RELP – Episode 16 – Waiting For Your Next Leadership Position

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In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast with Ron and Nate, Ron shares suggestions of what to do when you are waiting for your next leadership position.

There are some youth pastors who will some day be senior pastors. When’s the right time to make the jump and when should they stay in their current position? Some entry-level managers in large organizations could move to a higher position in a smaller organization. When should they jump? That was the idea behind this episode.

Whenever I (Ron) talk about this issue it stirs a repeated question:

How does one manage the tension well while in a learning position until the transition to a leading position takes place?

I would first say make sure there is a tension. These suggestions are intended for those who sense they are being called to a senior or higher leadership position – someday – but haven’t made the jump for whatever reason. They are living in the “tension”.

But also know that you’re asking the right question. You should never waste a wait. God is doing something where you are right now. He’s working behind the scenes in ways you cannot see. So, you do your part. It’s good if you’re in a waiting position to be asking these type questions.

In this episode, we discuss what to do when you’re waiting for your next leadership position.

I hope this episode helps you be a better leader.

Would you do me a favor? If you enjoyed listening to this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast would you subscribe, share and leave a positive review about this podcast? We are enjoying doing this together, but it is especially encouraging when we know it is helping other church leaders. Thank you in advance for doing this. It is a great help.

Also, we will be recording more episodes soon. Let me know leadership issues you would like us to cover on future episodes.

And be sure to check out all the great podcasts on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.

7 Unwritten Rules which Determine an Organizational DNA

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The unwritten organizational 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, for example, you need to also consider these unwritten organizational rules.

7 examples of unwritten rules:

The culture

How does it responds to change? In what ways does it addresses problems? How does it plans for the future? Is leadership trusted? 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? Is respect o given to everyone? Do silos exist or is there a common vision everyone is working to achieve?

The healthiest organizations have people working together who genuinely like one another. Therefore, 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. So, this is valuable information for any leader.

The natural 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 to not solely concentrate 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.

Consequently, when change is to be implemented, paying attention to 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?

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, so subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

The 7 Hardest People to Lead

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Someone once asked me, “Who has been the most difficult person you’ve had to lead?” It’s a great reflection question. You learn a lot about yourself answering it. As a leader for over 35 years, I’ve experienced just about everything you can imagine in leading people. And there are certain people who are the hardest to lead. 

I once had an employee call in sick for several days because her snake was peeling. Apparently, the snake got depressed when he shed. She needed to be home to comfort the snake.

That was a new one – and a story for another time – but she proved to be difficult to lead and reminded me not to be surprised at what people may say or do.

I thought about that question through the years and made a list. These are from my perspective.

7 of the hardest people to lead:

The know it all

It’s difficult to lead someone who won’t listen, because they don’t think they have a need for what you have to say. They think they know more than you and everyone else. In reality that may or may not be true, but it makes them very hard to lead.

I have found at times I have to challenge these people if I’m going to be able to lead them. Sometimes it works. At times it simply doesn’t. 

A gifted leader

Don’t misunderstand this one. I don’t mean they try to be difficult. Someone with lots of prior leadership experience just bring higher expectations for those who try to lead them.

I have had some very successful retired pastors in my churches and on our staff. I love that I’ve served with seasoned people with more experience in ministry than me. But they keep me on my toes! (And this is a good thing.)

Hyper-critical people

When someone is always negative it becomes difficult to lead them. They can zap the motivation from the team. They never have anything positive to add to the team, the glass is always half-empty or the sky is always about to fall. It can be draining.

Again, these are people I will eventually challenge – and hopefully encourage. If this type person is channeled correctly they can actually be valuable on a team. They see holes others don’t see. But they must be willing to be team players when things move forward even against their objections, concerns or fears. 

Wounded people

Wounded people are more resistant to being led well until they heal. They may struggle with trust issues, be reserved with their input or injure others with their words and actions. Hurt people hurt people. 

We have added a number of staff members to our church knowing already they were injured. I actually love this as a Kingdom ministry to give them a place to heal. But knowing where they are currently is key to effectively leading them to a healthier future. I have offered them counseling, giving them clear boundaries (which they often need) and simply say things to them such as, “The sooner you learn to trust again the sooner you can be at your best.”

