The Way I Respond as a Leader of Leaders

I often get asked about the difference between leading leaders and leading followers. It’s a great question. The question ultimately points to a paradigm of leading people.

I certainly know I want to attract and retain leaders on our team. I don’t want a bunch of people waiting for me to make a decision or who fail to take initiative. I ultimately want people who will lead me. 

I also realize I am not a perfect leader. I have so much room to personally grow as a leader. One thing I have discovered, however, is the difference in how I lead if I want to lead leaders. And, the difference is huge.

I could choose to be a boss – and simply require people to perform for pay. To lead leaders requires a different skill set. It challenges the way I lead. 

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out” a lot. I can’t have all the answers. I need to be leading people – encouraging them to lead – more than I’m instructing people.

I often “didn’t know about that” – whatever “that” is – until after a decision has been made. And, if I’m leading well you won’t hear me say anything negative about what I don’t know, because I support my team’s ability to make decisions.

I encourage learning from someone besides me. After all, I don’t have all the answers. Some days, without my team, I don’t have any.

I let people make mistakes. And, I’m glad they let me make some too. It’s one of the best ways we learn from life and each other.

I try to steer discussion more than have solutions. And, I find meetings become more productive. Work becomes more efficient.

I believe in dreams other than my own. People have opinions and ideas. The best ones aren’t always mine.

I say “we” more than I say “me”. (Except in this post) A team is more powerful than an individual effort.

I strive to empower more than I control. Leadership stalls when we try to determine the outcome. It thrives when we learn and practice good delegation.

I’m not afraid of being challenged by those on our team. I’m not saying it “feels good” to be critiqued, but I know it’s a part of making us better.

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision. In fact, I never script it alone. I try to always include those who have to implement the plan into the creation of the plan. And, by experience, it seems to be a more effective way to do things.

Do you lead leaders? What would you add?

4 Realities The Senior Leader Sets for Every Organization

One reason leadership can make a person feel isolated is the weight of responsibility on the one who claims to be the senior leader in an organization. Whether in the business world, in non-profits or in churches, there are some things which happen in any organization that senior leaders help determine – whether intentional or not. In each of these cases, inactivity also determines them just as much as activity.

The weight of this responsibility can be overwhelming at times, but it’s unavoidable to a point. It comes with the position.

Successful senior leaders are cognizant of their input in these areas and place intentional energy towards them.

Here are 4 realities set by the senior leader:

Vision

The senior leader is the ordained caretaker of the organization’s vision. The vision may be predetermined by a board, or in the church’s sense, obviously by Jesus, but all leaders place his or her spin on implementing the vision. At the end of the day the senior leader is held responsible for seeing that the organization’s vision is attained. And, inactivity towards this will – as stated previously – also determines the vision – at least the perceived vision of the organization. If the vision is not clearly defined other people will determine it for you.

Values

The senior leader helps shape – as much as anyone – the culture of the organization. A chief role of senior leadership is protecting the value integrity of the organization. Much of the character of the organization will be determined or maintained by the way this person leads and they way the leader lives his or her life. This is so true in the life of a church. The moral integrity of a church will seldom be greater than the pastor’s personal moral integrity.

Victories

Senior leaders determine what matters to an organization. He or she ultimately defines a win by setting end goals primarily by what is most celebrated, acknowledged or rewarded. An organization cannot do everything and this individual’s leadership determines priorities, initiatives and major objectives to be accomplished. Senior pastors are one of the single greatest influences of what a church does well by the intentionality – or lack thereof – towards the things it labels a win.

Velocity

The Senior leader ultimately sets the speed by which the organization will operate. The lead person is in the role of balancing present tasks and future opportunities. His or her individual pace and expectations of others determines how fast the organization functions, changes, adapts, and responds. The lead pastor also sets the pace – fast or slow – of the church in accomplishing her mission.

