How to Be a ‘Get Out of the Way’ Leader

Been thinking about this recently and how difficult I find this. I don’t think I’m alone either in finding this essential aspect of leadership such a challenge. Empowering others is the only way to bring about all that we want to see but that doesn’t make it easy though.

Here are some quick thoughts ~ why we don’t ‘get out of the way’, then why and how we should…

WHY WE DON’T…

We like control. We like to be in charge, to know what’s going on.
We don’t trust others. No one can do it like we do it.
There isn’t anyone to ‘get out of the way’ for. Or at least that’s what we convince ourselves.
We are scared of change. They will do it differently to how we have done it.
We will have nothing to do. We could become outdated, unwanted, or redundant.
What if they get it wrong. It’s just not worth the risk.

What if they get it right. What we were doing might come in to question.

WHY WE SHOULD…

We wont achieve the vision. The bigger the vision the more we need others to help us. One person can only do so much.
We stifle growth. Other peoples, maybe even our own and definitely the organisations.
Be willing to challenge the process. Just because its always been done ‘that way’ doesn’t mean it should continue to be. Sometimes we need that ‘upstart’ to say ‘Why not?’
New people can bring fresh energy. This is in turn can bring life to the organisation.

They may leave if we don’t. If people cannot see that they will ever be included, then they will probably go to a place where they will be.

HOW WE SHOULD DO IT…

On purpose not haphazardly. Have a plan on how responsibility will be given. Create a programme with a clear pathway, so those who are getting involved know what to expect.
Through coaching and not just through teaching. You can’t really ‘have a go’ without being given the opportunity to ‘have a go’. Hands on experience alongside some teaching can work really well. John Maxwell would teach us ~ know the way, go the way, show the way.
Let go. The first time is the hardest but if you have invested in them well then it’s not the challenge you really fear.
Be an inspiring leader. Spend your leadership being the kind of leader that others would want to be like. Inspire with vision, with attitude, with integrity, with your work ethic, with communication, with encouragement and every facet of your leadership.

Resource them. Just keep passing on everything you know, everything you have learned. Talk all the time about the why behind what you have asked them to do.

It’s a challenge but the rewards mean all that we are building can outlast us. If we make it all about us then what we are doing may well die when we do. If we make it about others then what we are building can last for generations to come.

What would you add to this?

Leaders Pay Attention to Detail

Having an eye for the detail is about caring enough as a leader that what we want to see happen is actually happening.

It’s not about micro-managing but it is about asking some critical questions. After all, leaders lead. Questions that will help us move forward, improve, and hopefully bring the success we desire. To not care about the detail is to not care about the vision.

  • Are we ready?
  • Do we have everything prepared that we said would be prepared?
  • Practicals?
  • Teams?
  • Do people know what they should be doing?
  • More importantly, do they know why they have been asked to do it?
  • Are we ready for the unexpected?
  • Have we missed anything?

As leaders in Xcel we meet every week and ask questions like this. We are passionate about making sure that what we say we are as a Church is actually the experience people get when they come to Church. It’s not coming from a position of criticism but instead from a place of understanding that the experience someone has will impact their willingness to return, which ultimately affects their relationship with God.

The stakes are high, so we want the welcome, the worship, the word, the atmosphere, the connections, the teams, everything to be done well. We are not looking for perfection, but being excellent with what we have, doing all we can to move people on in their journey with God and with others.

Check out some posts I wrote a few years ago on this topic: The Detail Test, Detail Test 2, Detail Requires Time, Detail Brings Reward, Where Are You on The Detail Test

Leaders Should Lead

Well that’s obvious. Yet in my experience not something that always happens.

People like the title that leadership affords. They don’t always like the responsibility. However, if we want others to follow then we must first lead, and then model the behaviour, the culture, and the lifestyle we desire to see in others, in our teams, in our business in our church or in our ministries.

Leaders should lead all the time. It’s not something that can be dipped in and out of. You either are a leader or you are not. Leaders don’t get a day off and that can be tough. Leaders lead 24/7 so be ready for what that means.

Leaders should lead with integrity. The Apostle Paul used the phrase ‘above reproach’. It’s a conscious decision to be the same person, living by those high standards, regardless of events. It’s the discipline to be that person which then sets certain leaders apart from others.

Leaders should lead with purpose. Sometimes you just know what’s right, other times it can be a little less clear. Lead with purpose, not for popularity. Clear vision creates purpose which helps in knowing what it is right to do and what is not.

Leaders should lead even though others won’t always like it. If you are willing, then be a leader who leads. It’s easy to be the one who takes the shot, more challenging to be the one who is aimed at. That’s part of leading. Not everyone likes how you lead.

Are you ready for the adventure? Get ready. Get excited. The rewards for being a leader who leads far outweigh the challenges along the way. The only thing you have to choose is to be that kind of leader.

