Habits of a Less than Effective Leader

Leadership is big new, big business and a pretty popular topic these days.  I have not been on the leadership bandwagon for one reason, we have a leader and our job is to follow Him.  I have written about being a lead follower in several places, so I won’t rehash that soap box.  Today, I want to cover a few things that will keep you from being an effective leader, or lead follower or whatever you call yourself. Now great men who I highly respect often write about leadership and I don’t want to take away from that.  I read Dr. Rainer’s blog on leadership often, and my goal is not to make light of the issues of being the one making decisions.  The reality, however, is that many times in church work, we have people who’s leadership is less than inspiring.  I have seen some, known some and maybe even worked with some less than stellar leaders.  You can usually tell who they are, they are the ones talking about how great a leader they are.  Here are the common mistakes.

First, don’t only lead the people who are going to same direction you are.  It’s easier to lead the people who agree with you, think like you, and are already going the same way, you simply just have to get in front and say you are the leader.  This isn’t leadership, this is being the guy in front.  I can walk into the mall, get in front of a group of people and call myself the leader, but they would go that way if I was there or not.  Too often people who have different ideas, different goals, dreams or visions are just cast aside.  Being the guy in charge means working to get everyone to a common goal, following the leading of the Spirit in a way that allows everyone to be values, but also changed by the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes this means slowing down, praying a little more and pushing a little less.

Criticizing everyone.  Ever heard a leader who never has anything good to say about anyone, except those who completely and totally agree with them?  It’s not pretty.  There needs to be a recognition that others are valuable, have good and valuable ideas and thoughts, that you or I don’t have the corner on the good idea market.  Many areas have multiple approaches, and if you believe in Sunday School or Small Group, if you like blended services, traditional, contemporary, if you like to wear ties or Hawaiian shirts, there is room for discussion and sometimes even changing your opinion.  Heaven forbid.

Doing everything.  I once heard a leader say they felt like they had to do everything because someone else would screw it up.  Ya, the Bible says that leaders are to equip the saints for the work of the church.  If the leader is doing all the work, the people become merely spectators.  They don’t get involved, they don’t grow and they stop caring.  The same thing happens when we try to put people through Basic Training to make them more like us before they can serve.  In the end, you end up just having people just like you, and we already discussed, that’s not leadership, just walking in the front of the herd.  If Jesus could take 12 men as different as they were and send them out, don’t you think we could follow suit?  Jesus had a Zealot and a Tax Collector in his group, and He made it work.  He promised us His Spirit and power, so what excuse do we have for not being able to get the executive and the welder to work together?

Don’t lie.  This should be a no brainer, but unfortunately I still have to say it.  Don’t hide stuff, don’t make stuff up, don’t take credit for someone else’s work, and don’t lie to folks.  You are not perfect, so don’t try to act like you are.  Take ownership for mistakes, say you are sorry, move on.  Don’t lie and then make excuses for lying.  If you made a bad call, say “I made a bad call”.  Don’t be a martyr, don’t take one for the team, just be honest.  Take your lumps if you have them coming, be honest about your gains and losses, about the ups and downs.  Be honest, be real and be transparent. Don’t try to have all the answers.  If you don’t know, then say you don’t know.  Bad theology begins with making stuff up to avoid looking dumb.  Just say “I don’t know, let’s try to find out together”.  Having an opinion about everything is not usually a good idea.  We call those kinds of people unpleasant names like know-it-all.  There are other opinions out there besides yours, and many of them have merit.  (Are you listening Calvinists and Traditionalists?)  You don’t have all the answers, and there is a possibility you are wrong.  I am sure I am wrong about things, and you are wrong about things too.  I know great men who I disagree with. I once disagreed with something said by DA Carson.  Never have lived that one down.  I disagree with Dave Miller all the time,usually on sports stuff, although we agree about the Nebraska Cornhuskers being evil.

Don’t take credit for God’s stuff.  God builds the church, God sends the people, God saves the people.  Yes, we have responsibility and we have work to do, but if Daniel said “it’s not me, it’s God doing the work” then you should follow suit.  Joseph said “it’s not me, it’s God” although he was the dude standing there.  (I think dude is the proper OT term).  Don’t take credit for being the guy God used, give God the credit for using you.  We don’t give the shovel credit for digging the hole.  I don’t thank the hammer or screw driver every time I pound a nail or turn a screw.  Give God the glory and get out of the way.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but they are things that I am trying to learn.  I know I have not always been the perfect Lead Follower, I have often tripped up, stumbled, got a big head, big mouth or was just simply wrong.  We can all work harder to be better, but in the end, it really comes down to serving God out of love.  Ego is usually dangerous, and if the leader is driven by ego, the troops suffer casualties.  I pray God blesses you and He is glorified.


  1. Dave Miller says

    Whether or not the Nebraska Cornshuckers are evil is not a matter of debate. It is a fact, beyond dispute.

  2. says

    That was a long “First.” Will second, third, etc. be in follow-up postings?

    Seriously though: I appreciate what you are saying. But nothing bores me like leadership. I am a pastor but not, obviously, a good leader. And I don’t have a CLUE what to do about it.

    News Flash: Reading about leadership doesn’t make you a good leader. All the things you described on here are also under the heading of being a “decent individual.” I have good people in my church. I like them! I invite them to participate and they stay away in droves.

    I do a lot in my church because a lot won’t get done! I’ve watched things lay there waiting for someone to take responsibility. I’ve asked people but its too much for them right now, or they are too involved with something else etc. etc. Its not that I WANT to do all I do. I’m thankful for Bi-Vo staff members who do an awful lot as well.

    And some things do get left undone.

    Some people say “You have to have a vision for your church.” Really? My vision is we are a church who obeys Jesus. I have this silly notion that if we live for Christ, Abide in Christ and Worship Christ, then Christ will build His church.
    Apparently I’m wrong; According to all the leadership folks.

    And according to the nickels and noses I’m counting for the SBC-ACP.

    Nope, not leader, I guess.

  3. says

    My heart resonates with you on this one. I, too, am no leader according to all the standards being put forth these days. But I KNOW that God has called me to be the pastor of the small church I serve, and I seem to do my best when I simply love the people in my care.
    I can clearly recall the charge in seminary — If you’re faithful to preach the gospel, then the rest will follow. I have not necessarily found that to be true. I will say this, though. Unless I am faithful to preach the gospel, nothing of any worth will follow.
    Be faithful, my brother. That is the thing to which God has called us.