Insecure people

Those who lack self-confidence are harder to lead. They are hesitant to take a risk. The best leadership involves delegation to people who will assume responsibility for a task. That makes it hard when people have no confidence in their abilities. 

I have learned insecure people will move when they are given specific tasks to complete. They need consistent feedback and assurance, which can be exceptionally time demanding for leaders. But over time it helps them gain confidence to not only follow but lead. 

Overly change-resistant people

Leadership always involve change. Without change there is no need for leadership. So, those who cling so tightly to the past are harder to lead to something new.

There is nothing wrong with tradition or with enjoying the memories of the past. But when someone’s love of their history prevents them from embracing their future it becomes difficult leading them.

I like to try and bring them along by allowing them to celebrate the past. At times, we can rediscover rather than reinvent by building upon the success of the past, rather than simply ignoring it. 

Myself

Without any doubt the hardest person for me to lead has always been me. Truth is I can be guilty of holding others to unrealistic expectations I can’t live up to either.

One way I battle this is to ask myself questions such as, “If I were that person, with their skills and interests, would I feel this is a reasonable expectation?” 

Everyone can be difficult to lead at times and during some seasons. It is what makes leadership fun, right?

To be clear, my goal is not immediately to remove these people from a team. Actually, I think the role of leadership is to learn how to better lead them. The reality is that all of these scenarios and types of people can serve a role. Whether or not they prove to be a good fit for a team might still be a question, but often if handled wisely they can sharpen our skills of leadership and add value to the team. 

On every team I have led I have had a few people that proved to be more difficult to lead. If I can figure out what style of leadership they need and how I can tap into the best of them they have almost always proven to be a good fit in time. If not, I want to make that decision sooner rather than later. 

What type person have you found hardest for you to lead?

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, so subscribe now. You don’t want to miss the next one.

RELP – Episode 15 – 5 Guarantees For Your First Year In Senior Leadership

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In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast with Ron and Nate, Ron shares some things he guarantees leaders will experience in their first year of senior leadership.

I have transitioned into a senior leadership position numerous times in my career. When I was in my mid-twenties, I began leading a large division for a major retailer. In my early thirties, we purchased and I began leading a small (large to us) manufacturing company. I took over as a vice-mayor of a medium-sized city when there were other more qualified people around me. And, since surrendering to vocational ministry, I have been the new senior leader in several churches and a nonprofit.

I am not always an emphatic speaker, unless I’m quoting a Biblical truth. Yet, in every one of these scenarios as a new senior leader, these guarantees have come true.

And many of these will remain true throughout your leadership career.

In this episode, we discuss 5 guarantees for a new leadership first year in senior leadership.

I hope this episode helps you be a better leader.

Would you do me a favor? If you enjoyed listening to this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast would you subscribe, share and leave a positive review about this podcast? We are enjoying doing this together, but it is especially encouraging when we know it is helping other church leaders. Thank you in advance for doing this. It is a great help.

Also, we will be recording more episodes soon. Let me know leadership issues you would like us to cover on future episodes.

And be sure to check out all the great podcasts on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.

7 Indicators of a Weak Leader

By | Church, Leadership | 2 Comments

I have learned there are a few indicators of a weak leader. 

A youth pastor emailed me  frustrated his pastor continually caves into pressures of a few leaders in the church. These individuals are not supportive of the youth ministry, even though it’s the fastest growing area of the church.

The complaint they have? The ministry is costing far more than it brings into the church. Students are coming to the church in growing numbers, but without their parents. Young people don’t usually contribute to the church, so it’s causing an issue with some of the deacons.

The pastor was involved and supportive in the expansion of youth ministries and the church is financially sound, but a few loud objectors consider it an “unprofitable” ministry.

The pastor’s solution? Cut back on the youth ministry expenditures to keep the people happy.

I’d love to tell you this is an isolated issue, but I’ve written about these type situations before. Obviously, I don’t have all the facts, but based on what I do know, it sounds like the pastor is a weak leader.

I hate labeling a pastor weak on anything. Certainly I’ve been weak on many things. Preaching. Shepherding. Staff development. And, yes, leading. You name it – I’ve been weak.