Most organizations will have a governing body – board of directors, stakeholders or elders – to oversee the organization, hire the senior pastor or CEO and hold title to the organization, but it is ultimately the person in this role who daily carries out these four functions. A senior leader can delegate, form a great team environment, seek wise counsel, or even shirk his or her responsibility, but to fulfill the role of the senior leader effectively there are some responsibilities that rest solely with this position. 

Whether or not the senior leader consciously recognizes his or her role in accomplishing these tasks, by sheer position he or she is determining the way the organization performs in these four areas.

Are you a senior leader in your organization? Do you feel the weight of these responsibilities? Do you understand your important role in setting these four principles of the organization?

The 10 Commandments of Social Media

A guest post from my son, Jeremy Chandler

This is a guest post from my son, Jeremy Chandler. Currently, Jeremy serves as a Marketing Manager at Pursuant, a fundraising agency serving the nation’s leading nonprofits, faith-based ministries, and churches. He and his wife Mary live in Nashville, TN. If you’re in the area, he jumps at any opportunity to connect with people over coffee.

Social media provides churches with an incredible opportunity to reach more people and create deeper, more meaningful connections with people in the pew. But, when you combine the various ways churches can use it and challenges around what to post, many churches are still either hesitant to use social media or are using it poorly and not seeing any positive results.

So how do you use social media effectively for ministry? Based on the way churches are effectively using social media today, here are 10 “commandments” to help guide your strategy.

The 10 Commandments of Social Media

1. Be Human

We all agree that the Church is made up of people, not buildings. However, one of the temptations when using social media for ministry is to create a persona around your ministry rather than people. Instead of simply using social media as a platform to share what your church is doing, find ways to humanize your ministry.

2. Be Positive

Take a scroll through your newsfeed and count how many posts are rooted in anger, pessimism, arrogance, or other negative stances. One of the greatest opportunities your church has when it comes to social media is to be a light in a place that’s becoming increasingly dark. Every time you post something consider, “Is this adding value and positivity to the people we’re trying to reach?”

3. Be Remarkable

Creating compelling, visual images or video content is an increasingly important trend for churches. Even if you don’t have a designer on staff, there are tools like Canva, Legend, and Facebook Ad tools that make creating images and videos easy for the rest of us.

4. Be Strategic

How can you use it to reinforce your ministry vision? How can you use it to create excitement or anticipation for an upcoming project or sermon series? And maybe most importantly of all, how can you leverage the content you’re already creating (i.e. – your weekly sermon) to distill and disseminate via social media throughout the week? These are all valuable questions to help your church be more strategic in its approach to social media.

5. Be Present

Social media shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility. One of the easiest ways to increase your social influence is to equip and encourage your staff to leverage their social presence for ministry.

6. Know Your People

Don’t feel like you need to be present on every social network. Instead, ask yourself, “Who is your church trying to reach? What channels are they using? How are they using it?” Then look for ways to apply some of the other social media commandments there.

7. Encourage User Generated Content

One of the best ways to maximize social media for ministry is to create a culture where church members are creating the content. Ask questions that create conversations. Share stories from people in the pew who are doing ministry. Create a Twitter hashtag for your Twitter sermon that prompts people to share.

8. Market Your Social Presence

If you want people to engage with your ministry online, printing social media icons in your bulletin can’t be the only way you market your social presence. Instead, look for other ways to promote your social channels from the platform.

9. Reinforce Relationships & Discipleship

Effective discipleship requires more than one hour on a Sunday morning. However, continuing the conversation on social media throughout the week is an incredibly effective way to lead people to deeper conversations. This might include sharing your message notes throughout the week or hosting a Facebook Live Q&A to take questions about Sunday’s sermon.

10. Develop a Social Media Policy

Defining what’s appropriate to post and how you will handle any negative situation on the front end is critical. If you’re starting from scratch, here are a few social media policy examples to get you started.

Like everything else your church does, social media is simply another tool to help people grow closer to Jesus. It’s not a silver bullet. But, when you use these commandments to guide your strategy, you’ll be surprised at how it can help you reach more people, increase engagement in your community, and lead people deeper in their commitment to Christ.

