Five significant ways to know if you've stopped growing as a leader

The last thing a good leader wants to do is stop growing; but many do. How would you know if that has happened to you. Carey Nieuwhof shares five significant ways you can tell if you have stopped growing as a leader.

 Originally posted by Carey Nieuwhof

5 Significant Signs You’ve Stopped Growing as a Leader

You’ve seen leaders who have stopped growing. It’s not a pretty site.

If you’ve stopped growing as a leader, you’ve stopped leading well.

But often, the leaders who have stopped growing don’t realize it’s happened. After all, the people who lack self-awareness are never aware they lack it.

So…how do you know you’ve stopped growing as a leader? How would you know that’s you?

That’s where curiosity can save us. If you’re curious enough to wonder whether you might be stagnating in your growth as a leader, there’s hope. Those who ask the question and actually want to know the answer will grow.

The stakes are high because if you continue to stagnate long enough, you’ll soon peak as a leader and head into decline. Leaders who have peaked face their own unique set of challenges. I outline 7 signs you’ve peaked as a leader here.

Sadly, too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading.  When that happens, they become leaders in title only.

So, in the hopes of staying fresh, alive and vibrant as leaders, here are 5 significant signs ls you’ve stopped growing.  The good news is if you jump on them quickly enough, reversal can be quick and effective.

Sadly, too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading.

1.  You’re more interested in answers than questions

Hey, every leader needs answers. I get that.

But I also know that in seasons where my growth as a person and leader have slowed, one sure sign is that I only want answers; questions start to annoy me or bore me. And that’s a terrible dynamic.


Because breakthroughs are always preceded by questions, not answers.

Breakthroughs are always preceded by questions, not answers.

Questions that threaten that status quo. Questions that probe for things overlooked by others. Questions that imagine what no one thought possible.

The excellence of your leadership is shaped less by the answers you give and more by the questions you ask.

Your leadership is shaped less by the answers you give and more by the questions you ask.

2.  You sift through new evidence only to back up your existing opinion

Too many leaders, and even organizations, suffer from confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias involves searching through new evidence mainly to find further evidence for your already-formed opinion. For sure, we all do this from time to time. Guilty as a charged.

But for growing leaders, regularly sifting through the evidence should lead to new conclusions, insights and perspectives.

If your insights are wrong, correct them. If there are better perspectives, adopt them.

The implications for your team are deep on this one.

If your eyes aren’t truly open as a leader, you’ll never see the future or seize it.

If your eyes aren’t truly open as a leader, you’ll never see the future or seize it.

3.  You spend almost all of your time doing what you like

I’m all for finding and working in your sweet spot as a leader. Every leader should discover what they’re best at and spend a good chunk of their time in it. I couldn’t agree more.

But you should spend all of your time in your sweet spot? As in 100%?

Maybe, maybe not.

Here’s why. You can grow in your sweet spot, getting better and better at what you do best, which is great.

But being in your sweet spot every day doesn’t always stretch you. In fact, it can start to feel comfortable…too comfortable.

Take that to it’s logical conclusion and you might discover this: spending all your time in your sweet spot can turn your sweet spot into a dead spot.

To keep growing, you need to tackle difficult projects, working out new leadership muscles and pushing you to think and grow beyond your current level.

Often tackling something new (even for a few hours a week) can do that.

What’s taking you out of your comfort zone? Chances are that’s where the growth is.

Spending all your time in your sweet spot can turn your sweet spot into a dead spot.

4.  Your expertise has started working against you

Most leaders have a quiet desire to become an expert at something. Stick with it long enough and you’ve got a good shot at it.

Expertise, after all, is more than just training. More often than not, it involves a lot of reps.

But being an expert can make you cautious. It can also make you proud. And it can make you conservative.

Having worked so hard to achieve what you’ve achieved, you’re not as open to new ideas as you once were. You simply want to conserve what you’ve built.

Conserving what you’ve built and building nothing new as a result is a short cut to irrelevance.

Great leaders who master a field over a life time are always interested in new ideas, new theories and new insights because they know it make them and their discipline better.

If you want to build an expertise that lasts into the next generation, remember this: the more open you are to fresh perspectives, the more deeply your hard-earned expertise will resonate into the next generation.

