How You’re Perceived as a Leader May Be More Important

Than how you lead

I have learned how your team sees you may be more important than who you are as a leader. The perception people have about you matters greatly

Obviously, character is most important. Integrity matters even more than perception.

You’ll often be misunderstood and you can’t please everyone. In fact, somedays, as a leader – it seems – you can’t please anyone.

So I’d rather know my character is genuine, be loved most by those who know me best, than to be perceived one way, yet actually be someone different in reality. I don’t care about a false perception.

The reality of the success of a leader, however, may depend more on how you are viewed by the people you lead than it does on what you do as a leader. I’ve learned, often the hard way, that the two are not always the same.

  • Do they see you more as an agent of empowerment or an agent of control?
  • Do they see you more as a champion for their ideas or a killer of their dreams?
  • Do they see you more as a proponent of change or a protector of tradition?
  • Do they see you as a friend of progress or the enemy of success?
  • Do they believe you will protect them when their back is turned?
  • Do they think you have their best interest ahead of your  own?
  • Do they genuinely believe your heart is fully committed to the team?

Much of your success as a leader will depend on the perception you create among the people you attempt to lead. They will follow closer when their perception of you is for them more than for you – or against them. Of course, perception is created by how you lead, but sometimes – just as vision does – perception leaks. And, people form perceptions regardless of whether or not you do anything. Perceptions may or may not be reality. I must be keenly aware of this principle, so by my words and deeds I can be even more intentional to build my perception in their mind.

Candidly. I’ve seen this go in seasons in my leadership. I’ve often had to reinforce my perception in their minds. It could be after a busy or stressful time, when their is tension on the team, or during times of change. They need to perceive I’m still the leader they want to follow.

If you’re still trying to get your mind around my thoughts, here is an example. We recently made some rather significant changes to our organizational structure. It will mean fewer people report directly to me. When we announced the changes I reiterated my open door policy and availability to our staff will continue. For people who work with me long they have learned this is how I lead. But, human nature kicks in for all of us. And, change evokes an emotional response – which helps shape people’s perceptions. I wlll need to take intentional actions in the weeks ahead to make sure the perception of my leadership is as strong as my actual leadership.

Have you ever known a leader who thought he or she was doing better than the team thought?

Don’t Address the HOW until you Address the WHAT

A principle of leadership

I’ve seen it many times.

You have an idea – it’s not a bad idea – it may even be a great idea. You just don’t know yet. As soon as you present the idea the team instantly starts to ask tons of question, begin implementing the plan, and gets bogged down in details.

And, then, after time of discussion – sometimes hours – the team decides its not a good idea after all.

Here’s my advice. I use this with the teams I lead.

Spend your energies at first on deciding whether it’s an idea worth pursuing.

The what.

The what is “what” you are going to do. The current dream you have moving forward. The overall objective. The big picture of what’s next.

Decide the what before you spend a lot of energy on the mechanics of the idea.

The how.

The how is how you are going to do the what. These are the details. The nitty gritty working plan. You may have to talk about some of the how to decide the what, but spend your first, best and most energy on the what.

For example, let’s say you have an idea to add a third church service to allow for more growth – or maybe you are thinking of going multi-site – or the idea could be to plant another church. Don’t spend too much time on the how, until you decide the what.

Ask hard questions such as: Is this an idea worth pursuing? Are we willing to give it a try? Has this been birthed in prayer? Do we believe this is something we are supposed to do?

Yes or no?  

Spending too much time on the how before you address the what:

  • Gets you bogged down in details you may never need.
  • Wastes energy which could be used elsewhere if you aren’t going to do the what.
  • Solves problems you don’t yet and may never have.
  • Creates division about change prematurely.
  • Builds momentum before it’s time. (And, it’s harder to build momentum a second time.

When you know you’re going to do the what – you have to, you’re called to, it’s what or bust – you’ll figure out the how. You’ll find a way to make it happen. You’ll have more passion, clarity and energy to address the how.

Try that next time an idea surfaces and is discussed by your team.

Note: This is assuming, of course, you already know your “why” as an organization. You know why you are doing whatever you are doing. This post addresses a more specific aspect of realizing the vision. If you don’t yet have the why – start there.

How Leaders Encourage Cooperation on a Team

Leader, do you want people to cooperate on the team you lead? Do you want people to get along, support one another, and join forces to achieve the vision?

