Leaders Own It

Every organization and leader drops the ball from time to time. Details slip, assignments are missed, and it’s usually the people downstream who suffer for it. When that happens, it’s too late to undo the past. What can be done is to acknowledge what went wrong and what you will do differently in the future. Failing to do this sends a message that leaders are either unaware or unconcerned.

People do not expect perfection from leaders. They do expect that when mistakes are made, the leaders at the top will own it.

Providential Disagreement

As I’ve mentioned before, it bothers me when pastors and leaders expect absolute loyalty from those they lead. Loyalty is something earned as people begin to trust you. It’s not something you can demand without eroding the relationship. Furthermore, honest dialog is not a sign that people are “haters” or that they don’t think you are a good leader. It might be that their disagreement is providential.

Paul and Barnabas didn’t agree over who should join them on their missionary endeavors. They parted ways and it led to the spread of the gospel. Not all disagreement is rooted in selfish motives and behaviors. Leaders need to keep that in mind the next time they are tempted to dismiss someone who doesn’t agree with their ideas.

Empowering the Front Lines

I had a dispute recently with my cable company. It’s one of the largest, most hated cable companies in the country. It’s also my only real option for a TV and Internet combo package. The dispute involved money and required a supervisors attention. I understood but was appalled to find out that it would take 72 hours to hear back. Five days later I was still waiting.

I called and was again given the run around. Finally I got a supervisor but he too would not listen. It took threatening cancellation for me to get someone just to listen to my problems and ask what sort of resolution I would like. That’s poor management. It’s also unfair to the front line people. They have to deal with the bulk of complaints and they are powerless. If you want people to love your business, empower the people at the front lines to make decisions.

Re-Evaluating Success

I’ve never known a pastor or leader at a growing church who didn’t credit God (at least publically) for their growth. I don’t doubt they sincerely mean it either. But how many of these leaders are willing to discuss the difficult and culturally unpopular aspects of Scripture? What’s worse, how many resort to using the Bible as a pop-psychology book sprinkling verses around ideas that could just as easily be found in the self-help section at Barnes & Noble?

There’s a warning in this not only for them but for all of us. Be careful how you evaluate “success.” The ends don’t always justify the means nor do they prove what your doing is right.

Leaders > Structure

There is a prevailing belief in many Evangelical circles that in order to have a healthy church, the leadership structure much be patterned as closely as possible after the New Testament. I’m all for following the New Testament. I don’t think the leadership structure seen therein is mandated like some do but there are certainly principles that should be taken into account when evaluating church governance. The problem is that following the text, even to the smallest detail, does not guarantee a healthy church.

The health of a church has more to do with the character and quality of the leaders than it does the structure. A plurality of elders where everyone is equal is useless if those elders are apathetic and divisive. A single leader who has a significant amount of power is not bad if that individual is humble and does not lord it over those he leads. Don’t evaluate a church based solely on it’s leadership structure. Evaluate it based on the people who are leading it. Leaders trump structure every time.

Actual vs. Aspirational

The best leaders are those who can identify areas in their life and leadership that are actual versus aspirational. They are able to honestly assess their gifts and abilities as well as those of the organizations they lead. Instead of denying weakness, they own them and find others who can fill the gap.

In a social media saturated world, the pull toward self-deception is strong. We see what others are doing that we wish we were doing and we begin to convince ourselves that we are actually doing it. When that happens, we start to think we are doing better than what we really are. And that’s not leadership, it’s leaderslip.

Innovation at Any Price

I did a double take at the display to be sure I had seen correctly – fruit punch Oreos? Really? We are going to ruin an American icon to garner a little attention? It seems like marketing has become more about shock and intrigue than actual necessity. “Innovate or die,” say the business experts. I agree. But should we really innovate just for sake of innovation itself?

What if innovation for the sake of innovation has a price – one that can’t be immediately quantified? People are smart. They know when you are getting desperate. And when they sense you are desperate, they know your best days are behind you. They start to look elsewhere. Eventually they tune out your product. When that happens, it’s too late to innovate.