5.  You’ve surrounded yourself with people just like you

Most of us in leadership work hard to build a team we love. And that’s great. Great leaders build great teams.

But if you’re not careful, over time your team might start to look and sound a lot like you. That’s a warning sign. Don’t get me wrong, having a team that’s committed to the vision and owns the vision is a good thing.

But every leader also needs a team that can challenge the process, challenge the strategy and even challenge you.

Don’t get me wrong. I think aligned teams are a key reason leaders succeed…and you absolutely need an aligned team (I outline what I’ve learned about alignment here).

But if your team looks like you, sounds like you and acts like you all the time, your vision will never get sharper, your strategy may never become more effective, and you will miss opportunities.

Bottom line: if your team looks just like you, it’s time to change up the team.

So what should you do?

Try to keep people around you who are committed to the same mission and vision but who are younger than you, a different gender than you, and who have a different background than yours.  People with different backgrounds who are committed to the same vision always accomplish it with greater fervor and effectiveness.

If your team looks just like you, it’s time to change up the team.

What do you think?




Two words that are changing everything for me!

Simplicity in the way I live…Sincerity in the way I lead

"For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God and supremely so toward you." 2 Corinthians 1:12. (ESV)

Some of you reading this are, perhaps, going to be scratching your heads and asking yourself, “Hasn’t he talked about this before?”

The resounding answer is YES!

And I seriously doubt if this is the last time you will be hearing these two (for me) profound ideas.

Here are two links to previous posts on this topic. 

Please reread (or read for the first time) the April 2009 post and the January 2012 post before continuing with this one.

Simplicity & Sincerity April 6, 2009

Simplicity & Sincerity January 2, 2012

I am praying over the concepts of Simplicity and Sincerity and, by His grace, trusting to see them becoming true in the way I live and lead.

                     I am seeing Jesus change me!

It was Samuel Johnson that made the keen observation that,  “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”

And it is certainly a true axiom that repetition is the mother of all learning.

Peter agrees when he tells us in 2 Peter 1:12, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” (ESV)

So, even though we think we know certain things, it’s a good idea to be reminded of these things so as to move from knowing to being established in these truths.

With this in mind, here are some fresh thoughts on the idea of living with simplicity and leading with sincerity.

Simplicity in the way I live means:

  • Focus
  • Concentration
  • Going at a challenging, but not insane, pace
  • Being disciplined with my time
  • Living with margin
  • Practicing sabbath as a daily principle, not a weekly block of time
  • Being good at a small number of things
  • Saying no to a lot of good things so I can say yes to the best things
  • Praying and thinking before saying yes to something

Sincerity in the way I lead means:

  • Being good for my word
  • Owning my sin and mistakes
  • Saying often: I’m sorry, it was my fault, forgive me
  • Not playing games or wearing masks
  • Being the same person in private as I am in public, and in public as I am in private. No schizophrenia for me…no double standard…no split personality
  • Being genuine and straightforward…meaning what I say and saying what I mean
  • Not embellishing the truth so I look good and feel important

Questions to ponder and comment on:

 From personal experience, what would you add to these lists?

How are you personally doing living simply and leading sincerely?



Steps to take in confronting when you don't like confrontation

It's safe to say that most leaders don’t enjoy confrontation, but all of us need to go there once in a while anyway. Chuck lawless has some very helpful things to say with “Ten steps to confront when you don’t like confrontation.”

Originally posted by Chuck Lawless

I admit it. I don’t like confrontation. I often work with students and church leaders who face the same issue, even when they know ignoring the issue isn’t wise. Here are some steps that help me in those tough times.

1.  Make sure you’re walking with God. If you’re not being faithful in other areas of your life, I doubt you should expect God’s blessing in confrontation. Why should He guide you when you’re not listening to Him in other areas of your life?

2.  Check your heart. If your motive is revenge or harm or gloating, don’t take the next step until your heart is right.

3.  Pray. The Holy Spirit is much better than we are at helping us and others realize our wrong. To confront without praying first simply isn’t very smart. 

4.  Recognize that not confronting can open the door for the enemy. The more you delay confronting, the more anxious you’ll be – and the deeper someone else might go into sin.   

5.  Do your homework. Get your facts straight before you confront. Bad information leads to unnecessary scars.

6.  Consider possible reactions, responses, and goals ahead of time. It’s almost always better to think through a response rather than react on the fly. Wise preparation can take you a long way down the right path.

