Entries by Dave Kraft (1143)


9 Hidden Things That Make Or Break Leaders

Every leader in his/her heart of hearts wants to finish well. Each wants to continue to grow, to learn and do things that make them better leaders, not break them making them worse leaders. Here are some excellent ideas from Caryey Nieuwhof on “Hidden things that make or break leaders.”

Originally posted by Carey Nieuwhof

So you’ve noticed something.

Your ability to lead well seems to fluctuate.

Some days (and seasons) you seem to be in top shape. You have energy and enthusiasm, a clear mind and your decision making is sharp.

But on other days (and in other seasons) you’re sluggish, fuzzy or so burdened down you feel like you can’t lead anything well.

What gives?

What I’ve learned in leadership is that on most days, there are hidden factors at work. These hidden factors can make you excel, or they can completely work against you.

Knowing what’s at work in the background can be tremendously liberating. Once you realize what’s helping or hurting you, you can deal with it.

So what hidden factors threaten to make or break you as a leader?

Here are 9 I’ve identified at work in my leadership. You’ll notice many have to do with a leader’s mind, while a few are more physical. You’ve likely seen them at work in the background of your life and leadership too. Understand them, and you’re ahead. Miss them, and you’re behind (again).

It should be no surprise so many of the factors are in your mind. Leadership, after all, is a mind game.

Work at the mental aspect of leadership and you’ll discover what many leaders have discovered: changing your mind about how you lead, feel and think changes everything.

And while not all 9 are critical issues, wise leaders know these are the factors that make or break them. So they make sure they leverage them to make them, not break them.

1. Weight

Anyone who has led anything remotely significant is familiar with the weight of leadership.

The weight of leadership is the sense of responsibility you carry that goes with your job.

The problem is it never turns off easily.

It follows you home. It accompanies you to bed. It travels with you on vacation.

It’s hard to shake the weight of leadership. You feel it because you are the leader, and you’re likely the leader because you’re the kind of person who feels it.

So what can help lift the weight of leadership? A few things:

Naming it

Doing something fun (the power of distraction)


Talking to a friend or mentor who understands

When it’s appropriate, the weight of leadership can spur you toward leading better.  But when it crushes you, all of the benefits of feeling responsible for what you lead disappear.

2. Pace

Many leaders run hard. But you can only run so hard so long.

For many of you, it’s been too long.

Any leader can run hard for a season, but it becomes counterproductive to run hard all the time.


Your mood tanks. Your fatigue rises. Your productivity drops.

And—bottom line—it’s unsustainable.

Smart leaders ask themselves: Am I living in a way today that will help me thrive tomorrow? If not, why not?

3. Lack Of Sleep

I’ve written about sleep before, and I’ve become a sleep evangelist of sorts over the last decade.

Frankly, my conversion was involuntary. I used to pride myself on how little sleep I got. Now, most days, I unapologetically nap during the day and generally get 6-8 hours every night.

The truth is, before I started taking sleep seriously, I was awake, but I was a zombie. And despite being awake more hours, I wasn’t nearly as productive as I am today.

To say I’ve been 10x more productive since I started taking sleep seriously is probably not an exaggeration. I wanted to write a book all through my 30s. Never got a manuscript done.

I’ve written 4 books in the last 8 years. Plus launched this blog, started speaking at conferences more often, and worked full time on top of that.

I find when I cheat sleep now, it feels like my world comes crashing down. If I can call an audible and simply admit “Man, I’m tired” and get some rest, things come back into alignment surprisingly fast.

4. The Amount Of Time Since Your Last Break

Leaders are often famous for taking little time off.

Like missing sleep, you make a mistake when you don’t make the time to recharge.

I’ve discovered over the years that if I am going to operate at my peak, I need a break or a diversion every 6-8 weeks, if even for a day. An extra day off, a short trip or something that can refuel me (even if it’s somewhat work related) is often really restorative.

The longer it’s been since your last break, the longer it will take for you to feel truly great again. So take a break.

5. What’s Happening At Home

Too often leaders think they can separate what happens at work from what happens at home.

Leading poorly at home always impacts how you lead at work. Just like you carry the weight of leadership around with you wherever you go, you also carry the weight of a bad marriage or a fractured family with you wherever you go.

If you win at work but lose at home, you’ve lost.

6. Constant Connectivity

You can leave work, but thanks to your phone, work never leaves you.

I’m a connected guy, but even I found the constant buzzing of my phone to be too much.

Last year I turned off all notifications on my phone except for phone calls and text messages. And I’m selective about giving out my cell number.