Of course you do. All leaders want their teams to cooperate. It builds stronger teams when people aren’t on islands to themselves.

How do great leaders encourage cooperation?

I can help you with one quick tip. Let people collaborate. It’s that easy – and powerful. 

Collaboration leads to Cooperation

Cooperation rocks in organizational health!

Cooperation brings:

  • Collective buy-in
  • A sense of ownership and empowerment
  • Less petty arguments
  • Lower resistance to change
  • More passion towards the vision
  • Shared workload
  • Fewer cases of burnout

What leader doesn’t appreciate those things?

When you are leading a team, the more you collaborate with your team, and let them collaborate with others – during the planning process and before the final decisions are made – the more cooperation you’ll receive from your team during the implementation process. 

Let people participate in brainstorming. Give them a voice in the way things will be done. Allow them to ask questions and even offer pushback.

Of course, you can’t collaborate on every decision. One of the reasons you are leader is to make big picture, strategic decisions. You often have a vision others can’t immediately see until you lead them there. 

Whenever a decision, however, impacts other people, especially if it:

  • Impacts how they do their work.
  • Changes the basic nature of what they do.
  • Significantly impacts the future of the team or organization.

In those type situations, I suggest you allow collaboration, because it always brings better cooperation from the team. (By the way, in the church, this is true of paid staff or volunteers.)

In fact, the opposite can be equally true. A lack of collaboration naturally brings a lack of cooperation. People will resist the change. They will be less enthusiastic about the outcome. They will wait for instruction rather than take initiative on their own.

As leaders, we must learn to collaborate better –  so our teams can learn to cooperate better.

How have you seen this principle work or the opposite effect occur in a team’s health? Help us learn from your experience.

The Number One Principle for Attracting Leaders

This is true in church revitalization

One thing I learned very quickly in church revitalization, which I already knew from other experiences, is many times entrepreneurial type leaders disappear when things aren’t working well. People who like big visions don’t hang around when the church is holding on to status quo. If the church wants to argue about paint color real leaders will find another place to attend. They aren’t as interested in the maintenance mode of organizational life. Consequently, we had fewer small business owners, CEO-types, and civic or community leaders.

This is true in attracting new staff members also. The ones you often need to turn things around – innovative, creative, energetic, visionary, leaders – are hesitant to come to a plateaued or declining church.

One frequent question I receive from those trying to do church revitalization is how they can attract new leaders.

Great question.

I have a simple solution. This is the number one principle, in my opinion, for attracting leaders.

Give them a problem to solve.

Hand out visions more than you hand out tasks. Tell them where you want to go, but let them know you haven’t yet figured out how to get there.

If the answer is already found, you can hire a manager for the job – and you’ll likely want and need a good one. You’ll have other problems to solve and a good manager can free you up to lead.

But, to attract a leader…

Help them see a need – give them some freedom to find a solution – give them support, as needed, but get out of the way. Let them go.

Leaders seek opportunities to lead.

Challenge, opportunity, problems,something everyone says can’t be done — Those type environments fuel a leader’s energy. It’s what attracts a leader to your team.

Are you in an environment which attracts leaders? What do you think makes it so?

4 Ways Leaders Create Capacity

Capacity: the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something.

Great leaders know the more capacity the organization has the more potential it has to accomplish its mission. When the organization begins to exceed its capacity for too long things eventually stall. If you want to spur growth you have to increase capacity.

Therefore, one of the best ways a leader can impact an organization is to create capacity so the organization and its people can grow.

Here are 4 ways a leader can create capacity:

Paint a void

Allow others to see what could be accomplished. Leaders help people see potential – in themselves and the future – they may not otherwise see. This can be accomplished through vision casting and question asking. It may be helping people dream bigger dreams of what could be next in their own life or for the organization. It could be through training or development. Extra capacity energizes people to find new and adventuresome ways of achieving them.

Empower people

When you give people the tools, resources and power to accomplish the task and you’ve often created new capacity. Many times people feel they’ve done all they can with what they have. Provide them with new tools – maybe new ideas — assure them they can’t fail if they are doing their best. Continue to support them as needed. Then get out of their way.

Release ownership

Let go of your attempt to control an outcome so others can lead. Many people hold back waiting for the leader to take initiative or give his or her blessing. The more power and ownership you release the more others will embrace. The more initiative they will take of their own.

