Entries by Dave Kraft (1120)


The Defining Attribute Of An Effective Leader

I collect leadership definitions and here is one of my favorites.

A leader is a person who makes decisions, some of which are right.

I don’t know who said it or where I got it from, but it rings true with me.  I have never met a leader who bats 1000.  Good decision-making is an ongoing experience and process. With time we learn how to make better decisions.

The greater your leadership responsibility, the tougher the decisions you will have to make.  Additionally, the higher you are in an organization the more that is riding on every decision.  Usually a leader is promoted due to his/her decision-making ability.

The willingness to make the tough decisions is what separates good leaders from bad leaders. 

Recently I had a conversation with a successful businessman who is now being paid large amounts of money to consult those who own and run large companies. I asked him what some of the issues were he was encountering as he did his consulting. 

At the top of his list were being able to clearly articulate vision and the ability to make decisions.  He told me his clients are often afraid to make some of the tough decisions. I asked him if his counsel was to tell his clients to move slower or faster.  His response was immediate: “Faster.”

Readiness to take calculated risks in decision-making is probably the one quality that best characterizes the effective leader. Indecision at the top can filter down and negatively impact an entire organization.

As I have reflected on the most difficult decisions I have made, they have been personnel decisions. These have caused me the most stress, fear and anxiety…both in on-boarding as well as off-boarding people (maybe off-boarding is a new word). 

I still get emotional thinking back 40 years when I let a team member go due to under-performance--my first difficult leadership decision. It was the right decision for him and for the team, but I sweat bullets in making it and got a fair amount of criticism.

Here are a few thoughts to ponder as it relates to your decision-making:

  • Don’t make hurried decisions
  • Don’t procrastinate when it is as clear as it will ever be as to what needs to be done. Don’t let your fears rule the day
  • Get input from team members before pulling the trigger 
  • Don’t wait until you have all the information you think you need
  • Don’t be afraid of making a wrong decision
  • Once the decision is made, move on

What is the most difficult decision you have had to make as a leader?

Think about that for a moment. 

Did you move too slowly? 

Did you move too quickly?

Did you have all the information you thought you needed?

What were you most afraid of?

Would you make the same decision, if you could do it over again?

What did you learn from the experience?


How do your followers perceive your leadership?

I give credit to Pastor Ron Edmondson for the germ idea for this blog

“How are you viewed by your followers?” 

Ron's Web site

Perception is stronger than truth.

You are only a leader if you have followers and people choose, or don’t choose, to follow you based on how they perceive you. 

People will generally follow you based on who you are (character) and where you are going (vision).

Your long term success may depend more on how you’re perceived as opposed to what you do.

  • Do they perceive you as a leader who empowers or controls?
  • Do they perceive you as a leader who welcomes new ideas or kills new ideas?
  • Do they perceive you more as a champion of the status quo or of change?
  • Do they perceive you as a leader who says “I” most of the time or “we” most of the time
  • Do they perceive you as a leader who always has to be right or one who takes responsibility for sin and poor decisions?
  • Do they perceive you as a leader who is a promise-keeper or a promise-breaker?
  • Do they perceive you as a leader who is full of the Holy Spirit or full of yourself?

So, leader, how are you doing?



One leader’s self-evaluation that will rock your world

I do a lot of reading, because I am a life-long learner, I believe leaders are readers and I get ideas for future writing. The posts that you read at are of three varieties:

  1. Entirely new material and ideas from me
  2. Material based on a germ idea(s) I get from my reading and upon which I expand
  3. A re-posting of some thoughts that I feel are too good to adapt or expand on and posted in their entirety without changing a thing

What follows falls into the third category and is from Mark Batterson who is the lead pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC. It was posted on his website on October 27, 2011.

It is lengthy, but well worth the read…thanks Mark!

“As we approach our annual planning retreat and evaluation season, I feel like its time for me to do a self-evaluation.  Here are Seventeen reminders for leaders:

1. Tough decisions only get tougher.

You are only one decision away from a totally different life. I believe that. One change in diet or exercise can radically change your health status. One change in spiritual disciplines can open up new dimensions of grace and power.  One change in a relationship can lead to intimacy.  What do you need to stop doing or start doing?  Your destiny isn’t a mystery. Your destiny is the cumulative decisions you make.  What tough decision do you need to make?  What are you waiting for?

2. Negativity is cancer.  Kill it or it will kill you.

I am wide open to rebuke.  Constructive criticism is the avenue to excellence. But I have zero tolerance for negativity.  How do you stop negativity? Positivity.  One of the ways we do that at NCC is sharing wins before every meeting. It reminds us that God is moving and we get to be part of it. Sharing wins creates positive energy.  And it’s positivity that gives us the energy we need to deal with negativity. Don’t let one staff member, one board member or one small group member hijack what God has called you to captain.