I no longer feel my phone vibrate every time someone emails me, tweets me, likes a pic on Instagram or interacts on Facebook or Snapchat.

This isn’t just a tip for home; it helps at work too. It’s very hard to do any thinking if your phone is buzzing every minute, which for a season of my life it was.

Since your work no longer leaves you, you need to leave your work.

Another change I made last year: sleeping with my phone in another room, turned off. Yep, I know that’s radical. I use an old school alarm clock to wake me up. Most of the time, I’ve slept so well I wake up before the alarm. Imagine that.

7. Your Spiritual State

As a Christian, I believe everything starts and ends with God.

Your ability to give love is directly related to how deeply you receive love. Your ability to love is like a bank account: you can only withdraw what has been deposited. Make too many withdrawals, and you go bankrupt.

As you know, leadership is a series of withdrawals. So you better make some deposits.

There is no greater source of love than God.

So, if you want:

To love the people you lead, it starts with God.

Wisdom, it comes from God.

To exude grace, that also comes from God.

When you sever a limb from the tree, it’s only a matter of time until it withers.

8. Nutrition

Almost all food is brain food. Not all of it is good, but all of it affects your brain.

And if you’re paid to think (like many who read this blog are), your nutrition is critical.

Skipping meals, loading up on sugar and otherwise eating poorly impacts everything from your energy level to your blood sugar levels to your ability to think clearly.

I know for me, eating well is essential. Sometimes when I’m getting upset or angry, I realize it’s likely due to the fact I haven’t eaten or I’ve eaten poorly.

9. Change Of Venue

I realized a long time ago that I am deeply impacted by two things:

Choice of venue

Being in a single venue for too long

Sometimes, you simply have to step away from the screen, get out of the office and change the scenery.

In fact, I find my best ideas come to me when I’m not behind a computer screen or I’m within the first hour of a fresh venue.

Ideas I love often come to me when I’m cycling, doing yard work, in a fresh place (or favourite place that isn’t an office), or doing anything that doesn’t require me to sit behind a screen and write.

As a result, I have 3 or 4 ‘offices’ I use regularly, ranging from space at our church to a home office to the back porch to our living room.

Sometimes all I need to do to get fresh perspective is change venues.

What Do You Think?

These are 9 largely silent factors that impact my leadership.

What are you discovering? What helps you be at your best? What hinders you from doing your best?




The sin among Christian leaders we don't want to talk about. It's not what you think it is.

As Christians, we easily come down on whatever sins have made our list of “unacceptables.”  Getting drunk, sleeping around as a single, cheating on one’s spouse, and addictions of one kind or another. Then there is another list that we turn the other way on, sweep under the carpet; gossip, anger, judgementalism, and the one I want to address today-coveting.

Coveting starts with comparing. It’s been a problem and a temptation for me for as long as I can remember. In high school I was often guilty of it. I got my sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-identity by comparing myself with others. How was I looking, how was I doing, how was I viewed by others; my grades, my clothes, my athletic prowess, my popularity with girls?

In the leadership realm comparing/coveting is a huge issue. I have been to more leadership meetings than I care to remember where this was as obvious as the nose on your face and painful and embarressing to watch.

When pastors from the same denomination, or leaders from the same organization, have their periodic meetings, the “comparing/coveting games” begin in earnest. In most leadership meetings, it is not uncommon to have “Mr. or Ms. Successful” who became the poster child for what I should be like and be experiencing. It usually depresses me. We compare and then covet other’s buildings, budgets, attendance, worship, technology, influence, popularity, blog and web traffic, etc.

Recently I read Acts 20-Paul’s last meeting with the Ephesian Elders. Verse 33 caught my attention, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” My journal entry for the day read as follows:

Jesus, to be content with who I am, where I am, what I'm doing and what You're doing. To covet nothing but a dynamic and anointed walk and work with you. To cling to you and you alone.”

 As I have been thinking more on this, here are two other verses that came to mind:

 Luke 12:15 (ESV), "Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness"

I Corinthians 4:7 (The Message), “Isn’t everything you are and everything you have sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?”

Comparing almost always leads to coveting and competing.  It is a slap in the face of God. I am, in essence, telling Him that He is doing a lousy job. It is missing the sovereign hand of God in my life and in my work.

Coveting , not only silver, gold and apparel, but status, popularity, fruitfulness and influence is an acceptable sin in too many leadership cultures, but is disgusting in the eyes of God. Living in a celebrity worshipping culture doesn' help matters any. Some successful leaders are viewed as "Rock Stars" with their cult-like following.

