Mistakes Leaders Make 

Fourth Draft  6/20/04


In my years of hiring and firing and working with people and studying the process of leadership, I’ve notices good and bad leaders.  This right process can be learned if a leader wants to learn.  Leaders are in place for various reasons.  Some are self-appointed, others are elected, some don’t know any different, etc.

 Leadership is influence (INFLUENCE).   That is a one word definition.  Anyone who influences someone else to do something has led that person.  Another definition might be…   A leader takes people where they would never go on their own.

 Sometimes leaderships go bad.  What makes leaders fail?  Why are bad leadership habits perpetrated?  Because most of us who lead have neither been formally trained nor had good role models.  So we lead as we were led.  We wing it.  I’ve noticed this is the churches of God, today. 

 I often ask pastors and leaders this question.  “How many of you have ever had one course in college, or professional seminar outside the church, on how to lead effectively?”   I’ve noticed the results are shocking.  Almost no one has had any formal training.  No, Speaking club is not formal training in leadership.  So everyday, lacking any training, leaders lead as they were led.  Since Christ has not been in most of the every day lives of a lot of the leading so-called leaders,  they lead from the role model they were trained in, in human models.  They may be extensively trained in how to do ministry, but not in how to lead others who minister.  AC never offered that training.  Churches don’t do a very good job either.   It is left to books, seminars, tapes, and other non-formal sources of training to build the leaders knowledge of the skills of leadership.

 The average leader faces at least five problems in learning to lead.  I will attempt to identify some practical insight that one can use.

1.                 Today’s leaders replicate the poor leadership habits they have observed in others.  We look at human models.

2.                 Today’s leaders often lack basic skills for common leadership demands.  Often leaders think they already have those skills but don’t know they don’t.

3.                 Today’s leaders lack good models.  There is also a lack of good mentoring.  The focus on examples that we all have lived through is a good example of lack. 

4.                 Today’s leaders lack formal training in leadership.  Formal training is available.

5.                 Today’s leaders suffer confusion over the conflict between secular and biblical leadership values.  The contrast being; “What the bible values in leadership.” Jesus Christ vs. What secular leadership models, which all-to-often is top-down control.

 The good that you can do, can be destroyed by the precautions you fail to take.  Often blind spots can ruin the influence.  A few bad habits can void the effectiveness of all out talents and accomplishments.   The privilege of leadership is a high calling and fun.  This privilege can be handed down to future generations. 

 I will attempt to identify the number one leadership Hang-up.  The attitude of top-down comes the most natural to most people.  Servant leadership is much more rare.  The most effective leaders see themselves at the bottom of an inverted pyramid.  Top-down autocratic arrogance was the model that many of us were raised under.  This happened both in our families and among the top leaders in the church were I was raised.  It was taught that this was the correct family structure.  You would think that people would have learned by now.  Yet it still keeps cropping up,  that age-old problem of domineering, autocratic, top-down leadership.  Of all the sins of poor leadership, none is greater and none is still committed more often, generation after generation.

 I grew up in a church organization that believed and taught top-down leadership.  The role model was the problem.  The main leader had poor family relationships, but taught top-down dominance was the answer.   It might work in the “God world”, but it certainly did not work in the human world.  This individual couldn't even get along with his own family.

 The top-down approach to leadership is based on military standards.   It goes like this.  I am in charge here.  I make decisions concerning God for you.  I have that calling and anointing and the sooner you figure that out the better.  You should attend our church.  I know more about the bible than you, therefore I will study it out and direct you in what it says.   I am God’s spokesman on this earth and the decisions I make, are bound in Heaven.  God backs what I bind and loose.  I was chosen to do this job.  Those of you who have this insight and knowledge will be the only ones in the Kingdom.

 This is a blatant irritating practice that some leaders use, those that perpetrate a top-down style.  They often use the “use of knowledge” – or really the lack thereof, to keep people in line and in place.  Knowledge in an organization is power.  Knowledge can dominate.  Dictators have long recognized that knowledge is their worst enemy. 

 So as I continue to write on this subject, I will show, through the bible the principles of Jesus Christ our real role model

 Boss vs. Servant:

Let me give you some bad examples at the office.  Often a Boss has his own agenda like:  write important letters, write articles, call several important meetings, make numerous important decisions, and answer only important phone calls.  …Or at least calls that had worldly important people on them.   The Idea that I would sit behind my desk and people would come to me with their requests.  Wrong, a leader is one that can empty the trash for others, clean out the shelves and wash out everyone else’s coffee cups.  A proper boss soon learns that they are the ones that unlock the office and greet the employees.  Coming in late is a terrible example.  If you were really the lowest servant, you would get your butt fired for thinking you were so important that you have the right to come in late.

