Entries by Dave Kraft (824)


Submitting to those you normally lead!

At times it’s appropriate, even necessary, to submit to someone on your team that you lead.  Here is Ron Edmondson to share seven of those situations. This is really insightful and helpful!

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

 I’m the leader.

Are you impressed?

I’m the guy others report to each day.

Impressed some more?

Don’t be. It just means I have a lot of heartburn.

Seriously, I think we sometimes take leadership too seriously. We think without the leader nothing good can happen on a team. Not true.

Don’t misunderstand. We need good leadership. I might even say without leadership — in a big picture perspective– nothing of great value ever happens. I spend a bulk of this blog trying to speak into the practice of good leadership.

But, as much as leadership is important, without good followers — nothing of great value ever happens. (Do you see what I did there?)

Good leadership puts this understanding into practice. 

So, at times, really many times, I submit my authority to people who are supposedly looking to me for leadership.

Here are 7 times I submit to people I should be leading:

 1.  When I have no strong feeling. If nothing inside of me says this is wrong or I have no real opinion about it, then I yield to this on the team who have a strong passion. I trust their gut.

2.  When they know more than I do. And, this happens more than you could imagine. I try to surround myself with people smarter than me about different areas. Why would I not rely on them for the expertise they have, which I don’t have?

3.  When I want to give them an opportunity. Now let’s be honest. It could be an opportunity to fail. This may be why some leaders never delegate authority. But, sometimes the only way we learn is by trying and falling short. Some of the best discoveries are learned this way.

4.  When they have thought about it more than I have. There are so many things which happen within our church (and probably your church) where I simply do not have the time or the margin to commit to processing. I have to trust people. Sometimes, I have to yield to other people because they have more time investment in an issue than I do.

5.  When they have to live with the consequences. If it is more about their individual area of ministry and doesn’t impact other areas of the church then I am more likely to delegate authority to them. 

6.  When I’m already overwhelmed. To be effective as a leader — and to last for the long haul — I need to know I can only do what I can do. I have to trust the people God has allowed me to surround myself with with what they can do. And, I know I need their help to help me prioritize my best efforts towards things only I can do. 

7.  Whenever I can. Seriously. Good leadership involves empowerment. It’s delegating authority and allowing people to grow in their responsibility. So, when I have the opportunity, I’ll let people make decisions without my input.

 It’s important to understand- as a leader I’m delegating my authority, but I’m not relegating my authority. I’m not diminishing the fact I am the senior leader and ultimately responsible for the overall vision and direction of our church. (Under God’s authority, of course.) My team needs to know they are not alone. I will support them in the decisions they make. 




Six common characteristics of effective communicators

Every effective leader needs to be able to communicate well. Here is Deanna Kotrla sharing six common characteristics of effective communicators. They are spot on!

Originally posted by Deanna Kotrla

Public speaking is often the most feared obstacle in people’s lives. Some people fear public speaking more than spiders and even death. As a church leader, you’re most likely going to have to speak in front of people on a weekly basis or more.

With my time serving on staff at Willow Creek Community Church, I have had the privilege of hearing many effective communicators. Regardless of background, theology, or style, all of these speakers had common characteristics that made them effective.

No matter the size of the audience, engaging speakers share these traits as a common denominator, and we can all learn from them, whether we are on a church staff or a church leader in the congregation.

1. Know your audience. 

Great communicators know exactly who will be sitting in the crowd and will tailor their message to that audience. Make sure you know who will be in the room and where they come from. Speak with the appropriate energy, passion, tone, and language for your audience. Pay attention to the signs of an engaged audience. Look for eye contact, heads nodding in agreement, and other indicators of an actively listening audience.

2. Have a crystal clear focus. 

What are you trying to get across to your audience? Before you even write your sermon or speech, know the concise answer to this question. If you don’t know, then your audience won’t either. To hit your target, you have to know where you’re aiming. Have a roadmap for where you are taking your audience. Clarity is the key to articulating your points without complexity.

3. Win the hearts of your audience. 

All of the engaging church leaders and speakers that I have heard won the hearts of their audience members. They are authentic, transparent, and down to earth. Remember that 90% of communication is nonverbal. People more relaxed appear more confident and make their audiences more comfortable. Engage your audience with humor and tell your stories, but remember that clear content is key.

4. Evaluate yourself regularly. 

Do you evaluate yourself and receive feedback from your church staff on a weekly basis? Are you focused on doing whatever you can to improve your communication? Watch videos of yourself to help improve style and transitions? Be sure to remain open for constructive criticism. Use a tablet or cell phone to record your content, and pay attention to the things that you can improve. Pay attention to facial expressions, repeated words, and the filler words that you continually use out of habit. Once you see yourself speaking, it is far easier to change ineffective behavior.