Whatever happened to godly contentment?  Have we as leaders replaced contentment with coveting? Anything you need to confess fellow leader?



Why organizations don't or won't change!

Leaders are change agents. The organizations, churches or groups they lead should be focused on needed changes to stay relevant to their purpose and vision.

Some organizations don’t change and eventually can go out of business where it be a church or a marketplace organization. Dan Rockwell shares some reasons why organizations, don’t or won’t change which can eventually lead to their demise.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

Why organizations don’t change

Robert J. Anderson and William A.  Admans have written a book Mastering Leadership  with big promises that invites leaders on a journey of transformation. They promise to provide readers with the first fully integrated model of leadership development.

What follows is a narrow, inadequate glimpse into their work.

“Leaders develop, if they develop, through a series of sequential stages …. To ignore this reality is to jeopardize our efforts to transform organizations….”

“Much ‘resistance to change’ is actually the struggle people have with reorganizing their identity.”

Five Levels of Leadership

“Each new level is a triumph of development.”

#1. Egocentric leadership

  1. What can you do for me?
  2. Overly independent.
  3. Lack of self-awareness. You do not see that you live to get your own needs met.
  4. Lack of shared reality.
  5. Autocratic and controlling. “My way or the highway.”

#2. Reactive leadership

  1. Living up to and into the expectations of others.
  2. Defined by outside in, not inside out.
  3. Worth and security are based on strengths and capabilities.
  4. Three forms of reactive leadership:
    • Complying. Need to be seen as kind, caring, and supportive.
    • Controlling. I am my achievements.
    • Protecting. Intellectually superior and emotionally distant.

#3. Creative leadership

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I care most about?
  3. What do I stand for?
  4. How can I make my life and my leadership a creative expression of what matters most?

#4. Integral Leadership

  1. Capable of leading amid complexity.
  2. Systems thinking.
  3. Concern for the welfare of the whole system.
  4. Focus on vision both inside and outside an organization.
  5. Servant leadership fully emerges.
  6. Avoid quick fixes and over-simplification.
  7. Hold opposing viewpoints. Embrace rather than avoid compexity.

#5. Unitive Leadership

“… the astonishing oneness underlying and just behind diversity becomes obvious.”

Transforming Organizations

You must grow and develop if you expect your organization to do the same. The journey begins, for most of us, at level one.

“… personal transformation precedes organizational transformation…”

Organizations transform as their leaders transform. New structures and systems succeed when they express who we are.

“The evolution of the individual and organization are interdependent….”

What levels of leadership have you seen?

How do leaders grow and develop?




Are your decisive or plain dictatorial? Find out.

I think it is non-controversial to state that one of the key elements of being a successful leader is the ability to make timely and good decisions. When sufficient information has been obtained and when adequate thought has been given to the clearly positive advantages and potentially negative aspects of the decision under consideration, the best leaders are then willing to pull the trigger, bite the bullet and own the decision.

No procrastination, no second-guessing what has now been decided, no blaming others or making excuses if the decision turns out to not having been a good one.  It was Ted Engstrom, a past president of World Vision who 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.”

The higher you are in an organization, the more responsibility you carry and there is more riding on each decision made. The bottom line though, is that leaders make decisions--that’s what leaders do! 

Here are a few things ou can count on as you make decisions--especially the controversial and difficult ones:

  • Some will like your decision(s);
  • Some will not like your decision(s);
  • Some will not understand why you made the decision(s);
  • Some will understand why you made the decision(s), but still not like it;
  • Some won’t care what you decide;
  • Some will leave because of the decision(s) you made.

 So, making decisions (especially the tough, agonizing and controversial ones) goes with the territory in being a leader. People in teams, in work groups and in any church or organizations expect leaders to make decisions. Nothing wrong here…so far! 

But there can come a point in time where this leadership responsibility, the expectations of those being led and the ability to be decisive goes south and the leader is now seen as domineering (See I Peter 5:3 and an earlier post on this topic titled “Not Domineering”) dictatorial, autocratic and egotistical. 

What started out well is now perceived as bad and unacceptable. How does this happen?

Let me take a stab at exploring how it happens:

1.  The leader has come to believe that no one in the room is as bright and gifted as he/she is;

2.  The leader begins to value his/her own thinking and decisions as being superior to everyone else’s;

3.  The leader now begins to make decisions in isolation, without discussing them with anyone;

4.  The leader is not open to having anyone question a proposed decision;

5.  The leader is not open to considering any alternative decisions or ideas on the issue at hand;

6.  The leader becomes angry when his/her proposed decision is challenged or questioned;

7.  The leader begins creating a culture of fear where honest and appropriate dissent and honest questions are not welcomed and people are afraid to disagree with anything the leader thinks or says.