But we have to label the problem before we can hope to find solutions.

Weak leaders are usually easy to spot.

7 indicators of a weak leader:

Runs from conflict.

They avoid it at any cost; usually saying what you want to hear. Weak leaders are passive-aggressive. They cave to the loudest voices and disappear when trouble develops. You’ll never see them in the crowd when there’s a controversy looming. They hide better than they engage when people are upset about something or things aren’t going so well. 

Hides all personal flaws.

Weak leaders have a lot of excuses – and, they often pretend to know it all. They don’t want you to know the “real” them – the them which may be lacking in some area. These leaders will try to make you think they have it together more than they really do – and, you might believe it – for a while. They are often afraid if they appear to be weak (how ironic) you may not respect them – or they might even lose their job. 

(Of course, wise leaders learn to build a team which can bring strength around their weaknesses.)  

Can’t accept criticism.

They don’t take well to correction. Weak leaders pout. They get angry and often even seek revenge. 

Quick to pass blame.

They can never admit a personal mistake. Weak leaders are consummate fault-finders. It’s always someone else’s error. Blame it on the economy, or the culture, or the lack of volunteers. They keep people under their authority by labeling others with the faults of the organization. In fact, according to a weak leader, you probably couldn’t do “it” without them.

Leads by control.

Weak leaders want you to believe they’ve “got this”. They don’t, but it feels better to them than the alternative. Instead, they keep people under their authority, never empower, and seldom delegate, because they are afraid of losing their power position.

Shies away from difficult decisions.

Weak leaders can’t make the hard calls. They can’t lead in a new direction because the opposition will be too strong for them. They stay in the safe zone – sameness is their friend. 

Appeases critics and complainers.

Weak leaders are usually people-pleasers. The louder the complainer the more likely a weak leader will cave to their demands. They don’t want people to be unhappy – especially with them. 

I sound rather harsh towards a weak leader – don’t I? But, as I said, I’ve been – and sometimes can be – that leader. I share this as a check for our own leadership.

We need strong, capable leadership – especially among our people of faith. Let’s lead. Let’s lead well. Let’s “stand firm” and “let nothing move us”. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, so subscribe now. You don’t miss the next one.

A Leadership Pet Peeve – People Doing the Work

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

I must admit I have a good number of pet peeves in leadership. If I had to name my top leadership pet peeve – it would have to be the one I share with you here. 

Like many of my leadership principles, this one starts with a personal story. 

Early in my career, I led a small sales division for a company. My boss told me who to place on my team, how to conduct sales meetings (even writing out my meeting agenda), and what each person’s assignment would be on the team. Understand, he lived in another state, so he wasn’t at the meetings. In fact, he didn’t know the people on my team.

I was held accountable for results in sales, yet he gave me a script for how to do my job. 

It only lasted a season (I eventually quit), but it was one of the most hated seasons of my career. In fairness, I was young and probably not trusted, but I felt so controlled. My team was frustrated. My team and I had ideas we couldn’t even incorporate. And, when I could, I secretly altered things and scripted my own way.

Even as a young leader, I thought he was practicing poor leadership. 

The pet peeve that developed from this experience:

If you aren’t doing the work, don’t script how the work is done.

As a leader, cast vision of what you want accomplished. 

  • Fuel creativity by giving people reasonable boundaries.
  • Share thoughts and ideas.
  • Monitor activity. 
  • Check-in to see how you can help. 
  • Set accountability for progress.

But let people doing the work:

  • Those working the plans 
  • Getting their hands dirty 
  • Being held responsible

Determine how the work gets completed.

That’s my number one leadership pet peeve. 

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, so subscribe now. You don’t miss the next one.

RELP – Episode 14 – How I Lead Meetings

By | Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Podcast | No Comments

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast with Ron and Nate, Ron shares how he likes to lead meetings.

I am frequently asked about how I conduct staff meetings with teams I lead. They are looking for some sort of basic meeting structure to incorporate with their team. 

