Stephen Covey wrote a book describing the seven habits of highly effective people. Well, if there are habits that people can acquire to make them effective, then there are also habits that leaders will want to avoid or break that cause them to be ineffective. Here are some I have been thinking about and working on:

Leaders who want to be effective will be careful that they are not:

1.  Spending too much time managing and not enough time leading

Leadership guru Warren Bennis notes that most organizations are over-managed and under-led. There are major differences between managing and leading. Here are a few:

Generally speaking:

  • Managers think short term, leaders long term
  • Managers control and minimize change, leaders initiate change
  • Managers are reactive (responding to ideas) leaders are proactive (creating ideas)
  • Managers solve problems, leaders create excitement, generating more problems by coming up with new ideas never tried before
  • Managers are process-oriented (how it is done), leaders are result-oriented (why and if it is done)
  • Managers motivate by rules and regulations, leaders by empowerment and vision

2.  Spending too much time in counseling the hurting and not enough time in developing the leaders

John Maxwell makes the observation that people with very strong mercy gifts don't function well in visionary leadership. They don't want to hurt anybody or make decisions that offend or cause conflict. My experience would verify that.

Those leaders who know they have a strong mercy side must be very careful about who they spend time with. All their available time and energy will go to the hurting and the discouraged, leaving minimal time to develop future leaders which is the leader’s main responsibility. The hurting will find you. You will have to find the leaders.

 3.  Spending too much time fighting fires and not enough time lighting fires.

The leader needs to be a proactive fire lighter, not a reactive fire fighter. Many leaders spend so much time dealing with issues in a crises mode that they have precious little time left to deal with the longer term issues so as to not be caught behind the change curve.

4.  Spending too much time doing and not enough time praying, dreaming and planning.

We have all heard the expression, "Don’t just sit there, do something." Leaders need to practice, "Don’t just do something, sit there." A good leader will balance out doing and dreaming, active and quiet, energized and hibernating. A good leader will have less on the "do list" and will free up time to "just sit there"--not always chasing his own tail light in the traffic of life. 

Many leaders are entirely too busy with the day-to-day issues and spend comparatively little time in creative dreaming and time alone with God. Peter Drucker says that action without thinking is the cause of every failure. 

5.  Spending too much time teaching the many and not enough time training the few. 

The war will not be won from behind the pulpit. Many leaders invest entirely too much time in public teaching in spite of the fact that statistics show that 70-80% of most audiences are not listening and will not apply what they are getting. Speaking to the crowds needs to be balanced out with investing quality and quantity time with the few who can and will reproduce (2 Timothy 2:2).

6.  Spending too much time doing it themselves and not enough time doing it through others. 

Short-term thinking leaders do it all by themselves, long-term thinking leaders get others to help them. You have two choices in your leadership. Do it yourself, or get others to help you carry the load (Number 11:17). Your willingness and determination to train, delegate and work through others, more than anything else, may well define your effectiveness and success in ministry. 

Today is the day of the team and collaborative leadership, not "the Lone Ranger." I have been in the hiring position numerous times through the years and the person I'm always looking for is the one who does ministry through people, not for people, or with people. Delegate or suffocate, which will it be?

7.  Making too many decisions based on organizational politics and too few decisions based on biblical principles

I wish we had more leaders (in the church as well as in the private and public sectors) who do the biblically correct thing and are not overly worried about the politically correct thing. Leaders who don’t hold their wet finger in the wind to see which way it is blowing but using that same finger to turn the pages of Holy Writ to see which way the Spirit of God wants to move.

Truly effective leaders will:

  • Lead, not merely manage
  • Develop future leaders
  • Light new fires
  • Spend time praying, dreaming and planning
  • Do ministry through others
  • Make biblically based decisions

So, my fellow leader, how are you doing? Is there something you need to change, do differently?




What Seasoned Leaders Need To Say To Younger Leaders

I am sure there are a lot of things older leaders would like to say to younger leaders to help them be the best they can be for Jesus. We would hope they would be teachable and listen to some words of wisdom from those who have gone before them.

Here are “32 things to say to young leaders” by leadership freak, Dan Rockwell:

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell on June 2, 2014

  1. Why aren’t you asking for feedback?
  2. Tell me who you want to become in behavioral terms.
  3. Why do you matter?
  4. Tell me what you expect from yourself.
  5. Pursue clarity by asking more questions.
  6. Don’t let old leaders beat the dream out of you.
  7. Stop talking – do something. Old leaders think you want success on a platter. Prove them wrong.
  8. Tell me where you’re going. How will you know when you get there?
  9. You’re acting like an idiot.
  10. Stop dreaming about moving on. Changing geography doesn’t change you. The personal struggles you run from today, will meet you somewhere else tomorrow.
  11. What’s the next step?
  12. What are you learning?
  13. Tell me what you’ll do differently, next time.
  14. Try again.
  15. Which option feels good to you? What feels good about it?
  16. You’re great at….
  17. How do your strengths apply to this situation? When experienced leaders focus on fixing weaknesses and neglect strengths they become unwitting enemy. Friendly fire kills young leaders.
  18. How are you helping others succeed?
  19. How can you connect with the team?
  20. Where do you fit in?
  21. What did you do, today, to bring out the best in someone else?
  22. What frustrates you? Frustration points to ineffective strategies and methods.
  23. Do difficult stuff. Ease is the enemy.
  24. What should you stop?
  25. How will you know if you succeed?
  26. Stop whining. Make it better.
  27. Tell me what’s important, today. How does that build the future?
  28. The quickest way to earn respect is by solving a big problem that everyone hates, but no one wants to deal with. (Tip: solve it with others, not on your own.)
  29. You have more in you.
  30. What can I do for you?
  31. I believe in you.
  32. What are you waiting for?

