4 Theories of How a Leader Becomes Controlling

One of the most dangerous forms of leadership, and one of the most frustrating, in my opinion, is the controlling leader. I’ve written about this issue previously, because I believe it is one of the leading reasons for stalled growth and low morale in an organizational or team setting.

Under a controlling leader’s watch, leadership development is virtually non-existent. Pride is rampant. Ideas are squashed. Momentum is curtailed. It simply never works well.

A friend of mine and I were discussing this issue. He works in the business world and his boss is a controlling leader. It has led to burnout for my friend and caused him to start putting his resume out. He’s done – he simply can’t take it anymore. I realize this business is going to suffer long-term, because the leader can’t let go of the reigns. As an outsider, it appears they will be losing a quality person if they lose my friend. At this point in the life of the business, it will be a devastating blow.

In the conversation, my friend asked an important question. “How does one become a controlling leader?”

Good question.

I don’t know that I can answer for every controlling leader, but I have some theories. I know things which trigger controlling tendencies in my leadership – and, I think if we are honest, all of us leaders can control at times.

These are just my thoughts.

Here are 4 ways a leader becomes controlling:

Faith – or lack there of

Typically, this leader doesn’t trust anyone except him or herself to do the job. They are afraid to release the vision to others, often because they don’t have faith enough either in others, or in themselves, or even in God. It requires faith to trust when you release control others will do as they are supposed to do. Especially in the church, trusting the body’s many parts is an act of faith that God’s plan works.

In terms of the church, our vision is shaped by Christ. He was the master at delegation. He obviously set the vision, but then handed the entire ministry over to His disciples. The ministry leader who struggles with their faith will always default to trying to make things happen on his or her own.

Failure

This leader has witnessed failure – either personally or in the lives of others. They are now leery of things going wrong under their watch and so they refuse to let anyone else take charge. Controlling appears to be the “safer” option.

Fanfare

These leaders thrive on attention they receive from the limelight. They have been motivated over the years by the name they can build for themselves. They want the power, prestige and privileges which come with leadership, so they shut down anyone else who may appear to be easing into a position of influence or gaining in notoriety.

Fear

Mostly due to a lack of confidence in themselves, these controlling leaders always believe the sky is falling. They see the glass as “half empty” and don’t want to take too many risks or chances. When everything is under their control they feel a sense of security.

I don’t know if any of us can answer this question as it applies to every leader, but these are some theories I’d suggest.

Have you ever worked with a controlling leader? Anything you’d add to my list?

Leader, do you have controlling tendencies? Do any of these apply to you?

3 Problems with Being Too Nice as a Leader

I remember talking with a leader not long ago. She’s an incredibly kind and gentle person. She’s smart, hard-working, and loyal. She’s a relational leader and usually brings out the best in people, so she’s had success in leadership. At the time of our conversation she was experiencing problems in a new position and asked for my help.

In talking through the specific situation, it quickly became obvious she had one weakness and it was effecting her entire team. It’s a common weakness among leaders. At times, most of us will struggle in this area.

Her weakness?

She was being too nice!

I realize this doesn’t sound like it could ever be a weakness. And, it has made her well-liked in the organization. She’s incredibly popular. And, she likes that. But, it also had made her team less successful than it could have been. And, thankfully, she recognized it, but wasn’t sure how to fix it.

A few team members were taking advantage of her niceness by under-performing in their role. She hadn’t challenged the problems, even though she knew she should. She was losing sleep over it, but didn’t know what to do. The relational leadership in her, which is a positive about her leadership style, was not working for these team members.

Perhaps you’ve seen this before in an organization. Maybe you’ve been on either side of this issue. If this is your situation, you have probably even thought or said things such as, “I gave them an inch and they took a mile.” 

I am not suggesting one become a mean leader. It would be wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be Biblical leadership. I am suggesting one become a wise leader. Wisdom learns to guide people in the direction which is best for them, the leader, and the entire team or organization.

In this situation, I advised my friend to take off her “nice hat”, at least temporarily, to address the few people causing the majority of the problems which were impacting the entire team. As hard as I know it would seem at first, in the end it would be a blessing for the entire team – and my leader friend.