Lead people not tasks

If you are always the doer and never the enabler then you are not a leader. More than likely you are simply an obstacle to what the team could accomplish if you got out of the way. Many leaders don’t see this in themselves. Frequently ask yourself: Am I leading or am I in the way? And, if you’re brave enough — ask others to evaluate you – even anonymously.

When the leader creates capacity the organization and the people in the organization increase their capacity – and things can grow.

7 Ways to Keep a Leader on Your Team

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders.

I previously posted reasons leaders tend to leave an organization. (Read that post HERE.) The goal then is to find ways to keep a leader energized to stay with the team – so I thought a companion post was appropriate.

I’m writing from the perspective of all organizations, but keeping leaders should certainly be a high priority in the church.

I never want to stop someone from pursuing a better opportunity, but I don’t want to send them away because I didn’t help them stay.

The reality is leaders get restless if they are forced to sit still for long. Good managers are comfortable maintaining progress, but a leader needs to be leading change. In fact, leaders even like a little chaos. Show a real leader a problem ready to be solved and they are energized.

Here are a few suggestions to encourage leaders to stay:

Give them a new challenge.

Let them tackle something you’ve never been able to accomplish. (Even tell them you’re not certain it can be done.) Leaders love to do what others said couldn’t be done. Or what no one has figured out yet how to do. Let the leader be a precursor to what’s next for the organization. Let them experiment somewhere you’ve wanted to go, but haven’t tried. They may discover the next big thing for the organization.

Allow them to explore a specific area of interest to them.

Leaders are attracted to environments where they can explore – especially in areas where they have a personal interest or where they want to develop. This may even be outside their direct job description. Give them permission to do something new.

Invest in them.

Mentor them personally. This is huge for younger leaders. They crave it, but don’t always know how to ask for it. This is not micromanaging. This is helping them learn valuable insight from your experience and exposing them to other good leaders.

Give them more creative time to dream.

This is a stretch for some structures, but it’s needed to retain leaders. It doesn’t mean people aren’t held accountable, but I prefer to do so with goals and objectives rather than with a time clock. You might keep someone from feeling stifled if you give them more margin in how they spend their time.

Don’t burden them with your fears.

I’ve seen this so many times when a senior leader gives other leaders in the organization more responsibility. It makes the leader nervous, so they revert to controlling and micromanagement. They don’t give them a chance to prove themselves. They try to tell them how to do things. Fear is what is discerned by others. And, it doesn’t communicate you trust them. It doesn’t mean you are absent from the process. It is hard to release responsibility to someone unproven, but you must stifle your fears and let them learn to lead. Stay close enough to jump in when requested or when it is absolutely required.

Allow him or her to help you lead/dream/plan for the organization.

Include them in discussions and brainstorming in which they normally would not be included. The more they feel included the more loyal they will be.

Reward them.

If they are doing well – let them know it. Praise them privately and publicly and compensate them fairly. What is celebrated gets repeated.

Keeping a leader on your team will be at challenge for you as a leader. You will have to stretch yourself to stretch them. But, it’s almost always worth it. As they grow, you grow, and the entire organization grows.

12 Hard Things a Leader May Need to Say – And 5 Ways to Say Them

In any relationship, there comes a time where it’s necessary to say things, which are difficult to say, but needed to keep the relationship strong. And, to hopefully make it better. This is also true in a healthy team environment. All leaders have things they need to say, which are hard sometimes.

For me personally, this often involves having a challenging conversation with a team member – someone I love being on the team, but know they need correction in an area, which is affecting the team. These are always discussions I’d rather not have, but I know are necessary for the continued health of the relationship, the team, and the individual.

Over the years, I have had many of these issues which required “tough love” to address them. I began my business leadership experience in retail management. At certain times of the year there could be 100’s of associates on the sales floor. It provided ample opportunity for problems I had to address with individuals.

But, those opportunities have continued throughout my career in leadership. And, dealing with problems has included me having to say things such as:

  • You’re too controlling as a leader.
  • You can be perceived as a real jerk to people.
  • Your laziness is dragging down the team.
  • You have body odor.
  • You’re making making too many mistakes and don’t seem to be learning from them.
  • You are non-responsive to your team members or others. It’s slowing down progress and it’s unfair to everyone else.
  • Your personal life is impacting your work. How can I help?
  • You don’t know how to take constructive criticism.
  • You are too critical of new ideas.
  • You are moving too fast.
  • You are moving too slow.
  • You are uncooperative.