Which of these things do you need to say to a young leader, today?

What would you add to the list?



Coping With Conflict

 It had been a while since I had talked with this pastor. He explained to me that he was under a lot of stress as were the other pastors in this multi-staffed church. “If you were here, we would have let them go a long time ago, but it seems that nobody has the courage to deal with it.”

 Another close friend is in conflict with a person at work. He told me that when things are smooth, he gets along famously, but when he collides or is in ongoing conflict with somebody it is very difficult for him to function well, and he flat out doesn’t know what to do or how to handle it. Could I help him; give him some advice? I could see the stress, frustration, and pain written all over his face.

Something I saw on a web site from Leadership Network, referred to an interview with pastors concerning the top five things they thought were lacking in their seminary or Bible school training.  Leadership development is usually at the top of such lists, but on this particular survey, the number one skill they felt short-changed on was “Conflict Management.”

Not knowing how and/or the unwillingness to deal with conflict is a major issue that is undermining organizations and eating people’s emotional lunch. I am running into it everywhere I go. The two examples above could be multiplied many times over if spaced allowed.

I cannot imagine anything more devastating to effective leadership than the refusal or inability to resolve conflict. To be frank, I meet very few leaders who honestly, gracefully and promptly deal with conflict when it raises its ugly head. I don’t mean this to be unkind, but many leaders are “Relational Cowards.” Sometimes the reason given for not dealing with it is, I don’t want to be unloving. Not dealing with it is the unloving thing to do. Away with the mistaken idea that love is never conflicting with a person.

 “Truth telling is more important than peacekeeping…the well-being of the other person is more important than the current comfort level in the relationship…peace at any price is a form of deception from the pit of hell. A relationship built on peacekeeping won’t last. Tough love chooses truth telling over peace keeping and trusts God for the results.”

-Bill Hybels

Some seem to play the hide-my-head-in-the-sand game and hope it will disappear before they come up for air. Others live in total denial that there is a problem; can’t believe there’s a problem; don’t want to believe there’s a problem; would rather move on than face the problem (many do). Christian churches and organizations are being ripped apart by not dealing with a problem person or resolving conflicts. Still others have no experience or model in dealing constructively with conflict that is costing them or may cost them their leadership edge.

Let me set the record straight before I go on.  I am not Mr. Expert on this subject. I have had my share of cowardly moments for which I have paid dearly. I will more than likely have a few more before Jesus calls me home. I strongly desire and will  (with dependence on God’s grace) no longer sweep conflict under the carpet, put my head in the sand or my finger in the dike and look the other way. It is (I believe) unbiblical and shows lack of spiritual leadership and integrity. 

Having said that, allow me to share a few things that help me in “Coping with Conflict.”


1.  Make a commitment before the Lord to face and deal honestly, lovingly, sensitively and decisively with conflict. For years I carried a card with me that said, "Courage and conviction to collide and confront." It was a reminder to me to be courageous and not back down too fast when I collided with people on issues, or when (after prayer, thought and counsel), I decided I needed to take the initiative and confront someone.

2.  Be prepared to confess and ask for forgiveness for my part in causing the conflict. I want to begin by acknowledging my part in causing the seeming impasse in the relationship. Not so that the other party will confess theirs, but because I, without realizing it, have probably contributed to the conflict

3.  Get all the facts. When I am doing it correctly, I ask lots of questions, without acusing or placing blame. Demonstrating a sincere desire to get to the bottom of the conflict by listening and trying to understand

4.  Do it privately. The rule of thumb is, confront privately, praise publically. Never confront or air a conflict (for the first time) in public. Matthew 18 give us a process to follow. I have seen times (hard to believe it actually happened) where a brother or sister was confronted in a church service or a staff meeting

In closing, Luke 6:26 in The Message, “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests…your task is to be true, not popular.”


The Meeting Nobody Wants to Have, But Needs To Have

Confrontation is never easy, but often necessary to deal with performance or behavioral issues. Often both of these go hand in hand. Before you make the final call to let someone go, one more step is probably wise. Here is Ron Edmondson to tell us what it is.

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

An Often Necessary Meeting No Leader Wants to Have, But Should Consider

A very successful business mentor of mine once gave me a vital tip about a necessary meeting all leaders should consider. Unfortunately, I have had to use his advice several times.

You don’t ever want to have this meeting. You certainly don’t want to have it very often.

