The Difference in Popularity and Trust in Leading People

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 7 Comments

In leadership, its important to know the difference in popularity and trust.

I’ve seen leaders – whether pastors, politicians or in business – try to take people places, even worthy places, and believe people would follow because they are popular as a leader.

Yet people didn’t follow, because the leader hadn’t developed enough trust in the people he or she was trying to lead.

Misunderstanding this one principle can dramatically damage a leader’s performance. (This is especially true for newer leaders.)

Many leaders assume they are trusted because they are popular, but many times this is not the case. A leader may be very popular – people genuinely like the person – but this doesn’t always translate into trust.

People follow closest those they trust the most – not necessarily those they like the most. 

Popularity has some importance in leadership. It is easier to follow a leader we like personally. But popularity may be seasonal and temporary. Popularity can be altered by current successes or disappointments. Popularity can cause followers to cheer or jeer, because whether it is good or bad, popularity is mostly built on people’s emotions.

Trust is what is needed for the biggest moments in leadership. Major changes depend upon trust. Times of uncertainty need established trust in leadership. Long-term success requires trust.

And trust must be earned. Popularity can happen with the next great thing the leader does. I used to say the pastor is only as good as their last good sermon. (And that is semi-true.)

Trust, however, develops with time and experience. Trust invokes a deeper level of loyalty and commitment which helps people weather the storms of life together. Trust develops roots in a relationship which grow far deeper than popularity ever could.

Leader, I encourage you to know the difference between popularity and trust. And to not confuse the two.

Here is something else to know. Popularity often disguises itself as trust when people appear to be agreeing with you. And it may fool you into thinking you can do anything, because you are, after all, popular. But, if you are not careful, you will cross a line of people’s level of trust and see a backlash towards your leadership.

It will make you a more effective leader – especially when it comes to leading change – when you can begin to discern when you are simply popular and when you are truly trusted.

7 Dangers of Prideful Leadership

By | Leadership, Team Leadership | 22 Comments

I have frequently preached on the danger of pride.

If you follow this blog, you know I tend to think a great deal about leadership. I have a heart for developing good leadership in the church and in ministry. As I wrestle through this particular Biblical subject, I always think about places I see pride creep into leadership – even my own leadership. If we are not careful, our attempt at good leadership will be derailed by the pride of our hearts.

Remember, “Pride goes before destruction”. (Proverbs 16:18)

Have you ever known (or been) a proud leader?

Here are 7 dangers of prideful leadership:

Refusing to listen to advice from others – Proud leaders “know it all”. Of course, not really, but it’s often their perception of reality. Pride causes people to want you to believe they know more than they actually do. Sadly, their attempt to perpetuate the perception of superiority causes them to ignore the wisdom of others.

Making excuses for mistakes – Proud leaders refuse to admit their errors. They scoff at any insinuation a mistake was theirs and refuse ownership of the team’s failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when goals aren’t reached, mistakes are made or momentum stalls. They don’t learn from times of failure – they try to hide them.

Protecting position at any cost – Proud leaders try to keep others from gaining power or influence. They limit people’s exposure and stifle leadership development. They tend to curtail information and keep power within an arms length of their control.

Taking complete credit for a team’s success – There is only one clear winner on a proud leader’s team…the proud leader. Proud leaders take the microphone first. They have their name on every award. They keep the prime, attention-gaining assignments for themselves. They make sure they are in the “right place at the right time”, so no one steals their potential for applause.

Failing to see personal shortcomings – The proud leader becomes immune to his or her own deficiencies. Pride keeps him or her from getting honest about their weaknesses with anyone, including themselves. Proud leaders are careful to present themselves as flawless, whether in personal appearance or job performance. They may go to extreme measures to cover up any hint of an insufficiency.

Solicit grandstanding on their behalf – You’ll know about a proud leader’s accomplishment. They’ll be the first to start the cheers on their behalf. Proud leaders say things which promote the receiving of positive encouragement or feedback. They’ve been known to stage things so it doesn’t look like they initiated the recognition.

Removing God from the supreme position – Of course, God is supreme; regardless of the leader, but the ultimate danger of a leader struggling with pride is their attempt to remove God from His seat of control. Proud leaders refuse to submit to the will of God, preferring to chart their own path.

What other dangers have you seen in proud leaders?

Be honest – with yourself and God – do you see yourself struggling in any of these areas? Is pride an issue for you?

Remember, “Pride goes before destruction”.

Great Leaders Share Why as They Share What

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 3 Comments

I have learned a secret to getting better results as a leader. It’s huge. When I interviewed Zig Ziglar years ago, he repeated this principle to me over and over during our conversation. It’s paramount to getting buy-in from people and helping them feel a part of a team, project, or organization.

