happens. (Do you see what I did there?)

Good leadership understands this reality and puts it into practice.

So, at times, really many times, I submit my authority to people who are supposedly looking to me for leadership. I let others lead me.

Here are 7 times I submit to people I lead:

When I have no strong feeling.

If nothing inside of me says this is wrong or I have no real opinion about it, then I yield to this on the team who have a strong passion. I trust their gut.

When they know more than I do.

And, this happens more than you could imagine. I try to surround myself with people smarter than me about different areas. Why would I not rely on them for the expertise they have, which I don’t have?

When I want to give them an opportunity.

Now let’s be honest. It could be an opportunity to fail. This may be why some leaders never delegate authority. But, sometimes the only way we learn is by trying and falling short. Some of the best discoveries are learned this way.

When they have thought about it more than I have.

There are so many things which happen within our church (and probably your church or organization) where I simply do not have the time or the margin to commit to processing. I have to trust people. Sometimes, I have to yield to other people because they have more time investment in an issue than I do.

When they have to live with the consequences.

If it is more about their individual area of ministry and doesn’t impact other areas of the church then I am more likely to delegate authority to them.

When I’m already overwhelmed.

To be effective as a leader – and to last for the long haul – I need to know I can only do what I can do. I have to trust the people God has allowed me to surround myself with with what they can do. And, I know I need their help to help me prioritize my best efforts towards things only I can do.

Whenever I can.

Seriously. Good leadership involves empowerment. It’s delegating authority and allowing people to grow in their responsibility. So, when I have the opportunity, I’ll let people make decisions without my input.

It’s important to understand, as a leader I’m delegating my authority, but I’m not relegating my authority. I’m not diminishing the fact I am the senior leader and ultimately responsible for the overall vision and direction of our church. (Under God’s authority, of course.) My team needs to know they are not alone. I will support them in the decisions they make.