I have learned people accept the what better if they first understand the why – so then I shared with her why I feel her default niceness is causing current problems for the team.

Here are 3 problems with being too nice as a leader:

It’s bad for the leader

The leader ends up stressing over the wrong things. Instead of focusing on the big picture, the leader is focused on a few problems with usually only a few people. The leader feels unsuccessful, even like a failure at times, as the team achieves less than desired results.

It’s bad for the organization

The team suffers because a few people mess up the system and progress for everyone else. Those on the team who wish to do the right thing lose respect for the leader. Others will follow the example of those taking advantage of the leader and lower their own performance standards. The organization loses.

It’s bad for the person taking advantage of the leader’s niceness

Enabling bad behavior is never good for the under-performing team member. It keeps him or her from identifying their full potential and from realizing personal success. They may be a superstar if they were given structure and held accountable to complete their work. And, they may never improve. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person – certainly the team – is help them move on to something new.

And, for those still struggling with my concept here, let me give a more sobering example. I understand this is extreme, but it is the same principle. We have friends who’s adult son got into a serious drug problem. He’s now recovering, but they parents and child would tell you the answer came only when they decided to demonstrate tough love, not enable him, and literally refuse to bail him out again.

Again, extreme example, but sometimes being “too nice” is not the best way to love others.

“To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:1‬ 

Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to challenge them. 

Leader, have you become too nice as a leader?

Are you allowing problems to continue out of a fear of not being liked? There is nothing wrong with being a relational leader. That can be a great style of leadership, but part of developing any healthy relationship involves conflict, tough conversations and difficult decisions.

If you are not careful you can become everyone’s friend, but nobody’s leader.

Leading is hard – some days harder than others. The sooner you handle the problem (and the problem people), the sooner things will begin to improve on your team for everyone – and the sooner you can get a good night’s rest.

7 Reasons Leaders Dump Delegation

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons I see for stalled growth, low morale of teams, and not sustaining momentum has to do with leaders who refuse to delegate. They simply won’t. Either they don’t know how, they don’t see the value or they simply don’t want to delegate, but it hurts their team’s potential.

Here are 7 reasons some leaders aren’t delegating:

They might appear to be doing less.

Everyone knows they are the leader. What will people think if they are not the one doing everything?

(Pastors struggle with this one a lot.)

They fear losing authority.

And, this is a legitimate fear. Delegation, if it is done right, means they give up the right to control every outcome.

They still have to be available, even when delegating.

Delegation doesn’t mean a leader can dump and run. They have to be available to assist, advise and encourage. So, some leaders feel if they are going to be involved anyway – they might as well do it themselves.

Someone might not do things the way they would.

Let’s be honest. This is huge, isn’t it? And, those who have this as an excuse naturally assume their way is always best.

(And, that one leads to the next one.)

It might get done faster and better.

Okay, this one is certainly hard to admit. Faster is one thing, but better? What if someone else gets credit? What if they think someone is better than the leader? It might expose or grow a new leader – and, how threatening could that be?)

(I know. It’s a pride issue. And, yes, all of us leaders struggle with it at some level.)

Someone else might get credit.

Their credit! Credit they once got before they decided to delegate.

They simply don’t know the value in delegation.

Frankly, in my opinion, this is the bigger issue. They’ve never seen a healthy enough team where everyone has a role to play, everyone is a leader at some level, and everyone gets credit.

Any other reasons you can think of why leaders don’t delegate?

3 Critical Ways Every Leader Must Spend Time

Time is one of the greatest assets of any leader.

Learning to balance a leader’s time effectively is often a key in determining the level of success the leader attains. In my experience, every leader has three critical segments where they must invest their time on a regular basis.

It also seems to me leaders tend to do one of these especially well, so by default they spend most of their time on that one – often to the neglect of the other two.

All three are needed. All three.

Learning to balance a leader’s time in each of these three areas will greatly enhance the leader’s productivity, so the leader must discipline for the other two.

Here are the 3 critical ways every leader must spend their time:

Time reflecting on past experience

If a leader doesn’t evaluate where they have been and what has been done, he or she will soon be disappointed with where they are going. Leaders must spend ample time in personal, team member and organizational evaluations. This includes celebrating success. People need this too.

