7 Excuses “Leaders” Use for Not Leading Well

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

In my experience in the business world and church, it seems we are desperate for good leadership. Organizations and teams thrive on good leadership. Yet, I’ve seen some leaders make excuses for not leading well.

As much as we need good leaders, it seems whenever I meet a leader struggling in their role, rather than admit it could be them, often I only hear excuses. It must be easier to pass blame than to own the problem as our own.

In full disclosure, I’ve probably been as guilty as anyone at times in my leadership career.

The excuses, however, are fairly common.

7 excuses I’ve heard – or used – for not leading well:

I don’t know how.

With each new season in leadership there will be a learning curve. If you’re leading, then your introducing change – you’re taking people somewhere they haven’t been before. This means there will be lots of unknowns in your world for a while. But, don’t use this as an excuse. Learn. Take a course. Get a mentor. Read some books. Ask better questions. Grow as a leader.

I can’t get people to follow my lead.

Well, we may have to check our leadership definition, but don’t give up. If God has called you to this – discover how to motivate people. Most people will follow someone if you’re taking them somewhere they need to go, but aren’t sure how to get there.

Make sure you have a vision worth following, learn to communicate well and do all you can to help people attain it. In terms of communicating well – I often tell pastors – you’re best “sermon” may be the one you give to motivate people towards the change or vision. Early in my leadership career I participated in an organization called Toastmasters to help train as a communicator.

I can’t keep up!

This can be a legitimate excuse at times – leadership can be overwhelming with the amount of change in our world, but we shouldn’t let it remain this way. Leaders have to learn to pace themselves. You have to surround yourself with others who can help carry the load. You can’t try to do everything or control every outcome. Learn delegation.

And don’t try to change everything at once. My rule of thumb is to be working on no more than 3 major changes at a time. This requires patience, because I may see 100 things which need to change. The only thing which works well though when I try to do too much at one time is I get to add to my excuses for not leading well.

No one taught me how to lead.

That might be true. I have found many leaders are terrible at reproducing leaders. We don’t apprentice well. So, what are you going to do about it? Leaders find solutions to problems. They don’t let problems become the excuse.

Learn from experience. It’s the best teacher anyway. Learn from trying. Learn from watching others. Just learn. It’s never too late to learn something new.

Times have changed.

This is true also. Times have changed. Cultures have changed. The workforce has changed. And they will keep changing – fast!

Good leaders adapt accordingly. They discover new approaches. They don’t make excuses.

I don’t have the right team.

Well, instead of using it as an excuse, you have a few options. Give them a better leader – you. Train and empower them. Figure out what’s keeping them from being the “right team”.

Or get a new team.

I’m suffering from burnout!

This excuse can be real. It happens to all of us at times – especially in a year like this. But don’t settle for this one. Get help. Heal. Rest. Renew. Regroup.

Get healthier so you can lead again. Sometimes stopping for a while is your best answer – even amidst the busiest times.

I’m not trying to be sarcastic, arrogant, or unsympathetic with this post. I realize each of these deserve their own post. I really do believe, however, good leadership is mostly finding a worthy vision, recruiting the right people and discovering ways to help people get there. And we get better the more we practice.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring a spiritual aspect into this – I am a pastor. My best leadership book is the Bible. My best leader example is Jesus. And I have learned when I am being obedient to Him I lead better naturally. It doesn’t mean everything falls into place beautifully – it does mean I have all I need to lead – even when everything around me is a mess.

Seriously, look over the list again. Are there any of them that can’t be overcome with a little determination?

Let’s stop the excuses and make better leaders!

Check out our new podcast where we unpack leadership issues in a applicable and practical way.

5 Stages All Organizations Experience

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | One Comment

Every organization goes through life cycles. In fact, there are five stages all organizations experience.

(These are not my terms. I learned them years ago in a management class and can’t find where to attribute them. The explanation of terms and application is mine.)

I realize these are secular terms, and the church is not subject to the “rules” of a secular organization. At the same time, I have observed they are also true for most churches.

Leaders who recognize them and adapt to them can continue to experience health and growth in the organization. Two things to understand. First, each stage has overlap. Also, individual areas within the organization may also have similar life cycles.

5 life cycles of any organization:

Birth

This founding period usually involves a few people with a big vision. This is the initial stage where learning takes place and the organization begins to develop leaders – sometimes by trial and error. Everyone on the team at this point has the potential to become a leader.

Having planted a couple churches, we launched one with one staff member (me), my wife, and twenty or so people. The other was with three staff members, our wives, and eleven couples. Each member of both teams were forced to lead areas outside their comfort level. We gained some of our best leaders that way and several people found a passion they did not know they had. In both church plants, which grew quickly, this stage lasted less than one year.

Childhood 

A deepening and maturity process begins at this stage. The organization still has few policies and procedures in place and everything is still “fun”, with the excitement of still being a young vision. New leadership develops and responsibilities spread to new people within the organization. Mistakes are common as the organization figures out its identity. The DNA of the organization begins to form. In this stage, the organization begins to recognize its need for more structure.

