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When leaders do things the hard way, the church follows the same road. The church can end up slowed, stalled or stuck. Like you, I love the church and hate to see it struggle when there is a better way.
Leadership in the local church is never easy, but there are specific behaviors that are relatively easy to avoid that will make your leadership journey so much more productive and enjoyable.
These five behaviors may speak to you personally, or perhaps this will help you coach a staff member or a friend.
5 Behaviors of Leaders Who Do Things the Hard Way:
1. Leaders who don't listen.
They lose touch with vital information. When people don't feel heard, they feel devalued. Soon there is a distance between the leader and his or her followers. In time that lack of connection will cost dearly.
Listening is a skill, so it can be learned. In today's fast-paced, high-tech culture, personal communication is more important than ever. It's tough to be a good listener when you are under pressure and out of time, but learning to listen is nonetheless an essential skill for every good leader.
Good listening begins with empathy. It's important to feel what the person is saying, not just catch the facts. Make a connection and identify with what's on their mind. Then follow the basics. Keep an open mind, and don't jump to conclusions. Don't interrupt or get defensive. Ask good questions for clarification and understanding. And thank people for sharing their thoughts with you.
2. Leaders who don't trust.
Maybe you've been burned, or perhaps it's difficult for you to let go. Or possibly you have a gift of discernment and believe you have reason not to trust. Leaders who struggle with trust have difficulty developing people, building teams, and growing the church.
Trust is not a skill; it's more like a gift. It's something you extend by your will—it's a choice you make. Reasonable trust isn't blind, and prudence is appropriate, but ultimately trust is something you extend until you have reason to retract it.
In order to empower people, you must trust them with responsibility. It's essential to believe in them and give them the benefit of the doubt. Trust always involves risk, and leaders must risk in order to take new territory.
Trust may not come easily to you, but practice trusting God (Prov. 3:4-6). Then focus on trusting the leaders closest to you, and in time extend your trust to others.
3. Leaders who don't ask for help.
When I was a young leader, I didn't like to ask for help. I thought I should have all the answers. As I reflect on those early years, that's just comical; I barely knew what the questions were! Looking back, I can cut myself some slack, as I mentioned, I was young. But when I meet seasoned leaders who still don't want to ask for help, I know they are doing things the hard way.
Here's the good news. People want to help! Whether you are asking for advice, looking for ideas, or asking someone to serve on a ministry team, people feel valued when needed. When you genuinely care about people, and you are devoted to the mission, they are honored at the opportunity to be helpful. Don't hesitate to ask.
If you are fearful of a no, remember that if you don't ask, it's a no for sure.
4. Leaders who won't change.
Resistance to change may cross the line from doing things the hard way to choosing to fail even if that choice is unintentional.
Candidly, I don't think leaders resist change so much as they don't perceive any margin to implement change. If you are overloaded, overwhelmed and overworked change is the last thing you want to embrace. If your church is busy, change is exhausting.
Change is about transition, and successful transitions require margin. Change often requires thinning out your calendar, and even some ministries to make room for change. You need time to think, plan and communicate.
As you consider the areas in your church that are in need of change, begin to simultaneously reflect on how to create room or margin so that change can be implemented. (What can you cut or postpone?)
5. Leaders who don't rest and play.
I think leaders are getting better at this. We've learned the extreme cost of consistent overwork and no rest.
There are times when we all must press the pedal to the metal and keep going. But the normal rhythms of life and ministry require rest and time to play.
Do you have a hobby? What is fun for you? Would your friends say you laugh easily and often? How's your day off working? Are you grumpy at home or does your family love to see you?
It can be difficult to shut your leadership engines off for a while in order to rest and play, but I don't need to convince you of the wisdom here. My hope is to encourage you to be consistent, and I promise:
Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.
This article originally appeared at danreiland.com.
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