Seven Habits of Highly Inept Leaders

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Steven Covey’s seminal book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People transformed the landscape for personal and corporate leadership. This post is a tongue-in-cheek rant homage to Covey with the seven habits that make for inept leadership.

1. Procrastinate – Delay announcing anything until there is a very tight window to implement. Creating pressure with impossible deadlines spurs creativity and keeps them on their toes. Knowing they work late regularly to meet your demanding constraints reminds them who is in charge.

2. Begin with what’s best for you – As the acknowledged leader, what is good for you has to be good for the them, right? So focus on yourself. Take credit and accept the praise for a job well done. They know if you get a better job you may just take them with you.

3. Put first the new priority – Your ideas are all great and numerous. Be sure the team executes all of them equally, because each one is supremely important. Focusing on a few things is weakness. Your job is to make everything a top priority and their job is to implement, well, everything.

4. Think Win/Lose – There are winners in the world. They are the ones with big congregations, twitter follower lists, and even bigger book deals. So make sure that in any comparison you win. If you are not the winner, you are one of the nameless losers.

5. Seek first to be Understood – In communication, the most important thing is for your underlings followers to know what you think. How can they know what to do if you don’t tell them? Always speak first. Seek to understand others only if there is a luxury of time in your day, which there isn’t.

6. Suppress – Cooperation on a team usually means they are plotting against the leader, so suppress that. Keep everyone in silos, unaware of what others are doing and the talents they possess.

7. Sharpen the tongue – There are always those with questions about your strategy or methods. They must learn to stop questioning you so practice your mocking witty responses. Correct others with sarcasm and condescension. A great way to put critics in their place is with shame and personal attacks, preferably from the platform. They’ll quickly learn that questioning you is a personal attack and as such, merits one.

That’s my take. What would you put on the list?

WfX Seminar – Managing Staff Conflict

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WFX 2014It was a great first day at WfX 2014. Miles McPherson delivered some great content on getting our church into the community (count, walk, ask, love). And Jermaine Rodriquez led some loud and powerful worship.

IF you attended my seminar on “Managing Staff Conflict” at your church, the slides are here to download.

Please leave a comment, question, or any insight you have on the topic. Let’s keep the conversation going.

The Influence of Repentence

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Watching companies and individuals go through public relations disasters has reminded me how much our culture needs leadership. This is not the chest-thumping “follow me” leadership of the “I am first among all” style leaders. That is best left to rap music and gamesmanship of inconsequential competitions. The leadership we need is the humble servant leaders who shape their communities and cultures by shaping themselves.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

Francois de la Rochefoucauld opined four centuries ago that, “We only confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no big ones. Seeing the NFL and Roger Goodell’s contortions and twists on the Baltimore Raven’s Ray Rice domestic violence charges has been instructional in how not to lead. Goodell on behalf of the NFL and Raven’s ownership have confessed to their small sins of not acting “quickly.” They confessed they “didn’t know.” But the public simply says, “how could you not know?” 

But that only works when those we wish to influence cannot see our large faults. We are not perfect so we must be transparent.

One wonders what exactly they thought they would see on the video tape when Rice had admitted to punching his (then) fiance? And that is a problem for most leaders. We want to confess only the small errors when those we lead with see our larger errors up close. They are on the large screen of our lives. And worse, they see the pattern of our problems so they know our character weaknesses. We want to believe they only see our strengths, but they see it all.

Strong leaders share failures with others to remind ourselves that we don’t have all the answers (humility). We confess them out loud to all who have seen the problem so they can feel our regret (repentance). Admitting mistakes also practically builds rapport with colleagues (connection) and gives them the freedom to push back appropriately on our ideas (refinement). All of those seem essential to leadership. If we are believers, this is the essential gospel process of sanctification.

At least the leadership I want to follow. What do you think?

10 Steps to Prevent Church Theft

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Churches don’t like to think that someone may be stealing from them, but it happens more often than we want to think. A 2012 fraud investigative report documented that 10% of all fraud cases occurred in non-profits. Of those who stole, 87% had no previous criminal history and the median amount stolen was $100,000.ID-100237367

All churches are at risk. One of the largest churches in America, Lakewood Church, recently had $600,000 stolen and the theft remains unsolved.

The best way to protect your church is to prepare. Here are 10 steps every church can take to prevent fraud and theft.