5. Call people to action. 

Tell your audience how they can respond. Challenge them with next steps. It is no longer enough to simply educate an audience on a topic. People are looking for more than just an education and inspiration. They want to be moved to behave differently and called into action. Give your audience tangible and obtainable next steps and goals.

6. Be prepared. 

Speakers that are gifted in captivating the attention of a group are always prepared and have rehearsed in advance. Don’t leave anything to chance, especially since nerves can get the best of you when step in front of your audience. Make sure you practice aloud multiple times so that you are used to the material and can fit it in within your allowed time segment.

By trying to incorporate some of these skills and characteristics into your speaking style you can effectively improve your communication, no matter what the topic or audience.

What other tips do you have for church leaders looking to improve their communication?



Join the dreamers hall of fame!

They said it would never work, that it would lose money, that people wouldn’t come to see it. He had a dream and was motivated to invest a lot of his own money into the project. He, in actuality, staked his entire reputation on the three-hour epic of which he was the director, co-producer and star. “Dances with Wolves” took the world by storm and was nominated for twelve Oscars, winning seven of them (1990). Kevin Costner not only danced with wolves, he marched to a different drummer. The world awarded him because he dared to dream. Welcome, Kevin, to the dreamers’ hall of fame.

 Zig Zigler tells the heartwarming story of Bernie and Elaine Lofchick. They had their delight dashed when they received the devastating news: your son is a spastic. He has cerebral palsy. He will never be able to walk or talk or count to ten, if you believe the prevailing medical opinions. The world-renowned specialist told them that their son, David, could make it and be normal but they would have to dream big and work hard. It happened…oh, it happened! That boy whom the experts said would never walk, talk, or ride a bike could, at the age of 13, do 1,100 pushups in a single day, had run six miles non-stop and was wearing out his third bike.  He grew to be a strapping, 195 pound adult, who has a family and is leading a perfectly normal life. David made it because Bernie and Elaine dared to dream, defying the doomsayers. Welcome Bernie, Elaine and David to the dreamers’ hall of fame.

As a leader, there was a time when you had a clear vision, a dream. Jesus gave you a vivid picture, an idea of what He wanted to accomplish through your leadership. But as time has progressed, perhaps you have met defeat, been discouraged, been criticized. Perhaps you have given up your desire, your determination to dream, thinking that you misheard what the Lord said, don’t have what it takes, aren’t gifted enough. Abraham Maslow said that the story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short. Don't let it happen to you. God is not through with you, even though you might feel like it. And it's never too late, even though it might seem like it. I would encourage you to rejoin the ranks of the daring dreamers. Starting to dream again will give you a fresh start…fresh hope for the future. God loves to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things.

She was born in a shack in the backwoods of Tennessee. During her early childhood she was sickly and frail and, due to a severe illness, had a paralyzed left leg for which she had to wear a brace.  But she had a wonderful mother who believed in her and taught her to dare to dream.   She dreamed of being the world’s greatest woman runner. In high school she began to enter races and came in dead last in every race.  Then she finally won her first race and, from then on, she never lost.  She linked up with a coach in college who kept the dream alive and took her all the way to the Olympics.  She won the 100 meter event and the 200 meter event, she had two golds. She was a member of the 400 meter relay team. Running the last leg she found herself pitted against Jutta Heine, the greatest, fastest woman runner of her day. In her excitement Wilma dropped the baton and everyone assumed she was through…that there was no way to catch up with the fleet-footed Jutta Heine. But she did and she won her third medal and became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic games (1960). She achieved her dream. Welcome Wilma Rudolf to the dreamers’ hall of fame.

I personally am in the dreamer’s hall of fame. I wasn't inducted. I signed myself up; and, furthermore, have issued myself a lifetime membership. At 75 years of age I am still a hopeless dreamer, a crazy visionary. I am not ready to retire and spend my time sitting on the front porch waiting for the mailman to show up, or to sit staring blankly at the TV screen, or to while the hours away hitting an elusive little white ball around the green grass numerous days a week.   I must tell you though that I am sad as I walk the corridors of the hall, because there are so many empty picture frames adorning the walls.  Could there be an empty frame there with your name on it?  If you were assured you could not fail, what dream would you pursue? Mary Kay Ash observed that most people go to their graves with their music still unplayed. May it not be said of you and me.

The students had been waiting for weeks for their distinguished visitor to arrive. They fully expected a never-to-be-forgotten speech from the aging statesman. After all, their school was his alma mater. But they were not quite prepared for what they heard. He entered the room, bore his large frame to the lectern and turned to address them. They listened with rapt attention, pens in hand as he began: “Gentlemen, never give up.  Never, never, never, never give up.” He then took his seat!  Sir Winston Churchill had finished his speech, but it left its’ mark on future dreamers.

Are you bored with maintaining the status quo? Are you yawning through the review of the rules? Are you tired of organizational policy and politics? Are you restless to cut a new swath? Join the mavericks who don't color within the lines, play by the rules or stay inside the fences. The heretics of yesteryear are the heroes of today: the General McArthur’s, Churchill’s, Edison’s, Da Vinci’s. Join the ranks of the visionary leaders ...dare to dream!