The Future Awaits

When I was 19 I was given the opportunity to lead a youth group. Little did I know that this was the beginning of my future. A journey in leadership was taking it’s very first steps. Just like a toddler, I wobbled and fell a few times but through the encouragement of others, I got back up again and took some more steps.

Is that where you are? First opportunities are coming your way. The future has started and is waiting for you to make your way towards it.

Psalm 37:23 tells me that the steps of a good person are ordered by the Lord. One step at a time. Maybe we over complicate it but the simple aspect of one step is often all it takes. Yet we must take them with care. I heard something this week which has reminded me about how easy it can be take a wrong step.

We are one step away from greatness. One step away from being incredible for God. 

Or maybe we are one step away from a great act of stupidity. One step away from making ourselves invisible for God. 

I wonder why some people can navigate through life while others fail or give up on the journey. The balance between one and the other can be that fine. Every crucial moment, every challenge, every decision, every action ~ can take us one way or another.

The future awaits, if we stay focused. It can still be reached even if we mess up or have messed up along the way. The key is getting back up and taking another step.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to run as if to win. To not allow anything to hinder us or to allow anything to cut across us while we run our race.

As we take those seemingly fragile steps into the future let’s do so understanding the awesome power of God available and on our lives.

Let’s care enough to not hinder ourselves. Let’s run with enough determination that nothing will impede us. Let’s focus on what’s going on around us that we never allow ourselves to become shackled by opinion, persuasion or pride.

Your future awaits. Take that next step towards it and enjoy the journey as it unfolds before you. And never give up, even when you mess up. Just get back up an take another step. God loves it when we do that.

Leadership Stuff I’m Always Learning

In no particular order of importance, here’s a bunch of things I am always working on and continue to learn about…

Learn to be the ultimate servant. Leaders serve people. When you stop serving or look for reasons why you don’t have to then maybe you are beginning to rely too much on your title. Where can you make your serve more effective?

Learn to listen. We love to talk but it’s the art of listening that can make all the difference. People want to know they are being heard. Who needs you to listen?

Learn to hear God. As much as we need to learn to listen to people, hearing the whisper of God is more important. What has God been saying to you recently? Have you heard His voice lately?

Learn to think. Such an under-rated skill, thinking. Sometimes we don’t know what to do and it’s often just for a lack of thinking it through. Create some space, remove distractions and mull it over. Where are you stuck? What needs some thinking time?

Learn to pray. Prayer makes a difference but is so often the last thing we do. As Christian leaders we probably all need to focus more on this one. You can never pray too much, can you? What are you believing God for at the moment? Who are you praying for?

Learn to read. Leaders are readers. Simple. Reading makes you think, helps you grow, opens your mind to different ways of approaching situations. However brilliant you may be we have to remember that ‘no-one is as smart as all of us’. What are you reading right now that is challenging you in your leadership and all aspects of life?

Learn to lead through the vision. Vision is out of which flows decisions and priorities. If you don’t know the vision then you don’t know what to say yes and no to. Leading through the vision will also help others understand why we do what we do. Are you leading through the vision or your own personal preferences?

Learn the values and the culture of where you are one of the leaders. It’s not my way that matters. I may consider it to be the greatest idea since sliced bread but if it doesn’t match the values and culture of where I am then it will only work against what is being built. All I create is a sub-culture and that is never healthy. Are you over protective of where you lead? Are you empowering of the next generation?

Learn about people. John Maxwell writes that ‘people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’. To care does not come naturally, very often it takes quite a bit of effort. How do your people skills need to improve? How can you improve your understanding of those you lead?

Learn to honest, open and transparent. Sam Chand writes that the culture of an organisation should be like this. For that to happen it must start with those who lead. We demand it of others, we want them to admit mistakes, be accepting of new ideas and able to share experiences, so why don’t we do the same. Where are you pointing the finger at others and saying they are wrong while not placing yourself as a leader under the same scrutiny?

These are a good place to start in our leadership learning. What would add, if anything, to the list?

Don’t Take It Personally

One of the biggest things you have to learn as a leader is to not take things personally.

Leadership isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone, so don’t make it harder by taking stuff that you don’t need to take on. Carrying extra baggage only makes the leadership journey harder than it already is. Here’s some things I’ve had to learn that are just a part of being a leader…

Pop shots at how you lead. The ‘You’re a lovely person but…’ kind of statement.

Questioning what you do. The ‘Why have you come here?’ type stuff. Or the ‘I wouldn’t do it that way’ comments.

Those last-minute changes. The ‘Can we do this now’ which comes from our leaders that can be thrown upon us.

Team challenges. Missing team. Why aren’t they turning up and how we think it’s our fault.

