Why Leaders Fail – The Intoxication of Saying “Yes”

This week I’ll be finishing out my series on “Why Leaders Fail.”  If you missed any of the previous posts, you can read them here.

This final one, I believe, is one of the more difficult reasons why leaders fail, especially for those that are in church leadership.  This is because that the very thing that draws people into ministry, can also become their greatest weakness…the desire to please people.  This is never more evident then when it comes to decision making.  Leaders are instantly loved for saying “Yes”, and can almost as quickly be vilified for saying “No.”  It might be a new ministry idea, the color of the carpet, a choice in worship songs, or even what you preach on.  People can offer some great suggestions…some that are even viable options for a decision your facing.  The problem is, when you struggle with the intoxication of saying “yes”, you end up saying yes to whoever is standing in front of you at the moment.

So here’s the skill that great leaders develop:  the ability to say no…often.  Not to be negative and shoot down ideas, but great leaders understand that the cost of saying yes is often saying no to the vision God has given you.  That doesn’t mean you say no to everything, but you learn to say no the things that don’t line up with your vision, because ultimately it’s not about pleasing people.  The Apostle Paul understood this when we wrote these powerful words in the opening of his letter to the Galatian church:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)

So if you struggle with saying “No”, here’s what I want to challenge you to do:

  • Clarify the vision God has given you for your leadership role.  Without a clear vision, it’s difficult to say no with much conviction.
  • Look for small opportunities to say “No.”  This is a skill that, believe it or not, does get easier as you exercise it.
  • When you do start to say “no,” don’t allow it to send you on a power trip.  This isn’t about power, position or authority, it’s about direction.
  • Remember, the people you say “no” to are still people with real emotions, feelings and passions.  Say no with grace, gentleness and a concern for their own well-being.  The ability of a leader to say “Yes” or “No” doesn’t give them to right to be a jerk.

Why Leaders Fail – The Know-It-All Syndrome

Last week, I began a series of posts on “Why Leaders Fail.”  You can catch the first post here on vision.  This week, we’re going to be looking at a dangerous disease that can affect any leader, especially those further up the ‘command chain.’  It’s what I call the “Know-It-All Syndrome.”  This is when a leader embraces the dangerous assumption that authority equals ability.  Here’s how this can play out:  A leader in charge of a number of areas in an organization assumes because of their authority, they are naturally the expert in each of those areas.

The danger of assuming you’re always the expert is that the true experts (the people you’ve hired or brought onto your team for their expertise), may not argue with your expertise (or lack of expertise) with words, but rather with their feet.  When you know it all, you don’t need other around you.  And when you don’t need them, they’ll find a place where they are needed.

I love what Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says about this.  He says, “Level 5 leaders have the humility to aspire to be the dumbest person in the room.”  That doesn’t mean you empty yourself of all knowledge and understanding, but rather you surround yourself with capable, knowledgeable people, and then actually listen to what they have to say.

The tragedy of being a “Know-It-All” as a leader is you shut off one of the greatest leadership tools God has given you…your ears.  Listening to those around you, and not always having to be ‘the expert’ can do more for your leadership and the growth of your leadership than any conference or coach could.  Why?  Because you’re maximizing the talents, knowledge and understanding that is right in front of you.  If there was ever a clear indicator of an effective leader it isn’t a “Know-It-All” leader, but rather a “Know Enough” leader that is able to use what they have, to accomplish what they need to do.

Leaders are in their finest moment when they can accomplish things with a team, that would have never been possible for that leader to do on their own.  

  • In your next leadership team meeting…
    • Don’t come in with all the answers, come ready with all the questions.
    • Don’t try to fix all the problems you’re team is facing, but allow your team to lean on one another to identify solutions.
    • Don’t assume you have everything figured out – allow the ‘true’ experts on your team to speak into the issues your team is working through.

Why Leaders Fail – No Direction. No Service.

I’m not one to focus on the negative, but over the next few weeks. I’m going to be doing a series of posts on “Why Leaders Fail.”  The goal is not to focus on the failure, but rather focus on what we can do to succeed as leaders.  I believe that God gives every person the capacity to lead, but it’s up to each person to steward the gift of leadership that God has given them.  With that said, here are the four posts on “Why Leaders Fail”:

  1. No Direction.  No Service.
  2. The Know-It-All Syndrome
  3. Lone Ranger and No Tonto
  4. The Intoxication of Saying “Yes”

This week, we want to start with “No Direction. No Service.”  The role of a leader is, and always will be, completely tied to vision.  Without one, I would argue you can’t have the other.  Unfortunately, though, people can be given ‘leadership’ titles or roles without vision.  In those situations, people serve in the role of a leader, while not operating in the function of a leader.  Leaders aren’t those that get things done, but rather those that inspire and lead others to do what they couldn’t have done on their own.

To lead without vision, is not to lead at all.  So what does it take to create, cast and pursue vision for your leadership role?  Here are a few helpful things to do:

  1. Pray.  God is the ultimate giver of vision.  To try to create vision apart from his working is to limit the scope of your vision.  In our humanity, we can only see so much – God sees the whole picture.  Tap into his vision and you’ll tap into a world beyond your own understanding.  Ask God to give you a vision, direction and passion for your area of influence/ministry.  What does God want you to do?  And what does he want your ministry to look like?
  2. Plan.  Start to write down what God is speaking to you and what is on your heart.  If you can’t write it down, it’s not clear enough yet to be communicated to others.  You can pray for some great things, but start to put plans to your prayers.  Vision without plans is simply dreaming.  If you truly want to see your vision realized, you have to start to put plans in place to execute it.
  3. Pursue.  Don’t just be a big talker.  Start to build a team (something we’ll look at in a couple weeks) around that vision and begin executing the plans you’ve put in place.  To accomplish your vision (if it’s God-sized), it’s going to take a lot of perseverance in your pursuit.  There may be obstacles, but continue pursuing.

These are a few thoughts on creating vision.  As a leader, here is my challenge:  Don’t just lead people, but lead people toward something.  As you do that, you may be surprised and actually reach the destination you and your team set out toward!

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