Evaluation should be done after each major events but also on a regular basis evaluating overall activity of the organization should be considered.

A leader can’t get frozen on this one though – always thinking of what has already happened. At some point it’s time to move forward.

Time focusing on current obligations

A leader must be disciplined to take care of the immediate needs of the organization. The busier a leader becomes, unless a leader is naturally wired for this one, the more he or she tends to naturally neglect routine tasks. Things like returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner, for example, remain critical at every level of leadership. This may also include simply catching up with co-workers, even in social conversation.

I find personally if I don’t operate with some scheduled time for current obligations I will get dreadfully behind and end up not being effective for anyone.

Honestly, this one is a drag for me at times. I’m wired for what’s next. But, sometimes the routine stuff I do is huge for other people. And, necessary for me.

Time dreaming about the future

Leaders must spend time dreaming of the future. If a leaders doesn’t, no one else will either. This is critical to an organization’s success. I believe the larger an organization grows or the leader’s responsibilities expand the more time must be spent on this aspect of time management.

This comes natural for some leaders and not for others. Personally, I love this one. Again, if it’s not natural it must be scheduled. Planning a few hours a week to read, brainstorm, interact with other creative leaders can make a big difference. Several times a year it may be important to spend a day or more away from the office with the sole purpose of dreaming of what’s next.

The place in the organization and season of responsibility will determine which of these get the greatest attention at the time, but none of them can be neglected for very long periods of time. Again, a leader learning to balance these three components of time is a key aspect in determining the ultimate success of the leader.

Here are a few questions for personal evaluation:

  • Which of this are you more geared towards as a leader? (Please don’t say all come naturally.)
  • Which of these needs your greatest attention at this time in your leadership? (Be honest.)
  • How do you balance your time between these three areas? (Be helpful.)

7 Suggestions for Pastors When a Good Staff Member Leaves the Church

This post came to me after hanging out with one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with. I hated when we parted ways professionally.

Let’s be honest, pastors. When you have great staff people, the team is set and everything is going well, it’s hard when someone leaves. Even when they are leaving for a better opportunity – it often stinks.

Replacing quality people is one of the hardest things we do as pastors.

How should you handle a staff member who leaves for other opportunities?

Here a 7 suggestions for my pastor friends:

Think bigger picture. 

You’re a Kingdom builder. You are on a mission. You are called to part of a grander plan – God’s plan – more than you are to one local church. You and every staff member (volunteer and attendee) in your church are simply part of this plan.

Grieve. 

It’s okay. You likely invested a lot personally into the person. You are probably going to miss their friendship – and their work. Whoever replaces them will not be the same. (They may actually be a better fit for the season you are in now.) It will be different either way. Change is hard for the church – and it’s difficult for us too at times. Believers don’t grieve like the rest of the world (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but we do grieve. We grieve with hope always in mind, but grieving is a healthy way to deal with loss. 

Don’t take it personal. 

Most likely it is a reflection of what God was doing in the staff member’s life – and possibly in the life of the church. It may have nothing to do with you. If it is personal then it is a good time to evaluate where and who you are and why someone felt they needed to leave.

See the opportunity in something new. 

I used to have a boss who when someone would threaten to quit he would call them in and have them stick their hand in a bucket of water to see how much the difference one hand made in the level of the water. It didn’t make much. I know, because I once had to do it. I’m not saying it was the gentlest of approaches – and I have never used it personally, but it was certainly humbling. I never forgot it. The point he was making was everyone can be replaced. Everyone. And, sometimes new can even be better. Transitions are difficult, but afterward new can create opportunities for the church you never dreamed of – but God did.

Invest in people. 

Not positions. You have to see your role as a people-builder more than a position builder. It’s great to have the best student ministry in the history of the church. It’s better to have a student minister you believe in and invest in personally who is open, just as you should be, to being wherever God may lead. Rejoice in this with them. (As much as it hurts, this includes the worship pastor, the small groups or discipleship pastor, and the key volunteer leaders in the church.) 

Keep in touch. 

Stay in touch, as much as the other person will allow, in what God is doing in their life in this new season. Chances are you and your leadership were a part of this season also. Rejoice in what God allowed you to be a part of doing in someone else’s journey. 

