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.

7 Seasoned Tips to Better Lead Change

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You can have change without leadership. But I am not sure you can have leadership without change. In leading change for over 30 years, I have learned some things which may help you better lead change.

Change is all around us. As leaders, we are called to be agents of change. We are charged with taking people to places they may not be able to go on their own – or at least no one has taken the steps to get started. But you can’t take people someone new without change.

I talk some about change in my book The Mythical Leader. Here I want to share a few random tips I’ve learned about leading change which may help you better lead change.

7 tips to better lead change:

Be a proponent of the new more than an opponent of the old. 

Everything which happened in the past was not bad. In fact, something happened which has allowed you to be where you are today. When you bash prior days and leadership you push people into a defensive mode and alienate people who might otherwise support you.

Keep the “why” as simple and easy to understand as possible.

You will have to repeat it often – like continually – so, you want it to be sticky enough for people to quickly grasp. People aren’t as reluctant to the what the more clearly they understand the why.

Know the key stakeholders.

The number one component of change is always people. People matter. (People who don’t understand this aren’t leaders as much as they are tyrants.) Most people are looking for someone to help them – lead them.

And, because of that, there are always leaders in the room. They are not always the loudest voices, but they are the ones to whom people will listen. They may be adversaries or allies, but you simply have to know who they are if you want to lead change successfully.

Understand the real resistance.

It’s not always the obvious. Sometimes it’s a very minor issue, which can be resolved easily. And sometimes it’s simply change. Every change comes attached with emotions – a sense of loss. Knowing why people are resisting helps the leader walk people through change in a caring, less controlling way.

Timing is huge.

It’s difficult to know the perfect time to make a change, but doing the right thing at the wrong time can end up being the wrong thing – no matter how much change is needed.

The key is leaders must strategically plan out a timeline for change. When are key decisions going to be made? Who is told what and when? What are the steps which need to be taken before the change is made?

Identify critical wins and non-critical elements.

You may not get everything you want. It’s a pretty controlling leader who thinks they must. There need to be some collaboration and cooperation. It’s a healthy part of leading people – and it’s a necessary part of leading change. Identify what must take place to be successful. Use a team to help you with this if possible. Then hold everything else with open hands.

Develop a healthy rhythm of change.

Ultimately, you want the each new season of change to go easier than the last. This isn’t always possible, of course, simply because some change is more complex than others and seasons change for people, cultures and organizations. But great leaders become students of change. They learn as they go.

And, the way you handle change – things like the speed at which you change, the people you include in change, the rest and celebration in between change – helps develop the DNA of change in the organization. Change is never easy, but over time you become better at leading change and the organization becomes better at accepting change.

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.

7 Actions Which Can Quickly Cripple A Leader

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 2 Comments

There are some things that can quickly cripple a leader. 

I’m constantly thinking how I can help people on our team improve as leaders. Of course, in order for that to happen it means I must constantly be improving as a leader. I realize our team’s potential to get better at leading others is limited to the extent I am willing to become a better leader.

I’ve learned along the way to being a better leader that there are some things which simply keep leaders from being effective. I used the word “cripple” in the title and I don’t think that is too strong a word. The things I’m going to list have all crippled me during seasons of my leadership. There are some actions or characteristics which can simply derail a leader’s potential for success if not identified and addressed.

Understanding these and disciplining ourselves to avoid them can make us better leaders.

7 actions which can cripple a leader:

Trying to personally handle too much.

Too many changes at one time. Or having too much on your plate. Refusing to delegate. You can only do so much and when you try to do more you almost always lose efficiency and effectiveness.

Years ago, I realized this as our church plant was growing quickly. I was trying to meet with people, be active in the community, lead our staff and organizational structure and still preach effectively on Sunday. Something had to give. I started giving some things away and it was amazing how much better my messages became on Sunday – and how much more effective I was in my other responsibilities.

Refusing to rest.

Resting isn’t just a nice quote on a 10 commandments plaque. It’s a command for a reason. Our bodies and minds need time to rejuvenate and recover. Burnout is almost always a result of leaders who fail to say no or are never still.

I have had more than one hard learning curve in this area. Thankfully, I’ve matured and now I can say the more stressful the season the more I discipline myself to exercise and get away from the office. In the busier than normal season I don’t have to work harder, but smarter.

Allowing critics voices to dominate.

You will always have critics. And, you shouldn’t ignore learning from them – even when you don’t agree with them. As leaders, we must remain humble and teachable. But, this doesn’t mean we allow the dominant voice to be those who aren’t even supportive of leadership or where we are leading. In my experience, most of the time there are some people that are critics regardless of who is leader.

I’ll never forget the time this one lady continued to blast me about the “satanic” music our church sang. It wasn’t satanic at all. In fact, we were careful with our lyrics on every song we used in our worship services. The problem was it wasn’t her style. For a while I let this haunt me every Sunday. I was paranoid what others might be saying. But then I realized there were lots of people who were better engaging in worship because of our style. Plus, there were plenty of other churches which might have more closely aligned with her preference. I couldn’t allow her preference to control what was leading a couple thousand other people in worship every week.

Ignoring the hard decisions.