  • When you are leading people
  • When you are introducing change
  • When you want people to follow
  • When you want people to own the vision
  • When you want to build or maintain momentum
  • When you are experiencing growth
  • When you are experiencing decline

Don’t bother with the what. It simply doesn’t matter much. No one cares.

Unless you share the why.

People won’t hear the what as well unless they know the why.

In fact, when you share the what without sharing the why:

  • There will be unnecessary resistance
  • People have separate agendas
  • Misunderstandings become common
  • The vision is clouded
  • Motivation is absent
  • The leader stands alone
  • Progress stalls

Paint the why – as you share the what.

It makes all the difference.

Be honest, are you less likely to want to do the what if you don’t know the why?

5 Ways a Mature Leader Responds When the Team is Stressed

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 24 Comments

Every organization and team has times where everyone is stretched, stress abounds, and even times where it seems things are going backwards for a while. It could be in a time of crisis for the organization or during an exceptionally busy season. It could that be internal or external issues  are causing the stress. In these seasons, good leadership is more critical than ever.

Mature leaders have learned (often the hard way) that the way they respond in stress will directly impact the organization and everyone attempting to follow them. Ultimately the care for the organization greatly depends on the leader’s response during the stressful seasons.

Here are 5 mature ways for a leader to respond in stressful times:

A sense of calm

A leader must display a calmness in the midst of crisis. If the leader panics everyone panics. Trying times test a team and the leader needs to add a calmness to the situation, helping assure people everything will be okay.

This does not mean that the leader should give a false hope. People should understand reality, but it does mean helping people find a sense of balance and hope in the midst of what may seem hopeless in their minds.


There will always be temptations to give up under stress – for the team and the leader. A leader must walk by faith and keep the team moving forward. Through good times and the bad times the leader must stand firm.

You can read the hard lesson I learned about this issue in my post of advice to the leader when things are going wrong.


Character is most tested during stressful times. A leader must remain unquestioned in his or her integrity for the health of the team and organization.

People will watch to see how a leader responds. What a leader says or does in these seasons will be taken even more seriously (and subject to people’s own interpretations), so the leader must strive to be above reproach.


Decisions are harder to make but more important during stressful times. The leader must think strategically for the organization – helping to steer towards clarity and progress.

(Read a post about thinking strategically in the moment HERE)

Personal well-being

Leaders must remain healthy personally in order to continue to lead the organization. There will be a tendency to never leave the office, but during times of stress, the leader must continue to exercise, eat well, and be disciplined in rest. The leader must guard his or hear heart spiritually, knowing temptation is especially powerful under duress.

The personal health of the leader directly impacts the health of the team.

Leader, have you ever had to lead during especially stressful times? Are you there now?

What would you add to my list?

7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar for the Organization

By | Church, Leadership, Team Leadership | 6 Comments

The leader sets the bar for the organization.

If you are a leader of any organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.

I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar for the church. Period. He is our standard. But it would be foolish to ignore the fact God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things which happen in the church.

A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?

Here are 7 ways the leader sets the bar:

Vision casting – The vision, even a God-given vision, is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.

Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out His standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.

Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.

Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.

Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.

Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader who stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.

Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.

Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.

Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.

Leader, 5 Ways to Increase Your Productivity Today

By | Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 9 Comments

I see part of my role as a senior leader as a developer of other leaders. As a pastor, as much as I was called to make disciples, I felt called to disciple disciple-makers.

I have tried to take this role seriously in every leadership position I have held. I am consistently thinking how I can encourage people around me to be better at what they do. Several years ago, with another staff, someone who once worked with me mentioned my intentionality in developing leaders on his blog. (Read his post HERE.)

Here’s my theory on the subject.

Many leaders limit their capacity as a leader, because they try to do too much on their own. Rather than develop people, they control people. Rather than growing the organization, they only grow their personal workload. In the end, under this type scenario, everyone loses. The leader burns out, potential leaders are never developed, and the organization fails to be all it could be.

If you want to increase productivity as a leader, you have to think bigger than what you can do. In fact, I would say, you have to change some of your title roles as a leader.

Here are 5 ways to increase productivity as a leader:

1. Change from being a manager of people to being a leader of people.

Don’t just manage current systems. Lead people to greater realities than they can imagine today. Don’t rule by policies. Free people to explore, create, and imagine. (And, in turn perhaps even make a ton of mistakes.)

2. Change from being a doer to being an encourager. 

Make it your ambition to encourage people everyday. Be a people builder. I find my best energies are spent away from my desk and in the halls or other offices. When I invest in others everything grows around me.