3. No Margin = No Vision.

If you try to be all things to all people you’ll become nothing to nobody.  I have focus days and meeting days. I meet with people on my meeting days. I meet with God on my focus days.  I need days where there is nothing on my agenda so I can read or write, dream or rest.  The lack of margin will kill your creativity.  If you don’t control your calendar, your calendar will control you. It starts with establishing boundaries.  Then you need to guard against the Messiah complex. 

You can’t save everybody.  In fact, you can’t save anybody.  You aren’t doing anybody any favors if you make yourself available to everybody all the time.  Take a break.  Take a day off. Take a vacation. Take a sabbatical.

4. If you listen to God, people will listen to you.

People don’t need a word from me. They need a word from God.  I want my messages to have a prophetic edge to them and that happens when I get into the presence of God.  The presence of God is where problems are solved and dreams are conceived.  Get in the presence of God.  At the end of the day, I am nothing without God’s anointing. I need to keep an ear tuned to the people; but, more importantly, I need to keep an ear tuned to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

5. Don’t let your budget determine your vision.

Too often we allow our budget to determine our vision instead of allowing vision to determine our budget.  That doesn’t mean you hire lots of staff you’ll need to fire. It doesn’t mean you let expenses get out of control. It does mean that you hold tenaciously to this simple truth: when God gives a vision, He makes provision.  You need to budget in a way that gives God the room to do miracles.  And make doubly sure that you have vision beyond your resources.

6. Everything is an experiment

One of the greatest dangers we face as leaders is unintentional blindness. We stop noticing our environment.  When that happens we lose creativity, we lose excellence.  You’ve got to make some mistakes!  You’ve got to take some risks.  Over time there is a cognitive shift from right-brain to left-brain: we stop doing ministry out of imagination and start doing it out of memory.  Do something different.  After all, if you want God to do something new then you can’t keep doing the same old thing.

7. If your life is interesting your messages will be interesting.

The reason why many of our messages lack impact is because they aren’t interesting and they aren’t interesting because we’re not interesting.  Get a life!  You need a life outside of church.  Go on an adventure. Take up a hobby.  Learn something new.

8. Don’t just dream big. Think long.

We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in 2 years, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years.  Zoom out.  Your mantra shouldn’t be “as soon as possible.” It should be “as long as it takes.”  Your vision isn’t just too small. It’s too short.

 9. Put your family first

At the end of the day, I want to be famous in my home.  God has not called me to sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry.  They deserve my best.  Don’t let work become home and home become work.  Success for me is my kids growing up to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Your youth pastor isn’t called to disciple your kids. You are.  You’ll make mistakes, but the secret to successful parenting is this: keep trying, keep forgiving, keep loving.

10. Who you’re becoming is more important than what you’re doing.

Don’t worry about church growth. Focus on personal growth and church growth will take care of itself.  Stay humble. Stay hungry. Make sure you’re doing ministry out of the overflow of what God is doing in your own heart, your own life.  Remember that who you are is more important than what you do.  People over programs…people over portfolios.

11. Work like it depends on you. Pray like it depends on God.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. So plan away. And loving God with all of your strength = a great work ethic.  So work hard.  But I believe in prayer-storming more than brainstorming.  Prayer is the difference between you fighting for God and God fighting for you.  If work is the engine of success, then prayer is the high-octane fuel.

12. If you have something to say, say it.

My greatest regret looking back over fifteen years of preaching?  Simple: I wish I had communicated the gospel more consistently and more clearly.  I should have said it and said it again and again and again.  You cannot over-communicate.  Say it. Then say it over and over again.  Say it in different ways. As a multi-site church we have a mantra: when in doubt, CC.  Another mantra is this: don’t internalize, verbalize.  I don’t want to hear about issues when they’ve become full-blown problems with collateral damage.  Internalizing issues only makes them worse.  And I don’t want to hear it from a third-party. If you have something to say, say it.

13. Be Yourself

Don’t try to be who you’re not.  I’m not trying to be a pastor anymore. I’m trying to be myself.  I’m certainly trying to grow in maturity and gifting, but I’m not worried about who I’m not.  Abraham Lincoln said, “You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time.” Uniformity isn’t the goal. Unity is.  That also doesn’t mean unanimous.  According to the categorization of adopters, 16% of the people you lead will be resisters.

It doesn’t matter if you come down with stone tablets from Mount Sinai.  Even Jesus lost one of his disciples.

14. Don’t live for the applause of people.

My philosophy of ministry is Matthew 10:16: Be shrewd as a snake and innocent as a dove. You’ve got to beat the enemy at his own game and that takes creativity.  But you also need to do the right things for the right reasons and that takes integrity.  Don’t worry about being politically correct.  Be biblically correct. Most of my reward has been forfeited because I was more concerned about “my kingdom” than “thy kingdom.” I was living for the applause of people.  To get to the point where you genuinely care for people you have to get to the point where you don’t care how they feel about you.  Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands.