What else would you add to the list?

7 “BE’s” of Effective Leadership and Management

What you do matters more than what you say.

One of the chief goals of this blog is to encourage better leadership, so I normally write about leadership issues.

In this post, I’m including the term management. I believe the two are different functions, but both are vital to a healthy organization. Whether you lead or manage a large or small organization – or a church – there are principles for being effective, which work with leadership or management,

These I call the “Be” principle. Who you say you are and what you actually do often are two different things in the eyes of people who report to you. Effective leaders and managers learn to manage their “BE”.

Here are 7:

Be aware

To be effective you have to know your team. People are individuals. They have unique expectations and they require different things from leadership. Some require more attention and some less. Use personality profiles or just get to know them over time, but learn the people you are supposed to be leading or managing.

Be open

It’s not enough for you to know them. Let them know you – as a person outside of the role as leader or manager. Integrity is earned by experience. Be transparent enough they can learn to trust you.

Be responsive

Responsiveness should be a high value to leaders and managers. People left in the dark – or wondering how you respond – will never be the best team players they can be. Information is powerful. Don’t leave people waiting too long for a response. They’ll make up their own if you do – and it’s usually not the conclusion you want them to reach.

Be approachable

You can’t be everything to everyone, and you may not always be available, but for the people you are called to lead or manage, you need to be approachable. They need to know if there is a problem – or a concern – you will be receptive to hearing from them. I realize the larger the organization the more difficult this becomes, but build systems – and even more so a culture – which allows you to hear from people at every level within the organization.

Be consistent

Over time, the team you lead or manage needs to know you are going to be dependable. The world is changing fast. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. We certainly need to be able to trust people we are supposed to follow. This doesn’t mean you never change. That would equally be wrong for your team, but it does mean your character and the way you respond to life (change, success and disappointment) should be fairly predictable by the people you lead or manage.

Be trustworthy

Follow through on what you say you will do. If you make a promise – keep it. If you can’t support something – say it. If you’re not going to do it – say no. And, say it on the front end, in clearly understood words, not in a passive way. Don’t say “we will consider it”, for example, if you know you never will. Let your word be your bond. Spend time building and protecting your character. Be the quality of person you would want to follow.

Be appreciative

Recognize you can’t do it alone. Be grateful. Be rewarding. Celebrate well. Love and care for others genuinely and display it by the way you treat them.

What would you add? Upon which of these do you most need to improve?

Leadership Development for Dummies

Here's all there is to it.

Sorry if the title is crude. No implication about anyone here. But leadership development may not be as difficult as we often make it out to be. So why not share the oversimplified version?  The dummy version. 

One of the number one questions I get about leadership is how to develop new leaders within an organization. The task can often seem overwhelming. Few organizations or churches I know are viewed as experts in the field. Ours certainly isn’t. 

Maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Perhaps all of us can figure this out. 

Leadership development begins with an underlying understanding that the success of any organization depends greatly on the leader’s willingness to delegate responsibility to others in the organization. This attitude – especially among top leadership – is vitally important to developing new leaders. 

The more a leader tries to control, the less likely others will be to help him or her accomplish the vision. Of course, without people willing to follow a leader, there is no leadership development.

(For pastors who reject this idea, please read Exodus 18 or Acts 6 – or just follow Jesus through the Gospels.)

Here is my simple formula. I believe the best leadership development is accomplished by allowing others to gain experience by doing. Basically, this means we must find ways to allow others to lead.

In fact, delegation can be simplified into two words.

INVEST and RELEASE

Invest

Personally spend time with and mentor others so they understand the vision of the organization and have the resources, skills and authority to accomplish their assignment. Allow them to ask questions, to take risks, fail, and begin again. 

Release

Let people lead. Allow them to add their strengths, creativity and energy to accomplishing the vision. Give them real responsibility and authority. Don’t micromanage.

I realize this is a very simplified answer to a very complicated process, but perhaps simplifying leadership development is needed to ensure we tackle this necessary part of growing a healthy organization.

