Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stupid Leadership Mistakes

Tony Morgan is the executive director of ministries at West Ridge Church near Atlanta. He’s also a strategist, coach, writer, speaker and consultant who equips leaders and churches to impact their communities for Christ. More important, he has a passion for the people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith.

The following list was delivered by Tony at the 2008 Church Solutions Conference, but portions of it have also appeared in his latest book, Killing Cockroaches. Not only does this book have a great title, but it's full of helpful advice for church leaders. Got cockroaches in your life - reach for this book, not the bug spray!

1. Hiring too fast and firing too slow. The right people don't need to be managed--they just need to be pointed in the right direction. Jim Collins said, "If the person came to tell you that he or she is leaving to pursue an exciting new opportunity, would you feel terribly disappointed or secretly relieved?" If you'd be relieved, it's time for them to go.

2. Putting the projects before the people. Ecclesiastes 7:18 says, "The man who fears God will avoid all extremes." This is one of those areas where we need to embrace the tension between relating with people and accomplishing the mission/getting the job done.

3. Trying to fix the problem rather than the process. It's like continuing to change diapers instead of potty-training your kids. You can either continue to react to the problem, or you can fix the process. 90% of the time it's a systems-problem rather than a people-problem.

4. Delegating tasks instead of responsibility. I told the story of the three little pigs. "if all I've known is straw houses and I control every detail of their construction, then my leadership will never generate brick house ideas."

5. Assuming it's always black and white. Following rules is easier than the messiness of relationships. Following rules is easier than discerning God's will. The policies or guidelines we establish should actually remove barriers and allow more freedom within our organizations. But, innovative organizations don't value the rules over the mission.

6. Not following my gut. (...or is that the Holy Spirit?) Sometimes when I'm facing a big decision, I try to acquire more information rather than seek God's direction. When we stop listening to God, he stops talking to us. God stopped talking to Abraham for 13 years between the last verse of Genesis 16 and the first chapter of 17. And, sometimes, God requires us to take a step, in faith, before he reveals his plan. Check out Joshua 3.

7. Dwelling on the worst case scenario. I have the spiritual gift of discernment. That can be a positive gift when God's in control of my life. When I try to take control, that "gift" turns into sin. It's called worry or anxiety. I've wasted way too much time worrying about challenges or problems that never happened. This is my biggest area of vulnerability. What's yours?

8. Waiting until there's a problem to provide feedback. I'm encouragement-challenged. My tendency is to only speak up when expectations aren't met. That can create a culture of fear. I need to discipline myself to encourage my team. As Tom Peters has said, "Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes."

9. Staying busy. I've too often made the mistake of assuming that since I'm busy I'm adding value. It's very possible to be constantly busy and be completely ineffective. By the way, email can be the biggest trap of all. If I wanted to, I could spend every hour of every day processing email and getting absolutely nothing accomplished.

10. Spending too much time on the details rather than the dreams. Perry (Noble, Tony's pastor at Newspring) showed me this one. Check out Genesis 11:31-32. Terah intended to go to Canaan. Instead he stopped in Haran. He got stuck there for 205 years. Then he died. Why? Was it disobedience? Did he lose sight of God's vision? Did he just get too comfortable? Did he settle for less than God's best? When I get too focused on responding to the urgent, I lose sight of the big picture. And, frankly, my tendency is to settle into a routine that's very comfortable but doesn't accomplish the full mission God has for my life and my ministry.

Tony's closing comment: Those are my leadership mistakes. They are a reflection of my personality. They also reflect the sin that's sometimes present in my life. Your list likely looks different. But, do you know your list? You should. Ask yourself. Ask your spouse. Ask your team. Ask God. Don't settle.

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