I’ve been in church leadership for close to 20 years, and have held several supervisory and/or leadership positions in my secular careers in politics, labor relations, law administration and corporate administration. Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two (first and foremost, that if you can survive leadership in the church, you can survive leadership ANYWHERE), and thought you might find some of them useful.

I strive to be a life-long learner, but my days of learning things the hard way are over! So, if there are some lessons you’ve learned, PLEASE do me a favor and post them below in the comments section. Share your wisdom! (God knows I need it). 🙂

Humility

1. There are lots of characteristics necessary to be an effective leader. But above all else, if you don’t have humility, you may as well hang it up.

2. No matter how experienced and certain you are, you can still be wrong sometimes.

3. No matter how anointed and certain your pastor/leader is, he can still be wrong sometimes.

4. Acknowledge your mistakes freely and be quick – very quick – to apologize.

5. Leaders don’t have to have all the answers, but they should be able and willing to find them. (And by the way, leaders should use every resource available to learn more. Read books, attend workshops, network, find mentors, subscribe to publications, and do anything else you can do to increase your knowledge).

6. No matter how talented you are, be careful believing your own press. Some folks will try to make you think you’re the best [insert your job title] since sliced bread. Maybe you are; but you don’t need to know that.

7. There are plenty of people who have the skill to do your job, maybe even better than you. (But, it’s not the ones who say it…)

Burn-out Prevention and Sanity Maintenance

8. Leaders have to sacrifice a lot. Two things that always have to come first, no matter what: God and family. No matter what.

9. Delegating is a blessing from on high. But some things really DO only get done right when you do them yourself. The key is knowing what those things are.

10. The world is NOT going to fall apart if you take a day off. It just won’t. No really. It won’t. Everything and everybody will be ok.

11. Everyone has an off day.

12. Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. Tomorrow will be here before you know it.

Integrity and Character

13. Jesus inspired His team. That’s why they followed Him. You’ll get more from the people on your team if you inspire them rather than boss them around, barking orders and flexing authority.

14. Your name can take you places skills alone can’t; you should care what people are saying about you. Guard your reputation.

15. Demonstrate what you expect – you want loyalty, be loyal (support them, esteem them highly, correct privately, praise publicly). You want selflessness, commitment, dedication, endurance, timeliness; show that.

16. No matter how great your relationships are with people, always say “please” and “thank you.”

Difficult People, Difficult Circumstances

17. If you don’t have an annoying, draining, sanity-challenging peer or team member, you’re missing out on some growth opportunities.

18. Problems that aren’t addressed don’t just go away.

19. You can get more accomplished in prayer than by any other means – prayer changes things. Even when YOU can’t, prayer changes things.

20. There are some people that will NEVER be happy. No matter what. So don’t bother trying. Unless you’re a licensed psychologist, you’ll end up with a headache.

21. Sometimes, it really is best to sit back, hold your peace, and let God vindicate and validate you. (Learned that one in the longest class I ever took).

22. Being crushed is part of the leadership process. Sometimes, the worst experiences have a way of bringing out the best oil in you. Don’t resent it, don’t despise it; stay humble and embrace it.

23. Never let your enemies see you sweat. Grace under fire is admirable, respectable, honorable. Walking around with an attitude… eh, not so much.

24. This one takes practice: always look beyond the shell and see the God in people. Look for the gift, not the packaging. People are a mess, but it’s not everyone except you who has issues. It’s everyone, including you. Tolerate other people’s flaws because they’re tolerating yours. People are products of their genes, environment, upbringing, and experiences. Everything a person says or does (or doesn’t say or doesn’t do) is a result of a complex formula that contributes to their behaviors, habits, thought processes, actions, and points of view. In other words, sometimes it’s not a person’s fault that they’re insecure, rude, competitive, or just difficult. Try to build a relationship with the soul, not the person.

25. Don’t be a drop-out. Life is like one big educational experience. You can’t go on to the next “grade” until you pass a few tests. When things get rough, if you quit, you won’t go too far. And God has a way of staying on top of you until you complete the assignments He gives. If you don’t believe me, ask Jonah.

26. Sometimes, people will give you a hard time and hinder your attempts to get things done. You can’t change the people, but you can change your approach. Don’t quit; just change your approach.

Team Building….

27. If you know Sally talks too much, don’t trust her with confidential information. Likewise, if you know that Susie never completes the assignments she’s given, don’t give her the “matter of life and death” stuff. Know those who labor among you…. and handle them accordingly (that’s one of my favorite LaRueisms).

28. If you have discernment, use it. Not everyone who says they want to help, really does (that one came from Ezra 4).

29. Sometimes the one no one else wants on their team will be your star!

30. Don’t hide your flaws or fears from your team. They need to know that you realize you’re human.

31. The best way to correct your team members is to use the sandwich technique: put whatever correction, critique or constructive criticism you have right smack in the middle of two sincere compliments and commendations.

Team Development

32. Not everyone knows what they’re good at, or what their calling is. But everyone knows what their hobbies are. Start there.

33. It’s usually the one who raises his hand the least that has the most to contribute (thanks, MJE).

34. Sometimes the quiet wheel should get the oil.

35. You’ll never know just how smart, bright, gifted, talented, pleasant, and committed that person is if you have them serving in the wrong position.

36. People forget positive stuff long before they forget negative stuff. Try to give your team as many positive experiences as possible.

37. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you’re not excited about it, don’t expect them to be.

38. Be genuinely interested in your team members’ personal lives, and show it. They’ll appreciate it.

39. No matter what they say, everyone needs attention, validation, correction, and love. If you love them, everything else they need will come naturally.

40. You’re only as awesome as your team. Surround yourself with diverse talent to make up for your weaknesses and shortcomings.

General Leadership

41. If you don’t have a mentor, you’re missing multiple opportunities to be better. If you don’t have a protégé, you’re missing a great opportunity to pass along all you’ve learned to develop someone else (and do a little succession planning).

42. If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist. Document!

43. Very few people enjoy meetings. Don’t have one “just because.” And when you have to have one, have a clear agenda, start on time, stay on task, end on time, and let people participate.

44. Stay in your lane. If you have to get over (perhaps to avoid an accident), be sure to use your signal. Otherwise, you’ll cause an accident, and you’ll be at fault.

45. Leadership is an opportunity to minister, whether you’re leading the usher board or the United States.

46. After every major event, project, or initiative, there should be a debriefing meeting. That’s the best way to keep from making the same mistake twice.

47. If you have no influence, you’re not really a leader. You might be a puppet, a token, or just a warm body filling a vacant spot… but you’re not a leader.

48. God cares about the details, so my anal-retentiveness and “pickiness” is okay.

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