Thursday, February 28, 2013

Avoid these leadership pitfalls

I just finished reading The Five Pillars of Leadership: How to Bridge the Leadership Gap by Paul Meyer and Randy Slechta.  This is a good book for anyone leading any organization including those who are in bivocational ministry.  Near the end of the book they list several leadership pitfalls to avoid that I thought was especially valuable to those of us in ministry.
  • Doing too much.  Many of us in ministry are not good at delegating which results in our feeling overwhelmed at times.  It also makes us much less effective in our work because we are trying to do too many things rather than focusing on what we do best and allowing others who are more gifted in other areas to do those things.
  • Doing too little.  There are some things that cannot be delegated.  They are our responsibility, and if we shirk them we run the risk of being out-of-touch with our congregation.  Some bivocational ministers use their second job as a reason to not work as hard as they should in their ministry position, but we must realize that some functions of our ministry must be handled personally by us or we are not fulfilling God's call upon our lives.
  • Failing to recognize personal growth needs.  I meet too many ministers who neglect their own personal needs for growth.  A survey I did of bivocational ministers in 2004 found that a high percentage of them had not attended one ministry-related continuing education event in the previous three years.  We all have room to grow and develop and to not develop a plan for personal growth is to short-change our ministries and our churches.
  • Acceptance of mediocre performance.  There should be one goal in every aspect of ministry...excellence.  That does not mean perfection.  Too often people in leadership are willing to allow themselves or others to provide mediocre performance, and that should never be acceptable in a church setting.  We may need to provide additional training or better resources, but we should always strive for excellence in everything we do.
  • Failure to use team member potential.  Just because someone has been doing something for years doesn't mean that he or she has reached his or her potential.  Perhaps moving someone to a different position better suited to his gifts or her passions would enable them to serve more effectively.  Providing training can often lift a person's performance. each person on a team grows, the entire organization grows.
  • Guarding the status quo.  I've learned over the years that many leaders dislike change as much as the members of their congregations do.  It's easier to maintain the status quo.  Everyone knows their roles in the old system, and we can avoid a lot of the conflict that occurs in churches when change is introduced.  When I was a bivocational pastor I knew that every change I proposed would require more out of me than I had been giving, but I also knew the status quo would eventually lead to a dying church.
  • Ignoring problems and postponing solutions.  I am the classic conflict-avoider.  I hate conflict and used to avoid it as long as possible.  I had to learn the hard way that the best time to address conflict is before it occurs.  That's called planning.  The second best time to address it is as soon as it occurs.  Conflict seldom goes away.  It may disappear for a season, but it will soon reappear, and it's often much worse when it does.
  • Poor communication.  Communication involves both listening and speaking.  Poor communication can occur when we fail to listen well to what others are telling us.  It also occurs when we fail to communicate information clearly and accurately.  More than once I've told conflicted churches that much of their problems were the direct result of poor communication.  A good rule of thumb for leaders is that if you do not feel like you are over-communicating you are probably not communicating enough.
The authors go into more detail on each of these pitfalls on pages 149-152.  Again, this is a good book filled with sound leadership practices for anyone in a leadership role.  One of the things I liked about the book is that it is not a book about leadership theory.  It is a book filled with practical advice for persons in leadership positions.  As a bivocational minister I am always looking for the practical, and this book delivers it.

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