But, having this meeting could avoid you having other even harder meetings than this one. And, it could turn out to be a blessing for everyone.

It’s called “The Meeting Before the Last Meeting”.

It’s a meeting you have when —

Someone who is not performing well on the team.

You’ve warned them numerous times.

They have exhausted their chances with you.

You’re at the point where you believe it would be better for them to leave the organization.

Before you release them (which is one of the hardest things a leader has to do)…

Have one more meeting.

The meeting before the last meeting.

It’s a meeting where you give grace, a final chance, and clear guidance as far as what needs to improve and by what date you expect to see results.

But you make it clear that this is the meeting before the last meeting.

The meeting after this meeting will not be fun for anyone.

It will be the last meeting.

According to my friend, the meeting before the last meeting usually produces one of two results rather quickly.

A tremendous turnaround. And, you’ve secured a valuable team member.

Or a confirmation that the last meeting is the right decision. Then it’s time to move.

It should be noted that this will not work every time. There are times it is very clear what needs to be done. The person isn’t a good fit, they have lost all energy for the mission, or they have gone so far they can’t recover in their current position. The “meeting before the last meeting” is for those people you believe have capability within the organization if they would pull themselves together and perform to their full potential. With the right person, and handled carefully, this can actually be a very affirming meeting that produces tremendous results.


The Empowering Leader

In my book, Leaders Who Last, I mention that leadership is all about Who the leader is, where the leader is headed and how the leader enlists others to join him on his/her visionary journey. When it comes to the people who have joined us, we have four main responsibilities with them:

1. Shepherding
2. Developing
3. Equipping
4. Empowering

I might decide not to personally perform all four of these essential tasks, but I'm responsible, as a leader, to see that these four things take place for each person.

People deserve to be shepherded--loved and accepted for who they are, not merely what they do.

  • People deserve to be developed--in their walk with Jesus and in their personal character traits.
  • People deserve to be equipped--for ministry on the team taking into account their gifts, passion, experience and capacity
  • And, lastly, people deserve to be empowered.

It is the subject of empowerment we will deal with today.

It is my conviction that empowerment sets the stage for shepherding, developing and equipping to take place. If people are working in a situation where empowerment is lacking, efforts to shepherd, develop and equip will be severely hindered. 

What is Empowerment?

In leading, it is critical to create and maintain an environment that is conducive to high morale and enables followers to maximize who they are and make their best contribution to the fulfillment of the vision. This is empowerment!

Empowerment unleashes a person's talents, skills and experience that are already in place but are often underutilized or willfully held back due to a leader's insecurity. Creating an environment of empowerment frees people up to be who God designed them to be: to be their creative and productive best for the team in the workplace or in the ministry.

Recently, I was made aware of two situations where people were let go from their jobs without a reasonable explanation or any opportunity for dialogue. It never fails to amaze me how many ministry situations I come across where people are not enjoying what they do and where there is an incredible degree of mistrust, suspicion, gossip and slander that is accepted as routine and normal. These kinds of negative environments poison the possibility of empowerment.

As a leader, how do you create an empowering environment that unleashes people's best? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Give people adequate clarity as to their role, responsibilities and expected outcomes
  • When developing people, focus on their strengths not their weaknesses
  • When people perform excellently and are now looking for the next step, help them find the right fit not just the next rung on the ladder
  • Give people freedom to carry out their responsibilities emanating from their personal design without micromanaging them
  • When it has been earned and deserved, be lavish with praise both in public and in private. Celebrate the little as well as the big achievements among the people you lead, and commemorate special dates such as: hiring anniversaries, wedding anniversaries and birthdays
  • As a leader, take a little more than your share of the blame and a little less than your share of the credit
  • Connect often and spontaneously with your people and couple this with formal quarterly reviews that are affirming and, at the same time, deal honestly with issues and less-than-desirable job performance
  • Allow conflict on the team that is a result of dealing with real issues and challenging the status quo. Smooth is not always healthy. Any growing and healthy organization will have honest and energized debates over values, philosophy and strategy. Great teams don't play games with each other. They are not afraid to air their dirty laundry. Team members take ownership of mistakes, believe the best about each other and speak honestly without fear of reprisal
  • Allow room for a reasonable amount of failure and experimentation
  • Consult people affected by a problem or proposed change asking for their ideas-regardless of whether you think you need them or not
  • Eliminate needless rules, regulations and policies and allow people as much freedom and mobility as possible as long as they produce excellent results and maintain healthy relationship with the rest of the team
  • Enrich jobs by delegating decisions as far down the line as possible
  • Give people the material and equipment they need to do their work
  • Encourage, promote and spend money on people's professional developmentDon't let this list overwhelm or discourage you. Pick one or two items and begin creating an atmosphere of empowerment where your people can become their best and enjoy their work.

"Moreover, when God gives any man, wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work-this is a gift from God." Ecclesiastes. 5:19 NIV

Three books have been especially helpful to me in learning how to be an empowering leader:

1. First Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

2. The Five Dysfunctions of A Team by Patrick Lencioni

3. The 3 Keys to Empowerment by Ken Blanchard, John P Carlos and Alan Randolph