Celebrate what God is doing new. 

Celebrate the work God is doing in the person’s life who left and what He is doing in the church afterward. Celebrate on the way out for one person and on the way in for another. The more you can celebrate the healthier the environment will be you are trying to lead.

These are just a few suggestions. I’ve been there – and, I’m sure I will be again. Saying goodbye can be difficult. It shouldn’t be devastating if we approach it correctly.

7 Unwritten Rules which Shape an Organization

In an organization the unwritten rules are just as, if not more, important than the written rules. I wrote about this idea HERE.

If you are considering making changes, implementing something new, adding staff, or any of dozen other decisions in your organization, you need to also consider the these “rules” of the organization.

Here are a 7 examples of unwritten rules:

The culture

How does it responds to change? How does it addresses problems? How does it plans for the future? How trusted is leadership? These are all unique to any organization.

The leader’s accessibility and temperament

Every senior leader is different. If you change the leader you change some of the unwritten rules. Is he or she considered approachable? Does he or she participate with the team normally? Would he or she know if there was a perceived problem in the organization? Do team members trust leadership? These answers shape responses to change.

The relationships of team members to each other

Is there a friendship or just a working relationship among team members? Is conflict acceptable and healthy? Do team members feel freedom to speak freely when in disagreement? Do people respect one another? Is there a silo culture or a common vision everyone is working to achieve? The healthiest organizations have people working together who genuinely like one another. If that isn’t there, change will be more difficult.

The sense of work satisfaction

Are there long-term team members? Are team members generally happy with the organization? Is there any unrest among team members? Are there unspoken concerns within the organization? Many times this has been formed over the years, sometimes even before a leader has been in the position, but it is valuable information for any leader.

The reaction to change

Is the “way it’s always been done” changeable? Has change usually been accepted or resisted? Who has to initiate change? What is the anticipated speed of change? Who needs to know about it? The success of change will be directly related to the answers to these questions and the way a leader responds to them.

The way information flows

How does communication really happen? What are the circles of influence? Who drives discussion? Who has influence with peers? What are the expectations regarding the “need to know”? Communication is key in any organization so, as leaders, we must understand the way it occurs.

The real power structure

Who really makes the decisions? Is it a board? A few key people? A consensus of the largest percentage of people? Power structures are rarely as purely formed as what is written on a piece of paper. Knowing this is critical to navigating change.

As a leader, it’s important that you not only concentrate your attention on what is easily measured, written in a policy manual, or even spoken as a value. Other considerations may be more important, even though they may have never been expressed formally. When change occurs or is to be implemented in an organization, paying attention to these unwritten rules is necessary for success.

By the way leaders, most likely you helped write (or are helping to write) these unwritten rules.

What are some of the unwritten rules of your organization?

5 Situations You May Need to Micromanage

For The People on Your Team

I prefer to be a macro-manager. I like to lead leaders. This means I try to cast the vision for a team and get out of the way, releasing each team member to do his or her work in their own individual way.

There are times, however, where more micro-management may be needed by senior leadership. More coaching, encouraging or correction may be needed for a season.

Here are 5 times to consider some micromanagement:

When a team member is new to the organization.

They need to learn your culture and way of doing things. They don’t know. This doesn’t mean you don’t allow them to invent, dream and discover, but they also need to know how decisions are made, the unwritten rules, and the internal workings of the environment. It will serve everyone well and they’ll last longer on the team if these are learned early in their tenure.

When a team or team leader has been severely crippled by injury or stress.

I’ve had a few times where a member of our team just wasn’t mentally or emotionally capable of making the right decisions. It could be what they were dealing with in their personal life or with the stress of their work, but I had to step in and help them more than I normally would for a season to help them succeed.

When in a state of uncertainty, transition or change.

I once had a strong leader quit abruptly from his position. His team was devastated. I quickly realized they had relied too much on his leadership and were now lost without him. It required more of my time initially until we could raise up new leadership and better empower everyone on the team.

When tackling a new objective, critical to the organization.

This is especially true when, as the senior leader, I’m the architect of the idea. They need more of my time to make sure things are going the way I envisioned them to go. That doesn’t mean the outcome will look exactly like I planned, but in the initial start, the team can waste time and resources trying to figure me out without my input, rather than doing productive work.