But I have always had a difficult time answering the question for two reasons: 

1. I don’t always lead staff meetings for the teams I lead. Typically, I let other staff members lead them. In previous churches, I usually let the bulk of staff meetings be led by the executive or associate pastor. I even like to float some leadership in meetings between different team members. It adds a fresh perspective and gives other people experience. 

2. I don’t like doing the same thing every time. Just as I like to see variety in our worship services, I like to see changes in the way we conduct meetings. I get bored easily. It could be that we move rooms. We might change up the setting and go off campus. Sometimes we start with prayer/devotion and sometimes we close with that time. We eat together at times and other times we get right to business. I never want to keep the same pattern long or things get stale. 

So, I want to change things up frequently. Different locations. Even different people in the room. 

But, as I have been asked the question so many times, I reflected on an answer. Regardless of the size of the room – whether it is leadership team meeting or an entire staff, there are some things I’m trying to accomplish every time we meet.

In this episode, we discuss how I like to lead meetings.

I hope this episode helps you be a better leader.

Would you do me a favor? If you enjoyed listening to this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast would you subscribe, share and leave a positive review about this podcast? We are enjoying doing this together, but it is especially encouraging when we know it is helping other church leaders. Thank you in advance for doing this. It is a great help.

Also, we will be recording more episodes soon. Let me know leadership issues you would like us to cover on future episodes.

And be sure to check out all the great podcasts on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.

7 Tensions Every Leader Faces – Everyday

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Being a leader isn’t easy. With every decision a leader makes someone is happy – and someone is not. One often misunderstood reason leadership is challenging is the tension every leader feels when making decisions. In fact, every leader faces some common tensions – everyday.

Leaning to balance the tensions of leadership may determine the level of success a leader can sustain. If a leader leans too far in either direction their leadership effectiveness suffers.

Let me share some examples of these everyday type leadership tensions.

7 tensions every leader faces:

Displaying confidence without being arrogant.

People want to follow a confident leader, but pride is a repulsive trait. I feel this tension especially when I’m leading on a new team or with new people on the team. But it is a continual tension regardless of how long I’ve been in a position.

Yes, I have experience. I’ve learned a few things. But it comes across as arrogant and is always resisted when I’m always the one with the answers. 

Making bold decisions while building collaboration.

I personally experience this one in most meetings we have as a team. I can almost always sense the room waiting for my opinion. Many times I realize we won’t move forward until I weigh in to the matter.

But good leadership involves collaboration. I’m not the only voice – and many times not the smartest voice in the process. If I have the only answer no one will participate, but if I never have any answers no one will want to follow my leadership. (Therefore, I have to discipline myself to be quiet sometimes – waiting for others to speak.) 

Showing strength while displaying compassion.

People want to follow leadership who generally care for them as individuals. Compassion for those who can’t help themselves is an attractive leadership quality. The best leaders I know have a concern for others.

But no one wants compassion that is translated as weakness. There are times a leader has to stand strong for they know is right thing – even when everyone can’t fully understand yet what they are doing or why.

Controlling energy towards a vision but allowing individuals to chart their path.

Good leaders create healthy structure which can be managed for effectiveness.

At the same time, the best discoveries often come when people are allowed the freedom to create, explore, and “break the rules”.

Celebrating victory while not resting on current success.

This one is hard for me. I’m ready and wired for “next”. I like to keep moving. Sitting still is one of my hardest disciplines.

However, I know there are those on our team who can’t adequately move forward until we’ve recognized our current success. They need to celebrate, reflect and even rest.

Continually balancing this tension is good for the team.

Learning from other leaders but being who you were uniquely wired to be.

I’m a huge proponent of wisdom-seeking. In fact, I think we should always have a mentor – usually more than one. So, I read, attend conferences and try to learn best practices and from the experiences of others.

But there’s a tension of attempting to duplicate another person’s success and being exactly who God has called me to be. God has not called me to preach like Andy Stanley. He’s called me to preach like me. God has not called me to lead like John Maxwell, but to lead like I lead.

This doesn’t mean I can’t learn from both of these – and can and have – but I cannot forget God has uniquely wired me – and He has uniquely wired you.

Spending time with people versus completing tasks.

This may personally be the most common tension for of the ones listed. Leadership is people. Without people – without getting to know them, earning their trust, investing in them and showing them we care – leadership will never be effective.

