February 1, 2007

10 Mistakes Smart Leaders Make

Awhile back I found this article at Fast Company. The article talks about the mistakes that smart leaders make. They don't intend to make them. While the mistakes are often glaring and obvious, no one is willing to risk their career to tell the leader about them.

We could kill ourselves making a list of all the mistakes that bad leaders make, but these seem to be some mistakes that can be common to those who are good leaders. They just fail to see these flaws that eventually escalate into something much larger.I think these are the very common mistakes that Pastors and Church Planters often make when leading their churches.

Here are the characteristics with some of my thoughts:

Avoid confrontation – Pastors really want to be liked. We don't want anyone to leave our church. Well...we do want some people to leave, but we hate the confrontation necessary and catastrophic results that are often involved when we do. I think the first thing we have to do is face the fact that almost every decision we make is going to be hated by someone. Every time we make a decision, we are determining who we are going to upset.

Hire advisors, but don't listen to them – My ego wants to think that I can do things on its own. It doesn't need anyone's help. So many of us make the mistake of not seeking out a mentor or of having a mentor and then doing whatever we want anyway.

Don't accept when they're wrong – Fear is the greatest cause of this failure. What will others think of me if I admit that I made a wrong decision? What will happen to my leadership influence? To be honest, when a person admits when they are wrong, their influence often goes up. People respect those who own up to their mistakes, but they also stone them.

Avoid dealing with reality – The reality is that the church is not being very effective in extending the Kingdom of God in most cases. The other problem is that most churches and pastors either aren't owning up to it or they just don't realize it. reality has to be faced, and a solution found to change our world.

Wait too long or not long enough to cut their losses – There comes a time when things have to end or be killed off. Too often we allow programs to continue long after their effectiveness due date. If they can give a can of pop or beer a "born on" date, we should be able to give programs (and churches) a born on date and kill it off after its time is over.

Focus too much on strategy .vs execution – Nike says, "Just Do It!" Steve Sjogren says, "Ready, Fire, Aim!" The truth in all of these is that strategy and ideas are seductive, but the proof is in the doing. I just browsed through a local book store and got tired of all the books that are in love with ideas that have no connection to reality. I love theology books, but that theology must be livable. Just because someone uses big words doesn't mean it isn't livable, it just means they are using big words. Sometimes, though, it is hard to tell the difference.

Trust analysis over instinct – We can be crippled by analysis. When I first started planting the church in Missouri, I was enamored by all the people that were in the area. Once I was on-site, however, I discovered that analysis couldn't tell me that people travel in psychological patterns. They will go 10 miles in one direction because they always go that way and it seems natural, but they won't go 5 miles in the other direction because it "feels" far away. Analysis couldn't have told me that. There are also programs and ideas that just feel right and they work, even though analysis says otherwise.

Trust instinct over analysis – My GreatGrandfather always said, "Everyone's ind-stinks!" I don't know why that is here other than the small connection, but whatever! Anyway, our instincts are not always correct. Planning is important because most of the time planning works. Combine this with the previous point, and we discover that calculate risk works. Not balance...balance is often wishy-washy. Play aggressive...play to win...but also play the odds.

Favoritism – This seems biblical. Oh, yeah, it is! Each person is valuable. They have something to offer that no one else can offer. This doesn't mean that you won't click with some people more than others or that you should kill yourself investing time into everyone. But it does mean that everyone needs to know they are valued.

Minimize the importance of what they don't understand – Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean that it isn't important. There are a lot of things that we don't understand, but need to be addressed. If we can't do it, then we need to find help from someone who does.

What are some of the mistakes you have seen smart leaders make? What would you add to the list?

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