When a team member is underperforming in relation to others.

As a leader, I feel it is part of my role to help people perform at their highest level possible. Sometimes this requires coaching, sometimes instruction, and sometimes even discipline. Part of being a leader is recognizing potential in people and helping them realize that potential within the organization. For a season, to help someone get on track for success on our team, (or even to discover they aren’t a fit for our team) I have to manage closer than I normally prefer.

I obviously wrote this in the context of an organization and not specific to the church, but these principles equally apply in the church. The important thing is that the end goals and objectives need to be reached, so at certain critical times a leader must step in and ensure the vision is being accomplished.

7 Ways to Lose Favor with Senior Leadership

I can be pretty hard on senior leadership. Having been in such a position for over 25 years, I know the bad side of senior leadership. I’ve witnessed it and, in full candor, I’ve been it.

My goal is always to improve senior leadership for all of us, which has been a chief goal of this blog. When I’m coaching other leaders, predominately I’m coaching senior leadership.

But, what about those who are supporting senior leadership?

Any good senior leader knows he or she is nothing without the people on their team. Without people to lead there is no need for leadership. And, a huge part of good leadership is having confidence in the people on is trying to lead.

So, a good leadership question might be: What causes senior leadership to lose confidence in people they are trying to lead?

How do you lose favor with senior leadership?

Here are 7 common ways I have observed in my own leadership:

Give half-hearted devotion to the vision.

Speaking for someone in senior leadership, who feels the weight of completing the vision before us, there’s little time to waste on people who don’t share the same vision. It’s one thing not to understand it, to have questions about it, or need development. Everyone has bad days and bad seasons, but, it’s a completely different story when the person has lost passion – or never had passion – for the vision. Especially when they demonstrate it by their work.

Sometimes the best thing for the rest of the team – and the person – is for them to find a vision they can support. These are tough decisions leaders often have to encourage.

Work for a competing vision.

This one is slightly different. In the previous one, the person has lost heart. This person has plenty of heart – but, for a completely different vision. Any team will crumble under competing visions. When a team member starts competing, it’s hard to maintain the support of senior leadership.

Eventually, competing visions cause others on the team to choose sides. The division results in ineffectiveness and poor morale. Again, hard decisions may have to be made.

Always bringing surprises.

As a senior leader, there’s a surprise everyday. Something is always coming we didn’t see coming. It’s part of the job – and honestly – it keeps most leader-types energized, even when the surprise presents a new challenge. But, because they are so frequent, a healthy team helps limit them.

If someone on the team, for example, knows there is a problem brewing, and doesn’t share it with senior leadership in a timely manner, there is the potential for a bigger, more complicated challenge. It might have been avoided with prior information.

Whether in the person’s area of work or in their personal life, if there are frequent “surprises” the senior leader begins to lose confidence in the team member. The key here is good team members practice good communication. It’s paramount to a healthy team. It’s much easier to address an issue with advance knowledge. We can get through almost anything if we handle it together.

Never learning from mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes. Good leaders actually expect them as a part of the development process. It’s easy to lose the confidence of senior leadership, however, when mistakes made never produce improvement – or when there is an attitude of indifference towards them.

Failing to follow through.

Work has to be done. And, every great idea is just an idea until someone follows through with a plan of accomplishment. This is what separates great teams from mediocre teams. When team members never complete the tasks assigned, they lose the confidence of senior leadership.

(This one deserves a sidebar. If there are more tasks assigned than possible to complete, there could be a problem on the senior leaders side. This is another post, but sometimes you have to “lead up” to help senior leadership understand this, but make sure the problem is too many tasks and not a need to develop as a task master. Make sure you’re doing all you can to get better at time-management, for example.)

Causing your loyalty or respect to be questioned.

This one will raise eyebrows, but it’s true. Obviously, this requires a vision worth following, but loyalty towards senior leadership is necessary to complete the vision. I posted recently on some of my most repeated leadership nuggets. One of them is “Don’t trip over your own humility”. Basically, I described it as don’t refuse to do the right thing because it seems self-serving. And, this is certainly the case when you expect loyalty of followers. But, mutual loyalty and respect – from leaders and team members – is necessary to carry a team forward in a healthy way.