7.  Clarify and state your goal: to redeem even if you must rebuke. Your goal should be to strengthen a brother or sister in Christ, not hurt him or her. Make sure this goal is clear up front.

8.  Ask questions more than make statements. Questions soften the blows, and they allow the person confronted to explain without being backed into a corner.

9.  Work toward a stated solution. Trust God to direct both of you toward a resolution that is pleasing to Him. Confront toward repentance and reconciliation, not away from it.

10.  Assume you will pray together after the conversation. When you start the conversation knowing it will end with prayer, you’ll be more careful in what you say and how you say it. 

If you struggle with confronting others, what other strategies have helped you? 



He has no other plan. We are his plan!

There is an apocryphal story about Jesus returning to heaven after his death and resurrection. The host of heaven is rejoicing over the victory and the question is raised as to what Jesus has done to insure that the message of the good news will be spread. “What is your plan,” He's asked.

Jesus responds, “I have invested in a few men to see that the message is taken to the entire world.” “What if these men fail, what is your back-up plan?” His response is both sobering and instructive. “I have no other plan.”

The story is, of course, not true, but there is truth in the story. He had no other plan then. He has no other plan now. We are his plan. We are his hands and feet in this world. So, how is the church doing at winning the lost and making disciples? Lousy; to put it bluntly.

Too many Christians are church potatoes at best and, at worst, never attend worship or participate in mission. Our pews are occupied by people who want to be moved, but who don’t want to move. Nominal Christians are the biggest obstacle to the spread of the “good news.”

Church consultant Bill Easum says that it takes ninety church members to reproduce one new Christian. George Barna notes that, “A majority of those who make a decision for Christ wander away from the church within eight weeks of making such a decision. This is largely because no one disciples or mentors these individuals.”

What we need today more than ever are Christians who want to be reproducing disciples, who want to kick a dent in history by investing their time in people who will reproduce. You can be a harbor hugger, play it safe, stay in your comfort zone, or you can launch out into the deep and “have a great catch.”

Which will it be? You can’t stay in port and sail at the same time. Mark Twain expressed it well. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”

Are you ready for the challenge? Do you want to do more than warm a pew…be faithful to a few programs? Do you want to launch out on the sea of spending your life making disciples and being obedient to Jesus’ great commission? Is YES your final answer? Let’s do it, let’s make disciples and disciple makers for the glory of God!

We are all familiar with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  Jesus commands us to love as he loves and he commissions us to go out into the world and make disciples. Turning church members into multiplying disciples is the most pressing challenge we have before us. We will never accomplish it through anointed sermons, inspiring programs or strategic plans, as good as these may be. It will only be realized through fired-up disciples investing their time and energy in others face to face and heart to heart.

The most expensive education you can get is one-on-one tutoring. The most expensive car you can purchase is custom made, one at a time.

We have Christians everywhere who have knowledge and doctrine coming out of their ears. What we need is not more knowing but more going. “Go and make disciples of all nations.” More important than what a Christian knows or believes is can that person reproduce himself or herself by making disciples? A.W. Tozer said, “Only a disciple can make a disciple.” Programs don’t make disciples. Sermons don’t make disciples. Methods don’t make disciples. Materials don’t make disciples. Only a disciple can make a disciple. And making them one life at a time is the quality way to do it.

It's not the task of the paid staff or clergy in a church to make disciples.  Ephesians 4:11-15 makes it crystal clear that their job is to equip the saints (you and me) to do the work of making disciples.

A number of years ago when I first became a Christian, I was very active in my church. Practically every time the door was open I was there. Any opportunities, I volunteered. I was invited to a Navigator retreat and had my understanding of what a fruitful Christian is was blown to pieces. It happened as I listened to a tape of “Born to Reproduce” by Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators. 

When the question was raised on the tape, “Where is the man who is living for Jesus Christ today because of your life?” I was speechless. I was president of the young peoples’ group. I preached at youth meetings and evangelistic rallies. I was in the choir, a deacon, involved in visitation. I was up to my ears in programs and activities, but honestly couldn’t think of a single individual I had invested my life in. Then it hit me. I was giving my life to programs, not people. 