  1. Multiple counters – Require 2-3 people count cash and checks from offering and any items sold. Never allow related people to count together. Never allow anyone to be alone with uncounted funds. Never.
  2. Count immediately – The longer money sits uncounted, the more opportunities people have to skim off the top.
  3. Secure it – Once counted, cash should be secured immediately. This can be via a bank night deposit box or in a safe.
  4. Track deposits – Deposits should match offering count sheets and should be tracked by someone who does not handle incoming funds.
  5. Limit check access – Keep checks stored securely to limit spending access.
  6. Separation of duties – One person should not have access to deposits and expenditures. If you have one book-keeper, then she should not have signing privileges for checks or online access to any account.
  7. Require invoices – Any expense over $20-25 should have invoices to justify it. Without an invoice, there should be no payment.
  8. Track transfers – The easiest way to move money is electronically. Every EFT should be tracked by someone who isn’t making the transfer.
  9. Account reconciliation – Every account should be reconciled against your bank statement. That reconciliation and the bank statement should be reviewed and signed by someone who didn’t prepare it.
  10. Review your process – At least once a year review your process with knowledgeable outsiders who can recommend improvement and best practices. An audit is ideal.

But don’t these steps “assume everyone is a thief?” No, but they do recognize that anyone can be tempted in the right circumstances. People are sinful.

Another way to view these steps is that great procedures and consistent paper trails protect staff and volunteers from false accusations. Secure procedures demonstrate faithfulness and protect people as well as the church.

What steps does your church take to prevent theft and fraud? What is missing?

Photo image courtesy of FrameAngel /

Four Ways Growth Changes Your Pastor

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Image courtesy of cuteimage /

Image courtesy of cuteimage /

Growth inherently changes how things function. If you doubt this look at your children when they are infants and then in High School. Their needs and actions change as they grow. The same is true for a tree going from sapling to 90 foot sky-scraper with a massive root system. These changes are the natural consequence of growth.

Growth changes organizations too. Pick any group that was small that became big (2000+ involved) and you would barely recognize it. Love it or hate it, it still remains staring us in the face. Being larger changes things.

As churches grow they add services, locations and staff. All that adding multiplies complexity, and complexity changes how the lead pastor must function. It isn’t good or bad, it is just a fact. Growth also radically changes the relationship dynamic in a group. That reality can feel brutal or like a blessing, but it remains either way.

The same is true for your church. Growth changes how your pastor must shepherd and lead. Leading a church of 2000 is vastly different than leading a church of 500 (or 200), and those differences mean roles must shift. The most visible shifts are for the lead pastor.

How you decide to deal with this reality will determine whether you are a big church cynic or a cheerleader. Here are four ways the Lead Pastor’s role must shift as a church gets larger.

  1. Clarifying Vision – Complex organizations require far more clarity because there are many more moving parts. Others can shape the vision and direction, but the Lead Pastor has to humbly describe and motivate the church to do what is necessary to accomplish God’s call. Clarifying where we all are going has to happen over and over, so the DNA gets reproduced and the vision penetrates to all.
  2. Teaching – In smaller churches, the teacher’s pastoring impacts how his preaching is received. The larger the church, the less direct contact a pastor has with those in the seats. Growth places a premium on teaching skill. The most common reason a growing church plateau’s is that the lead communicator’s ability fails to keep up with the size of the body. So lead pastors often labor more over creating powerful, life-changing messages. Your pastor will need to invest more time in message development and improving his or her skills
  3. Developing Leaders – When you have more people a church has a higher need for empowered leaders. Lead Pastors must invite high capacity leaders into mission, spur them to their highest calling, and empower everyone to disciple and build into others. If a lead pastor is not gifted here, they must ensure other gifted leaders develop systems, tools, and people so this occurs as part of discipleship.
  4. Shepherding the Shepherds – Those who lead teams, large groups of people, and other staff often need encouragement, wisdom, direction and correction. That has to come in line with the church’s mission. Staff in a large church may lead ministries that are 2-5 times larger than the average church, and those women and men flourish when cared for by the leadership team. This means less time for interacting with every member. Your pastor must shepherd the shepherds who shepherd the flock. In some ways your pastor’s focus may look like that of a district superintendent or bishop more than a small church pastor.
How have you seen growth impact a lead pastor’s ministry? What are the benefits and challenges of these shifts?