Say one thing. Do another.

There’s no place where letting our “yes be yes and our no be no” is more important than on a healthy team. And, every good leader knows this. People-pleasers don’t earn respect on a team once they are exposed. And, yes, this does start with senior leadership, but it must be carried through at every level of the team.

These are meant to be helpful. I work with a lot of ministry leaders who report to a senior pastor. I have never met one who didn’t want the support of the senior pastor, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with everything the pastor did. They want to be supported. When you’ve supposedly bought into the senior leadership, you want to be a team player, this is simply a gut honest look at some common ways to lose their support.

And, the same goes for senior leadership. We want people we can support, believe in, and want to work with on our team. And, every senior leader I know is trying to build such a team.

Granted, some are better at this than others. And, frankly, there are lots of senior leaders who aren’t worthy of much of the items on this list. They are difficult to follow, because they are difficult to trust. They may be incompetent, lack drive and be very controlling. Those are subjects of other posts – subjects I write about frequently. I realize if you’re in one of these situations there may be a natural push-back to a post like this. This post assumes at some point you believed in the senior leadership.

(And, if not, this too is a subject of another post, but maybe this post serves as another reminder to you it’s time for a change.)

Senior leaders, anything else you would add?

7 Indicators It’s Time for Change in Organizational Structure

I’ve been a leader in an almost 200 year old company and a new business. I’ve led in a church plant and now in an over 100 years old established church. One thing I’ve learned is there are many similarities in organizations – especially when it comes to the need for changing structure.

Healthy organizations maintain an unchanging vision long-term. One way they do so is with a willingness to change their organizational structure as needed.

When it comes to organizational structure not everything needs changing. If the structure works. Keep it. It’s comfortable. People understand it. Progress is happening.

But progress is happening is important. So is effectiveness and efficiency.

In my current context of the church, I’m always reminded how important our vision is and how people sacrifice personally to fund it. If the organizational structure is impeding the accomplishment of the vision (mission) it is prudent we make changes. Anything less is failing to be good stewards of what we’ve been entrusted and called to do.

There are times to change. It’s important leaders realize those times.

How do you know when organizational structural change is needed?

Here are 7 considerations to discern it is time:

When you continually encounter obstacles trying to move forward.

If every decision you are trying to make hits roadblocks or dead ends, it may be time to build a new road – or at least repair the potholes. When it takes layers of people and weeks or months to make a decision it may be time to change the structure of how decisions are made. People may need to be empowered more. Rules may need to be eliminated or rewritten.

When the steps to make the change is more exhausting than the value the change provides.

Change should be exhilarating. Change brings momentum. When the process to get there is so long or difficult it wears you out and you’ve got no excitement left – it may be time for some structure change.

When you can no longer attract leaders.

When people are controlled more than empowered you will attract doers but you won’t attract visionary leaders. Creative leadership will die, because genuine leaders rebel against controlling environments.

When you spend more time discussing than doing.

Granted we need to meet about some things. We need to plan, strategize and organize. I suggest we have better meetings, but even more we need action. Our visions are hungry for progress towards them. Meetings should create action. The best structures help you get busy doing not attending yet another meeting. When people feel drained by meetings it probably means you need some change in how, when and why you meet.

When the structure you have now isn’t sustainable long term.

Structure based upon people, for example, rather than progress, will eventually need changing as people change. Ask yourself will this structure work 10 years from now? If not, the time to change is now.

A perfect example of this is in my current established church context. We recognized our system of business meetings was not sustainable. Younger generations weren’t coming. As an older generation slowly grows smaller there were fewer people making decisions for the church, and some of those didn’t want change of any kind. We went from monthly meetings where 2% of the Sunday crowd attended to quarterly meetings (and we improved the quality of the meetings) where some 20% attend.

When all creativity is structured out of the system.

Sometimes the process can become so clearly defined nothing new is needed. There is no room for different ideas or opinions. No one needs them anymore. Every question is answered. When people fall into routines, they get bored, and complacency becomes the norm. Development stops. It’s time for some structural change which allows more freedom and creative expression.