When success outpaces character

More leaders fall over character issues than competency issues. A Christian leader can look successful in the world’s eyes and be a failure in God’s eyes. Too much success too early can pose a unique set of problems. Here Eric Geiger talks about indicators that your success has outpaced your character.

Originally posted by Eric Geiger

Success has plagued many leaders. They experience the Lord’s blessing, see the fruits of their labor, and receive recognition. And many times, the success goes to their heads and hearts and pulls them away from utter dependence on the One who gave success in the first place. King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26) is an example:

During the time that he sought the Lord, God gave him success. (verse 5)

But when he became strong, he grew arrogant and it led to his own destruction. (verse 16)

After ignoring the commands of the Lord and the encouragement of the priests, Uzziah barged into the temple. The Lord struck him with leprosy, and that became his legacy.

Uzziah rested with his fathers, and he was buried with his fathers in the burial ground of the kings’ cemetery, for they said, “He has a skin disease.” (verse 23)

When a leader’s competence outpaces a leader’s character, implosion is imminent. When skills surpass the process of sanctification, the trajectory is downward though everything looks great on the outside. It is often easier to see the speck in someone else’s eye than the plank in our own, so here are seven signs your success is outpacing your character.

1.  Your “personal brand” dominates your decision-making.

“What is best for my personal brand?” becomes your default decision-making question rather than “What is best for my soul?”

2.  Platform development trumps people development.

If you spend more time focused on developing your platform than developing your people, success owns your heart.

3.  You evaluate consistently if others “honor” you.

You are deeply offended when you are not honored or treated the way you feel you should be treated.

4.  You only “honor” those who can “expand your influence.”

You only think of “honoring” others who are more “successful” than you and can help “grow your influence.”

5.  The “green room” is the only room where you talk with people.

The “green room” is the room where speakers hang out before they hit the stage. This is where you find your “community,” though because those in that room only see your public persona, you are really isolated. And an isolated leader is a leader whose heart is hardening by sin’s deceit.

6.  You shun accountability.

Like Uzziah, who shunned the instruction from the priests, you think you are above being corrected. After all, who has been able to do what you have been able to do?

7.  Managing your image replaces managing your character.

You are preoccupied with perception rather than the character and integrity beneath the surface. You map out, plan, and manage your image while you haphazardly plan your own spiritual growth.




Three kinds of leadership decisions

Leaders make decisions. That’s what leaders do; the greater the responsibility, the more that can be riding on each decision made.

There is always potential for fear in making certain decisions and, thereby, procrastination in pulling the trigger.

As the late Ted Engstrom said, Readiness to risk failure is probably the one quality that best characterizes the effective leader.  Never vacillate in making a decision.  Indecision at the top breeds lack of confidence and hesitancy throughout an organization.”

For Christian leaders, careful and prayerful consideration of various options will be considered; processing these options and deciding within a team (not unilaterally) will take place, and then the decisions will be communicated in a timely and thorough way to those who need to know.  All of this is important to keep morale and motivation high in the organization.

As I have thought about it, almost all of the decisions that are being made will fall into one of three categories:

1.  Directional

Leaders are responsible for setting the direction of the organization, group or church. They make decisions, along with their team, as to where things are headed and what needs to be done to get there. It’s good to have a vision plan in place and a clearly defined process on how that vision will be achieved;  answering the questions of who will do what and when it will be done.

2.  Financial

In order to reach agreed-upon goals, money will need to be  raised, allocated and spent and the leader is generally responsible for how the money is raised and spent as there will never be enough money at any given time to do everything everybody wants to see happen; hence priorities need to be set and the funds allocated accordingly.

3.  Personnel

Once the direction is determined and the vision is clear and agreed upon, the funds are available to make it happen, the right team needs to be in place to execute with excellence. One of the most important things a leader does is to vet and bring on (paid or volunteer) the right people for the right roles. As author Jim Collins says, “Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats.” You can have a great direction in mind that is energizing, inspirational, the funds on hand to see it happen, but if you don’t have the right people in the right roles, it just ain’t gonna happen.

The true leader will resist the temptation to procrastinate in reaching directional, financial and personnel decisions, nor will he vacillate after they have been made.  These tendencies are fatal to leadership.  Usually a sincere, though mistaken, decision is better than no decision at all. In most decisions, the difficult part is not in knowing what ought to be done; it is being willing to pay the price involved. This willingness to pay the price is what separates okay leaders from excellent leaders.

Here is what you can count on:

  1. Some will like your decision
  2. Some will not like your decision
  3. Some will not understand why you made the decision
  4. Some will understand why you made the decision, but still not like it
  5. Some won’t care what you decide
  6. Some will leave because of the decision you made

Make the decision anyway!