But I have work to do also. There are outside demands on my time. I have emails, phone calls, texts and visits with people who I’m not necessarily leading. I have paperwork to do. (I hate paperwork by the way!)

The real work of a leader is people and, yet, the work must be done.

Tensions every leader faces – everyday. Leader, do you feel it? At some level, don’t you feel it everyday?

I realize I’ve only exposed the problem, without a lot of solutions. And, honestly, your solution will be different from mine. But I think the answer isn’t necessarily an easy to define solution for each of these tensions.

It is recognizing they exist and continually seeking to live within them. (I learned that phrase from Andy Stanley – or something like it.)

And when one side of the tension is getting more attention than the other – fighting to get back to a better balance of tensions.

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, so subscribe now. You don’t miss the next one.

Handle Little Things Before They Become Big Things

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Some of my best leadership principles developed while watching other leadership efforts – or lack thereof. It was an average day experience that shaped one of my “go to” principles to handle little things before they become big things.

The story: 

Cheryl and I were in a grocery store. We turned a corner from one aisle into a main aisle and instantly saw a gentleman slip and fall. He wasn’t injured – or at least he said he wasn’t – but it shook him up quite a bit before he scrambled to his feet.

We then noticed he had slipped on something liquid on the floor. Someone standing around said the spill had been there a while. As I expected, within minutes every manager in the store, easily identified by their store shirts and badges, were on the scene – making sure the man was okay and the spill was thoroughly handled.

As I left the store, I saw managers roaming the store, picking up everything they could find on the floor. There was plenty to find. The store was dirty from what appeared to be a very busy day of shopping. Trash was everywhere; including a couple of other spills. With a background in retail and grocery business, I naturally notice things like this when I’m in a store. 

It was a good reminder of a leadership principle.

Good leaders learn to handle little things before they become big things.

I’m not suggesting a leader be a micro-manager. To the contrary, I’ve written plenty on this blog to indicate otherwise.

I am suggesting leaders need to always be observant of the things others can’t see or aren’t looking for, which can impact the success of the overall vision.

My story: 

I started working in the grocery store when I was 12 years old. The store’s owner seemed to always know what was going on in the store, often pointing out things needing to be fine I or other employees hadn’t noticed and, in our opinion, didn’t matter.

It was sometimes aggravating to this teenager. Years later, when I worked in retail management, reflecting back it began to make sense why  my boss had responded as he did.

I began to copy his intentionality. I refused to do any paperwork on Saturdays, for example. The busiest shopping day was reserved solely for customers. I made sure I was roaming the store constantly, looking for anything which might be a problem or an opportunity. Usually, I was the first to recognize a customer looking for an open register or if the store’s temperature was too hot or too cold.

Even today: 

As a pastor, I once had an intern who shadowed me for the summer. His initial observation was I paid attention to details. I remember explaining to him part of my job was to look for things others didn’t see.

Certainly, I can’t catch everything, but as the leader I need to be looking for anything which could make or break a successful day in the experience of a visitor. This could be the spill on the floor, a long line at children’s check-in, the missing volunteer or the visitor who looks like they are struggling to find their way in our building.

A few years ago my younger son was preaching for me one Sunday. We arrived at the church and I instantly spotted a trash can overflowing with garbage. I quickly began to address the issue. My son said, “Dad, I thought you weren’t a detail person. How did you notice the trash can was full?”

I assured him I am not a detail person – unless the detail has an impact on the people who may walk on our campus each Sunday. That is a detail which matters. I want to take care of little things before they become big things.

I have learned it well. It could be with spills on the floor – or with people on the team. Big things often start small – so handle the little things which matter. 

Practical application:

One way I do this is to be observant, look for details, and simply ask myself a question, such as: If this continues – and gets bigger – how much of a problem is it going to be? Things are almost always easier to deal with when they are smaller than when we let them become “big things”. 

By the way, this principle applies in other areas of your life also – such as in your marriage – your parenting – or your personal disciplines. 

Leader, what seemingly little things do you need to handle before they become the big things?

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, so subscribe now. You don’t miss the next one.