I should note – most of these have not been said with my current team – thankfully.

Through my years in leadership, however, I have had to say each one of these statements to someone I was supposed to be leading. And, there are probably many others you as a leader have either had to say, think you need to say, or chose not to say and, looking back, now wish you had. Those conversations, as awkward and uncomfortable as they are, always prove to be good for the team and the team member.

In full disclosure, there have been times when someone needed to have similar “tough love” conversations with me. They weren’t easy for me at the time, but those discussions always made me better as a person and leader.

If you have to have one of those conversations, I have learned some principles to make them more palatable.

Here are 5 suggestions to have hard conversations:

Handle the conversation as quickly as possible

If the problem is clear in your mind (and usually everyone else’s mind), and you’ve witnessed the problem long enough to know it’s a pattern, don’t delay long in addressing the issue. Now, timing is everything. You shouldn’t blast someone in public and you should look for the “best” time to talk with them privately. These aren’t usually the kind of things done by email or text. They are best done in person. But, the longer you wait the more awkward it will be and the person is left feeling more hurt because you did wait.

Be honest

This is not the time to shift blame, make excuses or dance around the issue. Be clear about the problem as you perceive it. Keep in mind there may be things you don’t understand, but be honest with what you think you do. Don’t leave the person wondering what the real problem is or what you are trying to say to them. 

Be kind and helpful

You may want to read my post 5 Ways to Rebuke a Friend. Although this post deals more with a subordinate than simply with a friend, the previous post suggestions may be helpful here also – especially if you are close to the person with whom you are having to say hard things. Your end goal should be to make the team member and the team better after the conversation. This also means you don’t simply correct a person. Use the “sandwich approach” when possible. Place the hard words in the midst of things which are good about the person and your continued commitment as a part of the team. And, if you’re past the point where you think you can move forward with them you probably have had or should have had other conversations about the problems you perceive prior to this one. 

Have a two-way conversation

You should be willing to listen as much as you speak. You may not have all the facts exactly right – or you may have – but give the person a chance to respond to the criticism you are addressing. This also means you should have a two-way conversation, and not a multiple-party conversation. (And, again, in person if at all possible. You can document it in writing if you need to, but these issues deserve a face-to-face conversation.) You should address the issue with the person you have a problem with, not with others on the team behind his or her back. If you need someone in the room with you for perception issues or as a witness, make sure they are committed to privacy.

Move forward after the conversation

The person being corrected should leave with the assurance you are moving forward, and, provided improvements are made, do not plan to hold the issue against them. It will be important they see you responding likewise in the days ahead by the way you interact with them. They shouldn’t continue to feel awkward around you – at least not by the way you respond to them. You can’t control their actions, but you can control yours. 

Know when enough is enough

You shouldn’t have to have these type conversations too frequently. Talk becomes cheap if there’s no backing to what’s agreed upon. If there seems to be no improvement over time, harder decisions or more intensive help may be needed. If you have done the other steps here, there is a time when tough love says “that’s enough – no more”. You are not doing your job as a leader if you continue to ignore the issues everyone else sees as critical to the health of a team.

One of the most difficult times for me is addressing issues like this with a team member I genuinely care about, but I know it’s one of my roles as a leader to address these most difficult issues. But, that’s what we do as leaders – hard things (with grace and truth). 

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?

5 Ways to Take Back an Already Delegated Project

I’m a fan of delegation. In fact, I consider myself somewhat of a professional delegator, if there is such a thing. I certainly love to delegate. I think it makes the team stronger.

As a leader, have you ever given away a project and wished you could take it back?

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be one of the more difficult and awkward parts of leadership.

Maybe it was the wrong fit for the person. Perhaps the person was overloaded with other responsibilities. You may have misjudged their potential, so you gave them the delegation. Now you wish you hadn’t.

What do you do?

How do you take back a delegated project without causing hurt feelings, injuring a valued team member, or causing disruption in the organization? Many times the person has assumed a certain sense of ownership and pride in the assignment, even if they haven’t done a good job with it. Taking the project away from them may feel like personal rejection.

What do you do? How do you do it?