I was not involved in making disciples, but making dust and noise. As I sat under a pine tree after listening to that tape, God changed my entire philosophy of ministry. From now on, with His help, I would focus on the Great Commission, not the “Great Programs."

Jesus modeled it for us. He spent most of his time with the twelve. Many times he focused on just three: Peter, James and John. By investing in a few, He set the stage to influence millions, and so can you. Disciples who want to make a lasting difference spend the bulk of their time working with the few who are ready to take on the responsibility of investing in still others (II Timothy 2:2).  

Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple was trying very hard, but with little success, to recruit John Sculley to the vision that he clearly saw. Jobs was exasperated, and in his frustration he asked one more question, the one that finally caused John Sculley to make one of the most talked about corporate moves in modern American business. He asked, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?" Sculley said it was as if someone reached up and delivered a stiff blow to his stomach. The question simply eroded all his resistance and it made him think like a dreamer or a visionary. He subsequently left Pepsi Cola and joined Apple "After all,” Sculley mused, "changing the world is a heady thought."

Yes, changing the world is a heady thought--and a biblical one. Stop selling your colored water (whatever that is to you) and come help change the world by developing reproducers. Welcome aboard! 

May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your number until you become a community of peoples.” Genesis 28:3


Some types of "Scary" Leaders!

Some leaders are down right “Scary.” Their character, their philosophy their style scares those with whom they work and scares those who are observing from a distance. Art Rainer share seven types of “Scary Leaders.” Do you recognize any of these, in others or in yourself?

Originally posted by Art Rainer

Have you ever witnessed a leader whose leadership style you would characterize as scary?

It’s terrifying to watch. And it’s even worse to work under.

Scary leaders can show up in a variety of ways. Let’s look at seven types of scary leaders:

1.  The lead-by-fear leader. My friend, Jimmy Scroggins, once told me that leaders tend to either lead with fear or love. And he opted for the latter. The lead-by-fear leader opts for the former. Under this scary leader, criticism is common. Threats of demotion or job loss are common. Team member don’t work for the organization’s vision but for the fear of humiliation and salary loss.

2.  The selfish leader. This type of scary leader relishes the spotlight. They take credit rather than give credit. They hoard responsibility and information. They want everyone looking at them and relying on them. They hate when team members get acknowledged for their work without mention of them. To learn more about selfish leaders, check out this post.

3.  The micromanaging leader. The micromanaging leader struggles to trust others. Because of this, he or she is in the details of everyone’s work. They think that they are ensuring quality work, but they end up slowing everyone down. They hinder, instead of propel, their teams.

4.  The emotionally unpredictable leader. You never know how the conversation will go with this type of scary leader. One day, everything seems great. The next day, or maybe the next hour, they’re irate. What happened? No one really knows. Suddenly, everything is wrong. Team members walk on eggshells, not knowing what will set the leader off next.

5.  The overconfident leader. Confidence is good. Overconfidence can be scary. Overconfident leaders tend to dismiss differing opinions, even from trusted sources. They take excessive risks. They assume that past success means future success. Their confidence convinces team members to make or go along with bad decisions. And worst of all, they rarely see themselves as overconfident. If you want to read more about overconfident leaders, click this link.

6.  The underconfident leader. Overconfidence is scary. But so is underconfidence. Underconfident leaders are unsure of themselves, constantly questioning their own ability in an unhealthy manner. They tend to be overly concerned with others’ opinions. They focus on the negative, struggle to make decisions, and let past decision define them. Needless to say, underconfident leaders struggle to gain a following. Click this link for more on underconfident leaders.

7.  The visionless leader. This type of scary leader has no idea where he or she should take the team. They allow their team to wander aimlessly. Team members tend to get either get frustrated or bored.

God has called us to manage well those we lead. A leader who strives to be the best steward of his or her team will rarely be classified as a scary leader.

If you think you may fit into one of these scary leader categories, here are a quick few suggestions:


  • Regularly spend time with God. When your heart and mind are aligned with God’s heart and mind, you will become a better leader.
  • Find a leadership mentor. Find a leader to speak into your leadership. Preferably, someone who already is the type of leader that you desire to be.
  • Place daily reminders in front of you. Find ways to remind yourself of the leader you strive to be. It may be as simple as a Post-it note with a Bible verse or quote placed on your desk.


 So don’t be a scary leader. Serve and steward your team well.