3. Change from being a list keeper to being a chief supporter of list keepers.

I love lists! I live by them. But, you can’t be a great senior leader and only manage your own. This would be the easy way – but the least productive way. Instead, you should help people develop their own lists – their dreams – the things they want to accomplish. Encourage. Empower. Celebrate.

4. Change from completer of tasks to being an investor in people who complete tasks.

Again, my best time is away from my desk. Like anyone I can get very tied to my desk, my email, and my own tasks. I have learned I can spend a little more time investing in people and the results return exponentially.

5. Change from being an implementer to being an enabler for people to implement.

The less “hands on” I am the more our team seems to get done. When I try to help I often get in the way. This doesn’t mean I do nothing. I often take orders from people on our team as to what I should do. It does mean, though, I try very hard not to get in their way.

These are not a play on words. They are intended to be a change in perspective. And, again, please understand, these are also not an excuse to do nothing. The attempt is working smarter. It’s making an intentional decision to develop others.

It boils down to believing in the purpose and power of delegating, learning how to delegate properly, and actually letting go. For more on delegating, see HERE and the related posts.

If you are struggling to complete all required of you as a leader, in my experience, it will almost always have more to do with how well you do in this area of your leadership. And, for those who are wondering, this is regardless of whether your team is paid or volunteer.

Structure Can Impede Progress

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 2 Comments

I once received a question about a post entitled “7 Enemies of Organizational Health“. One of those “enemies” I listed as “structure”. The person’s question was, “Are you referring to micromanagement?” He went on to say that we need structure to prevent organizational chaos.

I answered.

Well, yes and no. Micromanagement is an impediment to organizational health, but really I simply meant structure. Let me attempt to explain.

I do agree we need some structure, but not for structure sake, but for progress sake. And there is a difference.

I see it as similar to the concept of grace, freedom and the law. We don’t need laws if we are bound by grace. Grace is actually a higher standard than the law. But, we have to have an established order in our world for progress. It is a wicked world and we could never get anything done without some sense of structure.

In an organizational sense, think about it, if we all did the right thing we wouldn’t need structure. But structure allows for progress. When structure becomes a problem – when it gets in the way – and the kind of structure I was referring to in my post is when a well-meaning structure impedes progress.

Consider this example:

Imagine a rule that says everyone has to be in the church office from 8 to 5. So, because I want to respect authority, I obey the structure and am dutifully at my desk from 8 AM to 5 PM. The fact is, however, that I work best at 6 in the morning out of the office. Sticking to the structure in this case would limit my ability to be at my best. At the same time, because I’m following the structure, I may not go to the emergency hospital visit at midnight. After all, office hours are over by then.

I would personally rather have an understanding that people need to get their work done. They need to have clear goals (they helped develop) that stretch them and moves the organization forward. They need to be held accountable for reaching them, but once they are established we can allow the individual to figure out how to accomplish them.

Or one more:

What if there was a rule which says no one can serve on a committee in your church until they’ve been in the church a year? (This one is a real scenario with churches I’ve known.) What if one of the committees was the garden committee – which includes, in part, pulling weeds? What if someone shows up at the church ready to pull weeds – but not yet ready to join the church? What if them serving is what connects them to the church? (Theoretically someone could actually come to know Christ only after they’ve pulled weeds in the church.)

I personally would rather save the “committee” slots for jobs help by people who’ve been there for a while, but let newcomers serve where they are equipped to do – based on the time they’ve been there. (So, I’d get rid of the garden committee.)

The bottom line is that structure should enhance not impede progress.

Structure should never get in the way of accomplishing what God plants in your heart to accomplish.

7 Enemies of Organizational Health

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 8 Comments

I love organizational leadership. I especially love attempting to lead healthy organizations. I have been in both environments – healthy and non-healthy. I prefer healthy.

If truth be told I’ve probably been the leader in both extremes. And there are seasons when every organization is healthier than others.

Over the years of leading, I’ve observed a few things which can be the enemy of organizational health. They keep health from happening and, if not dealt with, can eventually destroy an organization – even a local church.

Here are 7 enemies of organizational health:

Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to creating a healthy organization. I’ve known leaders who think they can read a book, attend a conference, or say something persuasive enough so everything turns out wonderful. Organizational health is much more complicated. Success is not earned through a simple, easy-to-follow formula. It takes hard work, diligence and longevity to move things forward in an organization. Leaders must be committed to the process through good times and bad.

Satisfaction – Resting on past success is a disruption to future growth, which ultimately impacts organizational health. When an organization gets too comfortable – boredom, complacency and indifference are common results. The overall vision must be attainable in short wins, but stretching enough to always have something new to achieve.