This was a fun stage and time for both church plants. The normal for this stage appears to end in three to five years. For larger organizations, this could be a longer time frame.

Adolescence

Greater levels of responsibility are handed out to more people and the weight of responsibility spreads within the organization. The organization has had some success at this point and so it begins to take new risks and dream new and bigger dreams. This is a continued growth time and usually full of renewed energy.

If the organization is not careful some of the initial leaders of the organization can begin to experience burnout; and often a loss of power as new leaders emerge.

More developed structure becomes necessary at this point and the organization must begin to think about maintaining growth. Organizations are forced to “grow up” during this stage. It usually happens in the first ten years, but again, this may depend on the size of the organization.

Maturity

At this stage, the organization has many experiences of success and some failure. The organization must begin to think through continued growth and health as an organization. The organization needs constant renewal and regeneration to remain current and viable. Leadership has been developed, but the organization begins to plan out succession of leaders.

The structure of the organization is usually well established by this point, but must remain flexible enough to adapt to changes outside the organization. At some point all organizations enter this phase. The goal at this point needs to shift into breathing new life into the organization.

(A lot of churches reach this stage and cease to change and grow, often steeped in their own traditions, and this is where plateau begins.)

Renewal

It is sad, but this stage almost always has to be forced on an organization. Either by leadership or for survival purposes, something new must occur or the organization will eventually die or cease to be viable. This can be scary for people, but it does not mean the organization must leave its vision, traditions, or culture, but it must consider new ways of realizing its potential.

Some will say renewal comes at each stage of the organization’s life cycle. That may be true, but I contend there is a definite stage in a healthy life cycle where an organization improves and almost reinvents itself to continue to experience health and growth.

Another thing to remember is that the speed of an organization’s growth can cause life cycles to complete much quicker. Consider the child who has to face adult decisions early in life and is forced to “grow up fast”. A similar thing happens to organizations.

Check out our new podcast where we unpack leadership issues in a applicable and practical way.

Don’t Address the HOW until you Address the WHAT

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

I have a simple leadership principle. Don’t address HOW you are going to do something until you decide WHAT you are going to do. Or if you’re even going to do it.

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 – what are you doing or not doing – 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 nuts and bolts 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 launch an online campus. 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.

Check out our new podcast where we unpack leadership issues in a applicable and practical way.

RELP – Episode 9 – 4 Realities Every Senior Leader Sets for the Team

By | Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Podcast | 7 Comments

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, Ron and Nate discuss four realities every senior leader sets for the team.

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

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

All that said, the senior leader doesn’t have to do everything. Successful senior leaders are cognizant of their input in a few key areas and place intentional energy towards them, freeing the team to lead elsewhere.

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 where we discussed four realities every senior leader sets for the team, 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, 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.

3 Critical Ways Every Leader Must Spend Their Time

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

Time is one of the greatest assets of any leader. In my experience, every leader has three critical segments where they must invest their time on a regular basis.

Learning to balance a leader’s time effectively is often a key in determining the level of success the leader attains.

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

All three are needed. 

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

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

Time reflecting on past experience

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

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

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

Time focusing on current obligations

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

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

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

Time dreaming about the future

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

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

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

Here are a few questions for personal evaluation:

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

Check out our latest podcast where Nate and I discuss two critical things every leader must do for their team.

RELP – Episode 8 – Two Actions of All Great Leaders

By | Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Podcast | One Comment

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, Ron and Nate discuss two actions of all great leaders.

There are two things all good (I’m even willing to say great) leaders do for their team. These are vital if you want to lead a healthy team. In fact, if you wanted to simplify what it takes to lead a team well, you could almost summarize it with these two words.

I have written about this subject dozens of times, but recently, I was sitting with a young leader on our team. He was frustrated with some of the results he was getting from the people he was trying to lead. The fact was he wanted to lead well. And, from my conversations with his team, they liked him personally. They simply were frustrated with his leadership. And the bottom line was because he was getting one of these two things wrong. With a little correction, he is going to be a great leader.

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 where we discussed two actions of all great leaders, 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, 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.

10 of the Most Dangerous Distractions for a Pastor

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | One Comment

Unfortunately, so many who used to be pastors, but no longer hold the position. Many of them fell into what I call a dangerous distractions for a pastor.

Sometimes it isn’t a blatant sin. Often it is a casual drifting that gets pastors in trouble. Often it is simply a distraction from what matters most.

I can’t address everything that gets in the way of being a healthy pastor, but there are more common ones in my experience.

10 dangerous distractions for a pastor:

Neglecting your soul. One of my mentors reminds me, “Ron, don’t forget to feed your own soul.” When he says it I know it is gold. One danger for a pastor is operating out of stored up knowledge or experience with God. We need fresh encounters with truth and His glory.

