How good a leader do you think you are?

I recently read an interesting article by Bill Adams, co-founder and CEO of leadership development company Leadership Circle. I have adapted his description of five beliefs which will turn you into a leader that no one wants to work for. I think I have made all these mistakes at one time or another – let’s see how you do!

1. You’re the only one who can really do it right: Have you grown in your capabilities as a leader? Are you pioneering a ministry where others consider you an effective leader? Do you have emerging leaders in your team who have less experience than you? You may answer ‘yes’ to these questions, yet if you’re leading with an attitude of ‘only I can really do it right,’ then your team may be struggling. You will find it hard to delegate and could end up having increased responsibilities with less and less time to fulfil them. If you are in your role for too long, the bar of expertise and knowledge gets higher and higher; it becomes more difficult for a new leader to take on the role from you. And if they do, it’s easy for them to feel overwhelmed or a failure because they can’t measure up to ‘your way of doing it.’

The ‘Founders Syndrome’ is a well-known problem where the initial leader who formed the ministry, maintains disproportionate power and influence over decision making and future development. The founders of a ministry or organisation always have more votes than anyone else! They are the senior partners. They have wisdom, respect and the know-how so we defer to them. Unfortunately, if they are not willing to let go of some authority and responsibility, leaders will move on to another organisation with more freedoms and potential career paths. Remember you haven’t always been able to do it right, you grew into that ability – so others need the opportunity too!

2. You succeed by making your people like you: Are you liked by your team? Do you try to develop rapport and connect with them? Having the personality and skills to be liked by your leaders and staff is not wrong – those things may have well helped you on your journey of moving into leadership but they’re not leadership itself. The ‘gift of the gab’ or an ability to present yourself and speak well may open some doors. However, effective leadership is much more about having a foundation of character that can overflow into good relational, team and communication skills. As we know, every strength has a weakness and being gifted in verbal communication, casting the vision, and selling ideas can easily move into manipulation. Survey after survey of businesses and organisations show that the trait people are looking for most is ‘integrity’ – that foundational character quality. Staff want a leader who can be trusted, not someone who can talk their way out of anything! Jesus wasn’t concerned with people liking Him, otherwise He wouldn’t have challenged the religious leaders in the way that He did. The people however, recognised an authenticity in Him, were drawn to His wisdom and unconditional love, followed Him and gave their lives for Him.

3. You think you are the smartest person in the room: Do you have an opinion about most things and feel certain that your opinion is the right one? Do you feel slightly bored when conversing with others if the topics aren’t meaty or meaningful? Do you like to unload your latest revelation as you move into conversations? One of the challenges for smart people – or those who think they are smart – is that they aren’t always great at listening or fitting into the team and being team players. Smart people like being the ones who come up with the ideas and solutions to problems and see how things could be done in such better ways. This sounds beneficial, but team members don’t really appreciate ‘know it all’s,’ so in order to gain ownership from the team, the attitude must be one of servanthood. We need smart people but humble smart people in leadership!

4. You think you can read your team: Do you think you know how your words and actions affect your team members? As leaders we generally aren’t great about getting feedback. When was the last time your team received some team building where an objective facilitator was able to ask your team members how they rate your leadership and being part of the team? I have often used an exercise in team building where a list of positive and negative traits is distributed and members are asked to circle the words that relate to their feelings towards both leader and team dynamics. It can be a surprise to the team leader when the response of the members isn’t 100% positive to him or her!

Self-awareness is an important quality to have as a leader and we develop it by allowing mentors, peers, and those on our team to speak into our lives. It is sometimes shocking to hear feedback that you are not as relational as you thought and that indeed you bring an intensity that causes stress. I remember my kids talking about my evil eye when I wasn’t pleased with their behaviour! Blind spots are so called because we can’t see them and this is the very reason that we need others to give constructive feedback.

5. You need the team to help you implement the vision: Are your team members a means to an end? Do you see your role as managing your team members? Do you think the vision is yours to implement? If you do, it is great that you have real ownership to see the vision realised but, if you have a team, your role as a leader is to share that ownership with the team, so they have that sense of accomplishment too. Otherwise, they may feel ‘used’ by you to fulfil the vision rather than collaborating with you. Visionary leaders can often be very task focused and it’s easy to treat our people as machines by telling them what to do, as well as when and how to do it! People are our greatest asset; they require being related to in appropriate ways that are caring, developing, relational and appreciating. Relationships do matter!

Use these statements and questions to give yourself an evaluation and ask the Lord how you can improve your leadership in this next season.

Until next month


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