15. I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas.

Let me say it again: get in the presence of God. Those new ideas are discovered in the context of prayer and fasting and nowhere else. Good ideas are good, but God ideas change the course of history.  There are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet.  Here’s a formula: change of pace + change of place = change of perspective. Sometimes you just need to get out of your routine.

16. Be what you want

If you want to receive honor then you need to give honor. If you want a generous culture, then you’ve got to give sacrificially.  Set the example. Set the bar.  At the end of the day, the strengths and weaknesses of any organization mirror the strengths and weaknesses of the leadership.  Take responsibility for it. Then take action.

17. Enjoy the journey

If you are too focused on the future you’ll fall into the when/then syndrome. When we have “this many people” or “this much money” I’ll be able to enjoy leadership. No you won’t.  You need to enjoy every stage.  For the record, it will only get harder.  It will only get more complicated. Sin will complicate your life in negative ways.  Blessings will complicate your life in positive ways. When I got married it complicated my life. Praise God. We have three complications named Parker, Summer and Josiah. I can’t imagine life without those complications.  So count the cost and keep on keeping on.”


Six things to ask yourself when putting people on your leadership team

1.  Does this person have the gift of leadership?  

If you are inviting people on your team who will oversee others, they need to have the gift of leadership to be able to lead a team and motivate those on their teams. Do they have clear leadership ability as well as the capacity and the passion to lead others well?

2.  Does this person think strategically? 

Can this person work on what’s at hand and also plan and think about what’s coming--or isn’t yet in place or happening?  You need people who can think beyond daily details. They need to be comfortable with both the microscope and the telescope.

3.  Is this person a team thinker rather than a solo thinker?

Is this person able to work in their own area and, at the same time, show interest and concern for the rest of the team and the bigger picture?  You can’t afford to have solo or turf thinking that works to the detriment of the team.

4.  Is this person in alignment with the DNA of the organization? 

Is he/she in agreement with the purpose, values, vision and strategic direction of your organization? You need purity at the leadership level. Sports broadcaster Brent Musburger made the comment that some people on certain sports teams are not only not on the same page as the rest of the team, but are not even in the same library. That cannot and must not be true of anyone on your team. This will hurt you more than anything I can think of.

5.  Does this person bring something unique to the team you would otherwise be missing?

If everyone on your team thought and functioned alike, some of them would be unnecessary. Every person on your team should add something that otherwise would be missing. Each person should be contributing something that otherwise would not be contributed. You don’t want people just like you, as nice as you think that would be. You need a variety of personalities and points of view.

6.  Is this person a lifelong learner?

Ideally, you’ll identify people who will grow with your organization. It does no good to have someone who thinks he has all the answers, because tomorrow the questions will be different. You need people who embrace leadership development for themselves and their teams. When you stop learning, you stop leading.



Five Unity Killers

These are adapted from "Entreleadership" by Dave Ramsey and expanded upon by me.

Every team strives to establish and maintain unity. Without unity it will be rough sledding.

Looking at it from the negative point of view, here are five things that, over time, will be the death knell for teams and, more than likely, negate anything you might be accomplishing.

1. Poor communication:  Insufficient, inaccurate or missing communication hurts team morale and hinders excellence in goal achievement. Better to over communicate than to keep secrets and open the door for speculation and mistrust. The larger the group or organization, the more effort needs to be invested in effective, timely and inclusive communication. Everyone is on information overload and you have to give time and attention to your communication. Too much is at stake not to.

2.  Lack of purpose, values and vision:  Any strategic objectives that are established need be based on purpose, values and vision or they can result in a perfection of means and a confusion of ends. Purpose speaks to why we exist, values speak to what we believe and vision speaks to where we are going. People want to know how their work relates to the bigger picture. This will keep motivation high.

3. Gossip:  Dave Ramsey shares that he would fire people for being company gossips. We have developed the habit of talking about people rather than talking to people. Nothing can kill teamwork and trust faster than gossip. This is a sin denounced in scripture but accepted in most organizations with which I have worked.

4.  Unresolved conflicts:  By his grace, work at keeping short accounts with the people in your team. Strive for creating a culture of candor, not a culture of fear. We should hold each other accountable for agreed-upon results and behavior instead of gossiping about each other or holding grudges against one another. Instead, let’s speak the truth in love, as Ephesians 4:15 encourages us to do; not so loving that we are untruthful, but neither so truthful that we are unloving. Good leadership is built on loving integrity.

 5. Sanctioned incompetence: When you tolerate or overlook obvious and blatant incompetence, you set yourself up for diminished team excellence and achievement. Some of this would be avoided if we did a better & more thorough job of assessing and hiring on the front end. When we see incompetence, we need to find out if it is a:

  • Leadership hiring issue (didn't do a good job in the hiring phase);
  • Personal issue that the person is going through  (give them time to turn it around);
  • Training issue that, if addressed, would turn incompetence into excellence;

 Keep your eyes open for these unity killers and you will have a great team, for His glory!