Sacrificing family. Ministry families are accustomed to interruptions, but families learn to resent the ministry when it always trumps family time. There are countless pastors with adult children that no longer want anything to do with the church. From what I’ve been told, there’s not a much greater hurt for someone who devoted their life to ministry.

Playing the numbers game. Whenever we put the emphasis on numbers we are always disappointed. They will never be high enough. God is in charge of the numbers. We must be careful to concentrate on making disciples and the numbers will take care of themselves.

Comparing ministries. There will always be a “bigger” ministry. Someone will always write a better tweet — or a better book – or a better blog post – preach a better sermon. Comparing distracts us from the ministry we’ve been God-appointed to lead.

Finding affirmation among the rebels. We must be careful not to get distracted by people who would complain regardless of the decision we make. It stings the way some people talk to a pastor, but what if Joshua had listened to the naysayers? Or Nehemiah? What if Moses had given up every time the complainers were louder than the people willing to follow?

If you are leading there will always be someone that is not happy with the decisions you make. People bent on pleasing others – more even than pleasing God – have a very hard time finding peace and joy in ministry.

Sacrificing truth for popularity. It’s easy to preach the easy stuff. Grace messages are pleasant to share and popular to receive. And we need them. Where sin increases grace should increase all the more. But we need truth. Even when it is unpopular. Making disciples becomes impossible when we sacrifice either one – truth or grace.

Stealing glory. My mama used to say “that boy got too big for his britches”. Sadly it can happen in ministry also. Many pastors struggle with ego problems. God is never honored when we make ourselves to be anything other than a God-glorifying position.

Poor boundaries. The enemy enjoys a door of opportunity. I know too many pastors who fell into a trap because they didn’t have healthy boundaries in place. This is especially true in dealing with the opposite sex.

Neglecting friendships. Most pastors struggle knowing who to trust, but because of this they have few people really get to know them. Therefore, they often have no one who can speak into the dark places of their life. Some pastors put on a good front, but inside they struggle alone. It’s dangerous.

Abusing power. The pastor holds a certain amount of power just based on position. One of the more dangerous things I see churches doing these days is giving a pastor too much power, without enough built-in personal accountability. (That’s coming from a church planter’s heart – and one who is prone to lead strong.)

By the way, I’m not for controlling the pastor or forced relational accountability, but there needs to be one which balances pastoral authority and personal accountability. And the healthiest goal is for the pastor or ministry leader to build their own system of accountability into their life.

Those are some that I have seen. These distractions are displayed in a number of ways – and all of them are not fatal thankfully – but all of them are real. And all of them are dangerous.

Check out our leadership podcast where we unpack issues like this in a practical way.

Trying to Lead Those Who Want to Be Led Versus Those Who Want to Be a Leader

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 4 Comments

There is a huge difference the way you lead someone who wants to be led and how you lead someone who wants to be a leader.

I have studied some psychological theory on personality differences and types. I’m certified to administer Myers-Briggs, but have worked with most of the more popular assessments. I generally agree with the theory behind these type tools. We can categorize certain personalities and traits together to help us understand ourselves and each other better.

For example, I am an introvert. That’s not really a question for me anymore, now that I understand the term. It helps me know how I relate to other people on a regular bases.

At the same time, I hold loosely to all these types – believing that ultimately every human is uniquely designed by their Creator. No assessment can ever fully capture who we are as individuals.

But I think understanding differences – and the broad categories of them – has often been helpful to me in leading people. As much as I want to individualize my leadership based on the people I’m attempting to lead, it does help to have some broad ways to understand people.

Which brings me to a very broad difference in leading people.

There is a huge difference the way you lead someone who wants to be led and how you lead someone who wants to be a leader.

It requires a different approach.

The person who wants to be led.

They desires structure. These people prefer to follow the rules. They want someone to tell them how you want something done. He or she needs more specifics and more details – and less ambiguities.

These types tend to stress more during times of uncertainty, but they tend to be more compliant and cause less conflict when the path ahead is clearly defined.

You need to know that and allow it to impact your leadership of them.

(BTW, I have found they can often make good leaders if they are given permission to do so. But they will wait for that permission.)

The person who wants to be a leader.

These people needs space to dream, freedom to explore, and permission to experiment. He or she desires less direction and more encouragement. They need to be given a target of what a win looks like and then left alone to script the way to success.

These people continually need new challenges. They get bored easily. These people may stir conflict on a team – intentionally or not – because they enjoy testing and pushing the boundaries.

(These people may be first chair potential leaders. You’ll keep them longer if you give them space.)

Again, these are generalizations, but there is nothing wrong with either person. Most teams need both types of team members. I have also found some people have seasons in their life where they float between preferring one or the other. And, of course, with either of these types there are huge variances within each of them. Again, everyone is unique.

The key is to know your team and the people you lead. The more we know the people we lead the better they are able to follow.

Check out Nate and my new leadership podcast. And help us spread the word about it, please.