Selfishness – Organizational health requires a team environment. There’s no place for selfishness in this equation. When everyone is looking out for themselves instead of the interest of the entire organization – and this starts with the leader – the health is quickly in jeopardy.

Sinfulness – This one is added for those who feel every one of my posts must be spiritual. Seriously, healthy organizations are not perfect (and we all sin), but it doesn’t matter if it is gossip or adultery – sin ravages through the integrity of the organization. When moral corruption enters the mix, and is not addressed, the health of an organization will soon suffer. This is why it is so important a leader stays healthy spiritually, relationally and physically.

Sluggishness – Change is an important part of organizational health. In a rapidly changing world, organizations must act quickly to adapt when needed. Some things never change, such as vision and values, but the activities to reach them must be fluid enough to adjust with swiftness and efficiency.

Stubbornness – Let me be clear. There are some things to be stubborn about, again, such as vision and values. When the organization or it’s leaders are stubborn about having things “their way”, however, or resistant to adopt new ways of accomplishing the same vision, the health of the organization will suffer. Most people struggle to follow stubborn leadership, especially when it’s protecting self-interest rather than organizational interests.

Structure – As much as we need structure, and even though we should always be working to add better structure, bad structure can be damaging to organizational health. When people feel they are being controlled by rules, more than empowered by their individuality and passions, progress is minimized and growth stalls. People become frustrated under needless or burdensome structure.

What enemies of organizational health would you add to my list?

A Delicate Tension – 7 Times Leadership is at Its Best

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 10 Comments

In my opinion, there are times when my leadership is better than others. I call them seasons. Seasons come and seasons go. Obviously, I would love for all of my seasons of leadership to be wonderful, but I have learned this isn’t realistic.

What I have observed is when leadership is at it’s best there is a delicate tension in place. The better the season the better I and balancing those tensions.

Let me share a few examples to describe what I mean.

Here are 7 times leadership is at its best when:

People follow willingly, not under coercion or force.

You aren’t leading unless people are following. We can find examples of people who did exactly what someone told them – yet, it wasn’t done willingly. The best leadership has willing participants – personally energized towards the vision.

There have been times I’m having to force things because of someone who isn’t pulling their weight. There are other times I’ve been guilty of trying to take people somewhere they had no interest in going.

People can keep up, but are still being stretched.

There is nothing worse than a leader who is too far ahead of the people he or she is trying to lead. Have you ever tried to follow someone in a car? Some people are good at leading you – some aren’t. But the best leadership is always taking you somewhere – somewhere you haven’t been before – stretching you towards something new. It’s a delicate tension between two extremes, but if one can’t follow another isn’t leading.

For me personally on this one, I have to discipline myself – and give my team permission to speak into my leadership – to keep from having too many ideas and not enough implementation.

People feel valued, while being challenged to continually improve.

This is a tough one for me. I’m wired for improvement. I’m a development guy. I’m seldom completely satisfied – especially with my own efforts. So, I want to continually challenge people to get better – for their good but also for the good of the team. But you can only push people so much. Ephesians 6 gives this warning to fathers of children. Sometimes as leaders we can push too hard – and frustrate the people we are trying to lead. We can make people feel we don’t appreciate what they are currently doing.

Again, this is a tough one for me to balance.

People are assigned to their specific passion, but readily do what needs to be done.

I learned this in church planting. We needed people just to do what needed to be done. We didn’t have enough people to “specialize”. I think the workplace is becoming a prime place for generalization today. People who succeed can adapt and “play” in different positions.

And, yet we also have learned that people are less likely to burnout and more likely to be passionate for their work if the work fits within who they are and how they are uniquely wired.

One way I try to personally balance this one is to place people into a position where they can “mostly” employ their individual gifting, but make sure they realize they will have to do some things they may not be as passionate about doing. And I tend to hire people as generalists and move them more into a specialist role as the organization can afford them and we have learned where they can best serve.

People have a clearly defined vision, but have freedom to invent and dream along the way.

This one is especially true for creative people – and I’m finding it true of younger generations. They need clear boundaries – clear instructions – they need to know what a win looks like. But they also need freedom within those boundaries to create – to explore – to dream – and to fail.

For this one, I try to have a few – really very few – non-negotiable things we want to achieve – the overall vision of who we are and what we are trying to accomplish currently and organizationally as a whole. When those are being met I try to be flexible in how people meet them – and where else they stretch us as a team.

People have real responsibility and authority, but don’t feel abandoned.

Delegation is a key to good leadership, but healthy delegation does not dump and run. There are adequate resources, feedback and accountability. People feel free to do their work without someone looking over their shoulder, but they know help is always nearby if needed.