8.  As a leader, it is critically important that you process with your people… not pronounce to your people what you’re thinking or deciding.

When you have a meeting (which I hope you would do regularly) to discuss key decisions needing to be made, your goal as a leader should be to go into a meeting with a decision that you are thinking of making and walk out with a better and more well-thought-through decision after receiving honest feedback.

What starts out as an admirable trait and quality (being decisive) can, over time, morph into a negative leadership style (dictatorial) that will, in the long run, cause more harm than good and result in many good and creative people leaving. Those remaining may keep great (and sometimes better) ideas to themselves out of fear.

“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, he said, and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you.” Mark 10:42,43 (The Message)

My fellow leader and follower of Jesus, his words to his close disciples then are just as needful for us to hear now!: “It’s not going to be that way with you.”



Strong Churches work like a healthy team

If I’ve learn one thing through the years, (and  learned it the hard way )it is to not try to do things alone but build healthy teams of complementary people to work with me.  Here is Rick Warren sharing some excellent thoughts on teams in local churches.

Originally posted by Rick Warren

Strong Churches work like a healthy team

I first began to understand the importance of teams as a seminary student when I did a study of the 100 largest churches in the United States. I asked them a series of questions related to staff and ministry, and the study showed strong churches have a strong team spirit.

These churches created a strong team spirit by combining two things: a common goal with good communication.

As you build your ministry team, you need to make sure both of these elements are present, because …

1.  You can have people working on the same project but not communicating with each other: they are not functioning as a team.

2.  You can have people who communicate well, but are not working toward the same goal: they are not functioning as a team, even if you call them that.

Let me give you some foundation on why I think this is important:

First, the body of Christ functions as a team ministry.
Romans 12:4-5 says that, just as there are many parts to our bodies, likewise there are many parts to Christ’s Body. Essentially, God designed it so that we all need each other to have a fully functioning ministry and EVERY ONE of your staff members (or lay ministry leaders) plays an important role. The very fact that the church is a body and not a business means that teamwork is more important to those of us in ministry than it is to people in a normal business relationship.

Nobody has cornered the market on all the gifts it takes to make a church successful. If you only surround yourself with people who mirror your strengths, then the church is going to have problems. For instance, I can see the big picture, but in order to make that vision a reality I need other people around me who can hammer it into a reality. You don’t want to hand me the hammer. I might hurt someone!

The problem that I see with a lot of pastors, and I’m being frank here, is that too many of us are afraid to admit there are some things we cannot do. In a sense, the first real step toward teamwork is for you to admit you need a team.

The success of Saddleback is not about Rick Warren. The success of Saddleback is really about the many people who worked together toward a common goal. No doubt I provided the vision, but it’s guys like Glen Kreun, who came on staff two years after I founded the church, who turned the vision into a reality.

That’s why, at Saddleback, I intentionally choose staff people with strengths that compensate for my weaknesses. I think the secret of a good church is that you hire people who are smarter than you, particularly in areas that you know nothing about.

Second, teams accomplish more than individuals working separately.
This principle is taught all through Scripture. When there are more hands working, more can be accomplished. One example of this is found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, where we’re told that two are better than one, and a rope of three cords is hard to break. Another example of teams accomplishing more than individuals is in Nehemiah, where people worked by groups or families.

In the New Testament, Jesus sent people out by two to minister (Mark 6:7). Luke, in Acts 18, specifically mentions four people who were part of Paul’s ministry team.

This mutual encouragement is vital to your ministry because you’re NOT just working on well-meaning projects: you are in a spiritual battle — carrying the most important message the lost world will ever hear! The devil wants to defeat you, and one of his favorite tools is discouragement. That’s why you need a team working with you, whether you’re a senior pastor over a large staff or the only paid staff member at the church.

Third, a strong team is not threatened by disagreement.
Remember there are two essentials to teamwork: a common goal and good communication. In order to have good communication, people have to be willing to express their opinions no matter how different they are from everyone else’s.

Peter Drucker says if only one side is being presented in a discussion, then THINKING is not taking place. So, if the people on your team are not coming up with more than one opinion on a particular idea or project, then chances are not a lot of thinking is taking place. Or maybe they ARE thinking, but they’re AFRAID to express their opinions.

You need to create a team environment where people are not afraid to say something stupid, where they are not afraid to make a mistake. And you need to make sure you are not threatened by disagreement.