And, you can easily monitor whether leadership development is occurring in your church or organization with my simple model. Simply ask yourself – look around – is anyone being invested in on a regular basis. Then, more important, is anyone being released to lead? 

If you have any questions, or need a model to follow, simply pay more attention to Jesus. It’s exactly how He did His leadership development.

Are you holding other potential leaders back because you will not release them to lead?

Great Leaders Develop a Leadership Vocabulary

I’ll never forget in my first church when a very Christlike deacon pulled me aside and offer me some advice in leading a church. I had been a leader in the business world a long time, but this was new for me. He helped me in ways which are being realized even today in how I lead in the church.

The best leaders I know are always learning.

Recently, I sat in on a leadership meeting for another organization. I didn’t feel I had the relationship to do so, but I left sincerely hoping someone would speak into this leader’s life – and he would be willing to learn.

The problem?

This leader had a terrible leadership vocabulary.

Part of maturing as a leader is developing a language which will help the organization and it’s team members achieve greatest success.

Here are some examples of what great leaders learn to say:

“Yes” (to other people’s ideas) more than “No”

“Why not?” more than “I don’t think so”

“Our” more than “My”

“We” more than “I”

“Thank you” more than “You’re welcome”

“Let’s do it” more than “We’ve never done it that way before”

“I believe in you” more than “Prove yourself”

“Here’s something to think about” more than “I command you to”

“What do you think?” more than “Let me think about it”

“How can we?” more than “This is the way”

“I take full responsibility” more than “I’m not responsible”

“They work with me” more than “They work for me”

Great leaders understand the power of their words. The things they say develop the culture of the organization, team member’s perceptions of their individual roles, and the overall health and direction of the organization. Great leaders, therefore, choose their words carefully.

How is your leadership vocabulary? What would you add to my list?

5 Ways Leaders Can’t Be “Normal” Today

Leading outside the norm

Leadership is so much different today than when I first started leading almost 35 years ago. To lead today we must learn to think outside some things once considered normal in leadership.

And, hopefully “normal” is a play on words for most leaders now. 

When I was first in leadership as a retail manager, I could set the schedule for people, tell them what to do, hold them accountable for routine tasks with high expectations, and then evaluate them by whether or not they did the job. This was called a job – and, if you wanted a paycheck you worked for it.

It doesn’t work quiet like that anymore. It hasn’t for some time, and, to be honest, I tried to do more with leadership even then, but some of those still in leadership still haven’t caught on that “normal” leadership isn’t normal anymore. 

For example, in today’s leadership, the informal aspects of leadership are as important as the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to systems and structures – for a leader to be successful today – leaders must engage a team on personal levels. 

We must build team spirit. Energize. Motivate. Engage. Even sympathize. Those have always been important, but these days they may trump some of our policies and procedures.

In informal leadership environments, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. Again, they have always been important, but in today’s leadership it is critical.

Here are 5 examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:

Adapt leadership to followers individual needs and expectations.

Cookie-cutter leadership doesn’t work as well among today’s workforce. Leaders must be wiling to individualize their leadership based on the current setting, culture and individualism of team members. It makes really getting to know the people you lead even more important. Leaders must ask lots of questions to understand personal values of others. It helps us lead according to a person’s individual strengths and abilities and helps them perform at their greatest effectiveness.

Raise up new leaders.

Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead, must be given opportunity to help lead the organization. This is no longer an option. Not only is this good for the organization by creating future leaders, it is key to keeping the best people on the team. Those entering the field of leadership today – or desiring to – will want a seat at the table of decision. They want to make a difference. This can be a great things for our churches and organizations if we will welcome it. 

Balance kindness or friendship with authority.

John Maxwell’s axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true. People follow leaders they can trust. They follow leaders who believe in them and will invest in them. While leaders sometimes must make difficult and unpopular decisions, authoritarian or controlling leadership is not well received by today’s workforce. Following orders from the “boss” has been replaced with a desire for servant leaders.