Again, there is a delicate balance here. The main way to accomplish this one (learned the hard way and I talk about it in my book The Mythical Leader) is to assign a task, but continually ask good questions to assess progress and see where I might help. Asking, “How can I help you?” – and creating a culture where it feels okay to answer honestly – goes a long ways towards making people feel the care they deserve and the freedom they desire.

People take time to rest and celebrate, but aren’t allowed to sit still for long.

Sitting leads to complacency, boredom and eventually stagnation. And speaking candidly it drives me crazy to sit. Something inside of me screams we can’t sit still for long when there is so much which needs to be done. But the tension is we need to celebrate. And we definitely need to rest. That is even a command. Resting is good for the soul even more than the body sometimes.

Done well, celebration and rest should fuel us to be even more productive. We can accomplish more if we encourage both.

Do you see the tension? It’s real. And if you’re a leader you live these tensions everyday. As leaders we must guard the extremes.

Praying with you!

I started this post talking about the “seasons” of leadership. I need to recognize that sometimes the season is dictated by external circumstances. When a leader is new, in times of tragedy, or when there are people on the team who are severely underperforming would be an example of those times. These times may call for an “unbalanced” style of leadership – using the examples above.

In “normal” times – live the tension.


Leading Under Pressure – An Example for All of Us Who Lead

By | Leadership, Team Leadership | 12 Comments

I once had a great illustration of leading under pressure.

Or, to be honest, the need to actually “lead” (or lead well) under pressure.

I met a friend at a restaurant for breakfast. The place was normally busy and this seemed like a typical day from the many times I had frequented this restaurant. What was unusual was a new manager I had not seen before. And she was in full stress mode.

Apparently, several of her employees hadn’t shown up for work that day. (And I really don’t have to say apparently, because she made that quite clear as she complained rather loudly about her AWOL team members throughout our visit.)

Suddenly the place was swamped, which again was not an unusual happening for this particular restaurant. The young girl running the cash register was overwhelmed. She had to ask for help several times. (She was probably sorry she did after the reaction she received.) She made a few little mistakes and seemed to make more mistakes the more agitated her boss became with her. This new manager continually “barked” back half answers, displayed constant frustration, and grumbled excuses about the lack of manpower. She never apologized. She just complained.

Our server also became agitated, which was totally out of character for her. She had waited on me a number of times and was always pleasant, but the attitude of the restaurant was changing from anything I had previously experienced. Several customers displayed equal frustrations as tensions in the restaurant grew.

The only difference on this day than any other day I had been to this restaurant – a new manager. A new frustrated manager.

My friend and I wondered how we could best help. I thought maybe I could start cleaning some tables but, honestly, I was afraid of her this manager. 🙂 We stayed, tried to be nice and patient, but leaving almost seemed the more helpful option.

Now I should say, I know firsthand the pressure of leading under stress. I’ve been there so many times where it seems everything is going wrong at the same time. Honestly, however, from an outside perspective, the employee on the cash register would have made less mistakes, servers would have been kinder, customers would have been less tense and the overall environment would have improved – had the new “boss” simply led through the moment rather than overreacted in it.

It reminded me of an important leadership principle.

The way a leader reacts under pressure determines how a team reacts under pressure.

I realize that appears to be a harsh assessment of the situation and of this manager, but it is based on years of leading through times of chaos. In fact, most of what I have learned came from a very difficult and very long season of poor leadership on my part as a small business owner. We were experiencing pressures from all sides and, as the owner, I didn’t respond like I should. Reflecting back now I realize it was impacting all of our employees.

I have often observed that leaders (including me) often default to a bad side of our leadership when pressures come. We sulk. We complain. We panic. We worry. We checkout. Yet the role of a leader in times of stress may be more important than when times are good.

We have to discipline ourselves around it.

If the leader remains calm under pressure. Keeps smiling. Pushes forward the best he or she can – the team will more likely remain calm. If we keep an attitude of “we can do this” and lean into the problem rather than run from it or react poorly to it – the best we can at the time – our team will likely dig in and help us overcome the difficult moment or season.

But the opposite is also true.

If the leader panics everyone panics.

Leading in good times is easy (easier). And part of leading is to step back from the stress long enough to chart healthier ways for our team. (This manager likely needed to push through the day, go home and rest that night, and start the next day with a fresh attitude and maybe a new plan.)

When the world is stretched – when we are under-staffed, under-funded, overwhelmed, that’s when we most need leadership to help us wade through the day.

Here is your chance to help other leaders. Do you have any tips for remaining calm under pressure?