One example where we’ve done this is empowering our staff to create their own goals and objectives. We let new people write their own job descriptions. We sign-off on what they say they want to accmplish – to make sure it lines up with overall goals – and we hold people accountable by what they say they wanted to accomplish.

When there is no longer any confusion.

This one can be harder to understand. Most peopel tend to like clarity. The problem is if everything is so carefully scripted the organization has probably become stale. It may be time for some structure change. Some of the best discoveries are found amidst chaos. I love what Andy Stanley says about “a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved”. Good organizations have some of those.

We recently decided to take one of our largest events of the year and break it down into dozens of smaller events. Our goal was to take the energy invested in a big event and hopefully spread the energy throughout our church to better live our vision of getting more people involved. There were a lot of unanswered questions. It’s harder to manage many events than it is one. We certainly made some mistakes and learned from them, but the unanimous decision afterward is it was a good change.

Those are some of my thoughts based on experience.

Does your organization need to make some changes?

3 Examples of Being a Leader For a Season

I am frequently contacted when someone is debating the right time to leave a leadership position. I once wrote 10 Scenarios to Determine If It’s Time to Quit. It’s still one of my more requested blog topics. Deciding when it is time to leave a leadership position is one of the hardest decisions a leader makes.

Thankfully, there are still leaders with a sense of loyalty, who want to do the right thing, and they simply do not know how or when they should leave. If you want to see long-term success in the place where you lead, you need longer-term tenure.

We all love hearing how a church planter carried the church from infancy of a few core people in a room to the maturity of a healthy, established church. I am always impressed to hear of a long term pastorates. Some of the most successful churches have the longest serving pastors. The healthiest way, organizationally speaking, is to have one long-term leader, who goes through seasons with the organizations, who carries the vision forward over a long span of time.

But, it is not the calling of every leader. And, there’s no shame in this.

Please understand, this is not a post encouraging anyone to leave their position. It’s not a post which indicates I’m leaving mine. (Please read the last line again if you’re in my church.) But, this is a post intended to help a leader who may be struggling, feeling it’s time to move on, but can’t bring themselves to make the hard decision. I’ve spoken with pastors who feel they’ve done all they can do. They’ve prayed and prayed about it and don’t even sense God telling them they have to stay, may even feel a sense of release, but their sense of loyalty keeps them from even entertaining the idea. In the meantime, the longer they do stay the more frustrated they become and the church starts to feel it.

And, this is why I write this reminder.

Here is the reality. Some leaders are only there for a season.

A unique season. A special season, reserved for a designed purpose. It’s helpful when a leader can recognize or discern a seasonal assignment.

Here are a few examples:

Some leaders get things started

They are great starters, but often horrible maintainers. They do best when they are allowed to begin something for someone else to carry forward. I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He is great at getting healthy organizations started, but lock him into somewhere for very long and he will frustrate a lot of people. Including himself.

Some leaders guide the organization through transition.

These leaders can handle the tough times. They help once successful organizations start again. They love changing things. When things “settle” they are ready for a new challenge. I have another friend who in her career has helped several businesses recover from near disaster. She moves in, takes over, rebuilds confidence in leadership, provides a sense of direction and momentum, then gradually yields control to others.

Some leaders close things out graciously.

This has to be one of the toughest assignments in leadership, but there are leaders who are especially gifted in helping things come to an end. When I was in retail, there were some store closing experts. Many times a new store was opening across town and one store, perhaps in an older, more established part of town, was closing to make room for the new. That’s never popular, but these leaders knew how to come in, evaluate, assess what could be salvaged, help the employees transition, and leave the area as painlessly as possible, so the excitement for the new would not be lost in mourning what would be gone. They were seasonal experts in leadership.

(Frankly, although this is the subject for another post – some churches needs one of these leaders.)

Granted, each of these scenarios can often find new leadership positions within the same organization, but the key understanding is they are leaders for a season. An assignment. A specific need. When the need is met the season often has to change.

If a leader does what he or she has been called to do, there is no shame in doing ONLY what the leader was called to do. Recognizing and discerning this helps leaders and the organizations they lead to be healthier.

Have you ever been the leader for a season?