Here are 5 ways to take back a delegated project:

Set up the right to remove on the front end

The process should really be clear from the beginning. The culture of a healthy organization has everyone operating as a team. It’s easier to do the right thing on a healthy team – even reassign an project. You may not be able to do it this time, but certainly work towards establishing that kind of environment for the future.

Make sure you delegate well

Effective delegation will eliminate much of the need to take back a project. You can read more about healthy delegation HERE and HERE, but basically, try to help. This can happen at any stage in the project, but ideally should come before and during the process of completing a delegated project. It could be the person doesn’t have all the answers or all the resources to complete what’s been assigned. They may be afraid to ask for help.

Do it quickly

As soon as you realize the person is not going to be able to complete the task, if you’ve tried working with them, but it hasn’t helped, address and re-assign as soon as possible. The longer you wait the harder it will be for everyone.

Do it graciously

If done correctly, it could be a relief for them, as well as the organization. You may be able to refocus the person’s attention on other things, but certainly you should try to encourage their overall potential in the process.

Help them learn

They may not have been able to do this particular project, but, if handled correctly, it could end up being beneficial for their personal development. Help them see what they did wrong, why the delegated task is being reassigned, and how they could do things differently in the future.

The bottom line is the organization must move forward. Sometimes this means tasks have to be reassigned. Good leaders are willing to make hard decisions, even if it means taking back a delegated project.

Have you ever had to take back a delegated project? How did you do it?

5 Questions to Help Millennials Grow into Leadership

A Guest Post by my son, Jeremy Chandler

There will come a point in time in every Millennial’s career when we move from being primarily executioners to leading teams and managing others. Whether you’re a young pastor moving from a youth ministry role into a more administrative role, or you’re account manager moving into a supervisor role, there will be a day when our primary responsibility shifts from doing the work ourselves to accomplishing the work through other people. However, as I’ve started making that transition in my own personal career, I’ve definitely learned the truth behind the idea that “everyone thinks leadership is easy until you become one.”

I’ve had to face some challenging questions for the first time…

How do I move from a “doer” role to a “manager” role? How do I change my mindset to effectively move from “hands on” role to one of directing and overseeing a team?

The short answer is… it’s not easy. The paradox I’m learning is that answering those questions begins by asking another set of questions.

The Higher You Go, The Harder it is to Define “Success”

When we start our careers in more of an execution type of role, it’s easy to earn our stripes by what we can do. As we grow and get promoted, we start to get paid less for what we can do and more for what we know. The higher we go, the less defined our job description becomes. Our success depends on our ability to make other people feel powerful to get things done.

However, we still need something we can measure our work and effort by at the end of the day. That can be a challenge when our entire lives have been measured by meeting deadlines, cranking out projects. There’s definitely a mental shift that needs to take place.

5 Questions to Help Millennials Grow into Leadership

How can Millennials know if we’re being successful as we make the transition from doers to leaders? Here are 5 questions we can use to measure our efforts to determine, “Did I do what a leader should have done today?”

  1. Am I asking the right questions? Successful leadership isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about being able to find them by asking better questions.
  2. Am I listening for the best answers? We all know what it’s like to work for “know it all leaders.” The only way to avoid this is by disciplining ourselves to listen to the ideas of others.
  3. Am I taking time to think about our biggest problems and opportunities? This can feel weird, especially if we’ve been primarily in a “doer” role. It can feel lazy. However, this is an essential part of leadership. It’s the leader’s responsibility to look up and ask, “Are we even on the right road?”
  4. Am I effectively communicating the plan to our team and setting expectations? Successful teams are built on clear communication and direction. If we don’t communicate the plan or set expectations, we force the team to make assumptions.
  5. Am I stepping back to evaluate the strategy and observe the impact? Evaluation and experimentation are two words that are an essential part of leadership vocabulary. Are the things we’re doing working? Is our hypothesis right? Are the things we’re doing moving us closer toward achieving our goals? These are the types of questions leaders ask.

A Word of Encouragement Before You Step into Leadership

Stepping into a leadership role for the first time isn’t easy. It’s a big shift from where we’ve been.

  • Do your best.
  • Be Yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

You’re not in leadership because you have all the answers; you’re in leadership because you’re going to help solve problems. My hope is that after a couple of years of doing it, leading others will feel as natural for us as putting our clothes on in the morning.

What questions do you ask to ensure you are becoming an effective leader?

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.