 I’ve noticed that trend in some churches.  The Sabbath is, as we know it, is a day of assembly and fellowship.  So who should be there to greet the people coming... of course, the speaker.  Who should be the last one to leave...of course the prime speaker.  How many of us have arrived late to work, late to church, late to a meeting, thinking we have that right because we are the bosses.   I’ve seen many years where the lead minister showed up just in time to deliver the sermon, thinking they had the right to do that to others.  What a poor example.  They then get up in front of people and exhort them that assembling together is important. It is very important, and it also applies to them.

 I attended an organization that did that very thing.  The human leader would show up just before he was to go on stage, often walking in after services had started or the music had started.   How “megalo” can a person get?

 The top-down attitude would be characterized by the person who believes that everyone should serve them, as opposed to serving the others in the institution.  A good leader actually spends countless hours helping others be effective by providing that the facts, the energy, the resources, the networks, the information or whatever they need to do an effective job.  Laying aside our own priorities to help others fulfill theirs.  Facilitating others to be effective.

 There is One that actually showed us the way.   There is no better model than that of Jesus Christ.  On the night that he was betrayed he showed his followers how much He loved them.  John 13:1 ...”He knew that his time had come for Him to leave the world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of his love.”  Jesus then begins to give a final and ultimate demonstration of servant leadership:  He washes the disciples feet.  Jesus knew he had an all-encompassing power and authority.  He was God in the flesh, and every right to be the dictator.  In fast He was the only one on the face of this earth that had that right.

 Having that foundation, Jesus demonstrated servant leadership when we took off His robe, picked up a towel and washed His disciples feet.  Notice not just one of them.  Jesus demonstrated that He who was to be the greatest among his followers would be the servant of all.  The explanation comes at the end of the chapter when Jesus says, (v.14)  "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  "Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

 Another passage of scripture that talks about servants leadership is 1 Peter 5:1-7.    Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,  shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain (greedy for money), but with eagerness;  nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.  You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

 What are the alternatives to the top-down attitude?

1.                Participatory management.  Give the group of workers or family the privilege of input before you move on a course of action.  This motivates and inspires others.

2.                 Facilitator style.  See your role as a facilitator who makes it possible for those that work for you to be successful.  Facilitate their ideas.  Discuss the perimeters then let them  run with it without micro-management. (that means daily, hourly, imputing your ideas into their facilitated projects)  You are to empower others for their effective work.

3.                 Democratic leadership.  God forbid that we should ever use that term.  Build a leadership team that enables the group and members to have a vital role in the nature and direction of their organization.  Let individuals get involved.

4.                 Flat organizational characteristics.   View yourself as being side-by-side or leading the charge, but not as being at the top of a giant pyramid.  After all everyone has equal access to the Father at any time by prayer.

5.                 Servant leadership.  If He who is Lord of lords and King of kings was a servant of all, how can anyone, in their right mind, that that they could be served by those they lead.

 So there are question we can ask.  How then can I lead without the arrogance of a top-down attitude?  If it is my desire to be a servant in my church or organization, and maintain my responsibilities of being the boss or authority, what are my guiding principles?

 Could it be this?  Not having abusive authority, but a servant of all.  Giving people room to be themselves.  Not lack of listening, but focusing on the needs of others.  Not being an authoritarian, but partners in the process.  Not holding on, but letting go with affirmation.  Not egocentric, but empowering others.

 I have often found that old men who are egocentric do not know that they are that way.  I found this mind-set permeating the churches of God.  This is a deplorable mind-set.  I have heard my church leaders make statements like I was directly taught and trained for decades under God’s end time Apostle...I was not just one of his students.  I was the one appointed as a head over a church or college for a long period.  I have had the overview of the entire organization.  I had private meetings with our top executives.  I was a member of the Board or Executive committee and virtually every decision-making body in the organization.  I was trained for years.... I spent a number of years in graduate school.   I taught many of the bible classes...  I was closer to the boss than anyone else I know.. Christ certainly trained me extensively and gave me many valuable experiences to prepare me for what I am doing now....  I had to stand for the truth...   I had to revive the Work of God.... I do the Work.  That is what qualifies me to be the head over God's Church"  RCM

 These old gentlemen really don’t perceive they are this way.  But there is a lot to learn when you learn to facilitate instead of lord.  The government of God will not be set up on this earth until Christ returns and then in a way we barely grasp.  No manner of man's management or perception will be used, as man does not know the mind of God.  So why not just try to use what Jesus gave us on this earth as the role model in our tenure?

 The inverted pyramid does work.  The person on the bottom is the leader.  What I'm leading to is a concept of pure love.  Getting everyone involved.



Is your Church Leading you Correctly?    Why do people follow other people?

Mistakes Leaders Make    Life Cycles of Organizations    Visionaries    How to put Mavericks in their place    Facilitative Leadership