Leadership isn’t needed if we simply manage status quo. Leadership takes people to unknown places. This requires change – and change can be uncomfortable. Let me correct that – change is always uncomfortable – to someone. In my experience, leadership is often crippled until someone is willing to make the hard decisions. As leaders we must not lead to be popular, but to do right things to achieve the worthy, pre-established visions of our organization.

This has been true so many times as we have had to change or stop programming in an established church. I’ve learned “we’ve always done it this way” is rarely true. When a church is over 100 years old there’s nearly nothing done the same way it was when the church started. They’ve simply done it that way long enough to be comfortable. But, part of our success has been the willingness to move forward – strategically and cautiously – with needed improvements towards our vision. This has included hard decisions involving programming, but even harder decisions regarding people. (And, the people decisions are always the hardest – but, sometimes the ones most needed.)

Controlling everything.

When the leader has to know everything happening in the organization or when they are paranoid because they don’t, we know there is crippled leadership somewhere – either with the leader or those being led. Most leaders don’t want to be surprised on major things, but when they have to be intimately involved in every decision and every detail it usually indicates they don’t trust their team. That’s crippling to any leader – and the team.

I’ve always been pretty good at delegating. It may have come when we bought a small manufacturing company and I was completely in over my head as a leader. I quickly realized if I was going to have any success I had to release control and trust other people – often people more qualified in areas than me. That learning experience has surely helped me as a pastor.

Impatience.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And, neither are healthy organizations. Leaders must learn to have patience and perseverance, even when those on the team are growing weary. Many times we quit just before the turnaround.

I have sat with so many pastors – especially attempting revitalization – who were short-term at their churches – not because the work was finished, but because they were not patient with how long the process of change was taking. The best leadership happens over seasons and years – not over days and weeks.

Developing a sense of entitlement.

The leader who ever feels they’ve “arrived”, stops learning, or begins to take all the credit for success in the organization has become a very crippled leader. The team will no longer support the leader fully. They will trip on their own ego. It’s simply the quickest way to failure.

I could spend a whole blog post – and probably should – on how I have personally witnessed egos lead to moral, spiritual and professional failure. Chances are, however, you have witnessed this plenty of times also. Pride always goes before the fall.

Those are a few actions or attitudes which I have seen cripple good leadership. It’s always sad to me to see a good leader fail. My prayer is this could be a check for any leaders who may be struggling in any of these areas.

Check out our new leadership podcast where my son Nate and I unpack issues like this in a practical way.

One Question I Ask Every Time I Receive a Complaint

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There is one question I ask myself every time I receive a complaint.

It would be difficult to be in leadership and not have people upset with a decision you made at some point. In fact, with every decision comes a variety of responses. Leadership guides people places they’ve never been before, so leading always involves change. Change of any kind stirs an emotion, which can be positive or negative. The more the change is uncomfortable the more negative the response may be.

So, receiving complaints or criticism is not a rarity in leadership. It comes with the position. But, there is a question I try to ask every time someone complains to me.

This one question is powerful in determining how I will respond.

When I have complaints or criticism – one question, every complaint:

Is the complaint individual or representative?

In other words:

  • Is it one person with a problem or are there multiple people with the same problem, but I’m only hearing from one?
  • Does this complaint represent one person’s opinion or is it representative of a larger number of people?
  • Is it a personal issue to or a public issue to multiples?

The answer is critical to me before I respond.

It doesn’t mean I don’t need to pay attention to the one complainer. Their point may be valuable. They may see something I can’t see. I need their input. And I listen to them. (I think good listening and responsiveness is part of good leadership.)

But I also know I can’t please everyone. Some individuals are simply going to disagree with the way I do something. And some people simply don’t like any change. And if it’s just one person’s complaint I can listen, we can talk, we can agree to agree or disagree, and we can move forward. I know where I stand with them. 

But while I listen and respond even to individual criticism, when there is a growing tension among a larger group of people, I know the issue demands even more intentionality.

It may or may not alter my response. Leaders shouldn’t lead to be popular. They lead to do the right thing. We don’t lead alone, but after we’ve done all we can to include others and the decision has been made, we move forward.

When a larger group are upset about change it will likely alter the intensity of my response.

I’ve learned when a larger number have the same complaint or criticism, even if we certain about the change, the damage done to the perception of my leadership may disrupt all the other good we are trying to do.

In those cases, where the criticism is widespread, often its for a few reasons. People don’t understand, because they don’t fully understand why. They haven’t felt included along the way. Or, frankly, some people simply don’t like change and will rebel against it regardless.

When I realize the complaint from an individual is representative, I can talk to more people to figure out the root of the problem. I can tell the vision (for the change) more often, tell it in different ways and in more places to help people understand the why behind the change. (Zig Ziglar told me years ago, “When people understand the why they aren’t as concerned with the what.”)

Finally, when I know there are more people involved I can monitor people’s perceptions closer. I’m no longer wondering how one person feels, but I know I have a larger group to track with through the change. (And, again, not to make them happy, but to help them through the process of change.)

Individual or representative? One question – every complaint. Knowing the difference is huge.

Check out our new leadership podcast where my son Nate and I unpack these type issues in a practical way.

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.