Give others ownership in the vision.

People want and need to be stakeholders – knowing they are making a difference with their work. To do this means they must have ownership in the creation of vision. Allowing a team to help shape the agenda helps assure their heart buys into completing the mission. Letting people help write their job description gets people in places where they can bring their best contributions to a team.

Create what’s “next” for a community’s greater good.

Great leaders think beyond themselves – even beyond their own team or the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Today’s leaders must understand they play one part in a more global sense. We are much more connected these days through social media and online instant connections. The world around us is watching – as are the people we have on our team. The way an organization treats it’s employees, supports the community and how it interacts with the people the organization encounters daily is important. We can’t sit back, make a profit or fulfill our individual goals (even as churches) and ignore the myriad of social needs all around us. If it’s not done well the world will know about it quickly.

Finding the right balance between a formal style of leadership – where everything is clearly spelled out for people to follow with a carefully created structure – and an informal style – where a team helps to shape the course of action – is critical to an organization’s success.

With my 35 plus years of leadership experience, I realize I’m from an “old school”, but I’m still learning – and re-learning.

I have learned this: Leaders today must continually strive to find the balance between formal and informal structures.

10 Problems with Doing the Best You Know How To Do

Years ago in a company we owned, there was a young man who worked for me who had tremendous potential. I believed in him so much I personally invested in him and paid special attention to him. I thought his future with our company was worth the extra time. Sadly, he never measured up to my expectations and we ended up having to part ways.

Every time I would meet with him to “encourage” him, he would say the same thing.

I’m doing the best I know how to do.

At the time, I really thought it was a fair answer. I have come to realize, however, that this response was actually his primary problem. He was doing the best he KNEW HOW to do.

But, here’s the reality I know:

The best you know how to do is never the best you can do!

It’s not. I wish it was, because it would make things much easier. But, there’s so much more. In fact, the line is really just an excuse. And excuses never get you where you say you want to go.

Here are 10 problems when you do the best you know how to do:

You leave out a critical thinking.

You quit learning new things.

You fail to be stretched.

You never develop personally.

You stop asking questions.

You resist change.

You dismiss new ideas.

You stop growing in your field of expertise.

You can’t as easily help others grow when you aren’t growing.

You stop walking by faith.

There is a huge difference in doing the best you know how to do and doing the best YOU CAN DO. The best you can do is to continue to get better. The times you are being stretched beyond what you know how to do may prove to be the best times of your personal development.

Never settle for the best you know how to do. It seldom will take you to the places you really want to go!

Here’s a challenge question: What are you currently doing to produce future personal growth? 

Understanding The Power of Caged Momentum

This is huge.

In church planting, I learned an important leadership principle. I’m not sure you can learn this one without being forced into it, so learn from my experience.

Let me illustrate it with a practical example:

Launching Grace Community Church was an 18-month process from the time I agreed to obey God’s encouragement to start a new church, we met with a group of interested people in our living room, and actually held a first service. (I had resisted His encouragement to plant a church for 10 years – but that’s another post.)

I met with a dozen or so couples who would eventually serve as our core team, but we first asked them to wrestle in prayer if this was what God was calling them to do. Then we waited months before we had our first meeting or they even officially committed to the vision. After this, we made them wait nine months before we ever met as a church.

It was a difficult season of waiting, but it proved invaluable.

Waiting to implement God’s vision for excited people – people inclined towards progress – was difficult, but the result proved an important principle about human dynamics and organizational development.

That’s a fancy way of saying waiting stunk, but it worked – in an incredible way.

It taught me the principle I like to call:

The Power of Caged Momentum

So we repeated it – often intentionally.

For example, although we knew small groups would be a major part of our mission, we did “test” groups with a few people for months before we allowed the entire church to join a group. We used this time to train leaders, but it also served the purpose to generate enthusiasm among those who had to wait to get in a group.

Telling a person or a group of people to wait for something they really want to do and are excited about builds positive momentum. When we did launch groups officially we had huge numbers sign up the first day.