As a leader we have said we will carry it, we will cover it, we will own it, which means all this stuff and more is inevitable. It’s not personal. I have discovered that the only reason I take it personally is because there maybe an element of truth in it and I don’t like the challenge.

Here are the questions I ask myself,,.

What can I learn here and do I need to make any changes? Even if I 100% disagree there is obviously a perception about me coming through so I am wise to take note. Often the reasons we don’t like how we feel is because there some truth in what we hear. We are not being a very good leader. No one enjoys listening to something when it reveals an element of truth. Be honest with yourself and look at how you may need to grow. 

Who are making the challenges or comments? If it’s from those who lead me then sometimes I just have to suck it up and do it. If it’s from the team then perhaps I have to see if I’m leading them well enough. From anywhere else, I can listen but may choose to ignore it after asking myself the first question.

How am I growing myself? Sometimes I haven’t responded well to the challenges of leadership. One thing though has helped over the years ~ always be learning. Read, listen, have some accountability. Whatever works for you but I know that when I’m not doing anything to grow my leadership capacity I become more susceptible to taking things personally.

My final comment is this. Even when it gets personal don’t take it personally. Most of the the time we choose to take it personally when we don’t need to. On rare occasions it will be personal, maybe even downright nasty. Stay calm. Don’t argue. Ask yourself the questions. Move on. Don’t take it with you.

Leadership isn’t easy. It is a challenge. However the rewards are amazing and I wouldn’t change what I get the privilege to do every day.

What would you add to help leaders not take things personally?

Feel The Pressure

Sometimes we view pressure as a bad thing and we do everything we can to avoid it. Fair enough. Anything for an easy life, right? However, pressure is a part of life.

Pressure can help you to fly. Or it can crush you.

Effective leaders understand that the right amount of pressure can help them to grow, that it’s an important part of who they are and who they can become.

Pressure helps us discover what’s inside of us. The challenge then is knowing how much pressure is right and how much pressure is too much. Sustained pressure will crush you, eventually. Even a pressure cooker has a valve to release some of it.

Pressure can benefit us as it may force us to stretch. To think differently. To be more creative in our problem solving. Pressure can help us to focus and achieve results, to get things done. Maybe you worked best with a little pressure – just remember those late night assignment finishes when the deadline loomed.

Low pressure can produce a lack of determination. If nobody really cares about what you are doing, there is no accountability and the pressure is off, we naturally back off, and maybe things don’t get done.

However, high pressure for a long period can lead to anxiety, a low emotional state and unhappiness. Leaders do not perform well throughout these times either.

Here is what I have discovered about myself and the best way for me to handle pressure…

I am not perfect. I will never get it right all the time. Learn to keep expectations realistic. There is enough pressure on me in my role without me adding some more of my own.

Change is inevitable. Change can create feelings of uncertainty, which can raise levels of anxiety and pressure. I have learned to accept that change will always happen. Leading through change is a permanent expectation in my world and that takes the pressure off.

Don’t quit. My head can hurt trying to work out the correct response to a situation. The ‘how will I’ question is never far away from my thinking. Quitting doesn’t answer the question, it just brings pressure of a different kind. I have learned to create some margin for thinking things through. If I don’t do this often enough, I can feel the squeeze and headaches may come.

Not all leaders are the same. My capacity is not the same as yours and vice versa. The complexity of leadership often increases with greater the levels of responsibility. The key for me is to always be growing as a leader, then I will at least be part ready when I inevitably come across something I don’t know.

Don’t carry what is not mine to carry. This can be difficult but it’s important. I don’t need to carry everything. If I do I will increase my feelings of being overwhelmed. My primary role is to focus on what I should focus on, the issues at hand that need my attention. When I get distracted and lose time with other things that another person could be focused on then I will feel the pressure, both in levels of workload and emotionally too.

Don’t ignore it. Denying the existence of pressure doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Recognise its existence and be prepared for when it comes.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you cope with pressure?

Always Ready

Leaders lead.

One thing I have had to learn (in 25yrs of various leadership roles) is that when it comes to leadership, even when it’s a day off, that doesn’t disqualify you from your leadership position.

This is not an argument for being a workaholic and never having time off. Rest and relaxation are very important. It’s just my realisation that leaders can delegate as much as they like, can be away from their desk and not ‘actually’ be the one doing the work, yet they are still leading.

In fact, how things are when you are not there is often a bigger sign of your leadership ability than when you are.

Leaders are always ready. They are never ‘off’. It’s never alright to say ‘that’s not my job’.

I have come to rest comfortably that I am always leading, therefore I am always ready, for both the expected and the unexpected. That I cannot be ‘off duty’ and act ‘however’ because even the casual moments are moments that others may observe. Integrity is won and lost more in those ‘moments’ than in the ‘work’ times.

Always ready. If you don’t want that then my suggestion is simple…don’t be a leader.