That’s the power of caged momentum.

Here’s another time we saw this principle work for our favor.

We didn’t launch a student ministry immediately after we launched the church. We had children’s ministries, but nothing for youth other than our weekly service. We knew if we launched something it wouldn’t be very good. (And, my sons were two of those youth.) Some participated in other youth programs. Some did things together on their own. My sons even launched their own service in our living room.

But, when we did launch we had a large, successful gathering. That student ministry today remains highly vibrant – often defying normal percentages of student service attendance compared to Sunday morning church attendance.

That’s the power of caged momentum.

This doesn’t mean you always make people wait simply to build momentum, but you shouldn’t be afraid to either. The reality is we are often quick to rush decisions. We move quickly when we have an idea. We don’t always take time to prepare for the change, bring people along, and ideally build the momentum we need before launching something new.

Since learning this principle I have intentionally used it to build momentum in our church.

Of course, there is always the balance between waiting too long you lose opportunity (which is called opportunity cost) and moving too fast you don’t build enough momentum. I can’t solve this for you in a simple post. Your situation and experience will be unique to you, but the principle here is important.

The point is this – don’t be afraid to make your church, organization or team (or even your family) wait before they get to experience something great. The power of caged momentum may even make the outcome better than you were expecting.

Have you seen this principle at work?

Do You Lead Leaders or Lead Followers?

At some point every leader must decide.

In my leadership experience there are two kinds of leaders.

There are those who are willing to lead leaders and those who will only lead followers.

Some leaders refuse to be leaders of leaders. Sadly I have witnessed many pastors who fall into “follower only” category, refusing to allow leaders to develop in the church. Their fear of losing control or power, being upstaged, or simply never learning the value of empowering others, causes them to keep laypeople from becoming leaders within the church.

This is not to say we don’t need to lead followers, because of course we do. Every leader has followers or they would be no one to lead. Some of the best workers in an organization and, certainly in the church, are those who care nothing about leadership. And, I would say, we don’t simply need leaders in the church – we need servant leaders. People who serve others expecting nothing in return are the best kinds of leaders and follow the example of Jesus.

Also true, it is hard to be a good leader until one learns to follow. At some point, however, those with the propensity towards leadership in any organization will want an opportunity to lead. This is especially true of younger generations of people.

And, when those who were once in a position of being a follower begin to lead the real leadership skills of the people in senior leadership are tested.

Leaders of leaders have to allow other people to develop in the organization. They have to give people freedom to dream and give new leaders a sense of ownership in their area of responsibility.

More so, they have to recognize and even hold as a value that as leaders develop the entire organization advances and everyone wins.

Leader of followers, on the other hand, try to keep followers from ever becoming leaders.

I’ll be honest, it is much easier to lead only followers. People will do what is requested of them. They are loyal and not usually as critical. They don’t challenge systems and traditions, processes and the way things have always been done.

As much as every organization (and church) needs loyal followers – if new leaders are not developed – if everyone remains a follower, however, not much will be done to take the organization to the next level. People will wait for existing leaders to do anything new. And, the organization (or the church) will be limited to the abilities of current leadership.

And, for those who question my often business-like tendencies (even though I have a long business background, which I believe God uses in Kingdom growth), we need only look to the example of Jesus; how He developed the disciples, sent them out, and appointed them as leaders. (Call them what you want – use another term other than leader – but they appear every bit a leader by any definition of leadership I can use.

The other side to leading only followers – when people with the propensity and desire to lead are stifled from realizing their full potential as a leader – they will eventually either leave the organization or cause problems within the organization. I have especially seen this take place in the church. The organization as a whole suffers because they are limited to the level of success which can be realized by the intimidated top leader who refuses to let other leaders develop.

If an organization (or church) allows people a chance to lead the organization’s potential for growth increases immensely.

At some point every leader has to make a decision.

Do you want to lead leaders or only lead followers?

Personally, I prefer to lead leaders.