Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: How to destroy your leadership

Pastor's Pastor: How to destroy your leadership

What kind of things destroy leadership?

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

What destroys leadership? A boring committee meeting recently turned into a gold mine when a group of leaders turned from the routine to focus on issues that destroy leadership. Their points were enhanced by practical remedies.

Lack of credibility. When leaders act differently than their expressed values, people lose confidence. If my life does not match my proclamation, people ultimately disbelieve my words. Remedy: Beyond the obvious need for a closer walk with our Lord, which is integral to remedy all these areas, adherence to a code of ethics is essential. Situational leadership must never mean situational ethics.

Incompetence. Too often pastors reach a plateau of competence beyond which they no longer struggle to achieve. Settling for mediocre too often means abandoning excellence. Ideals and performance that once aimed high now rest in job security and accumulated years of service credit. Remedy: Develop an atmosphere of growth. Break out of the routine, resist the humdrum. Stretch to accomplish something new and different in your ministry. Experience regular continuing education.

Lack of vision. Those who cannot see beyond the immediacy of today will seldom prepare for tomorrow. Some remain focused on the present when they could and should be reaching for tomorrow! Remedy: Wayne Gretzky, hockey superstar, describes success as skating to where the puck will be, not where it is. Anticipate the future and head there! Others will follow!

Self-service. Leaders too easily develop an attitude of self-seeking. What's in it for me becomes the motto as we forget servant leadership and strive for personal greatness. Remedy: Jesus' own model of ministry is compelling. As His disciples strove to climb, Jesus modeled the greatness of descent. Preach Philippians to your self and then to your members!

Overextension. Face it now. You will never accomplish all that you could and, seldom, all that you should. Pastoral work is never done. Leadership reality is that someone will always need to be led. You will destroy your leader ship by concentrating on endless urgencies while ignoring the important. Remedy: Balance and prioritization. Determine what you can accomplish and then pursue excellence there with out being side-tracked by urgent matters of less importance.

Exclusivity. No one ever resents the "in crowd" until they are excluded. Avoid the trap of associating with and listening only to those who comprise your inner circle. Ministry is compromised to the extent that anyone believes they are shut out. Remedy: Become a mentor. Share the magic. Seek those who can be recruited and trained for service. Model ministry until they are effective and then encourage them to train others.

Cronyism. Job criteria should never be previous proximity to the leader. Committees that are staffed only with your buddies will soon be full of detractors. Nothing destroys creativity more quickly than compliant agreement. Remedy: Listen to those with alternate views. Solicit input from those who are critical. Hire staff who are strong in your weak areas. Elect those who ask challenging questions and encourage term limits.

Lack of common sense. If you don't get it, you don't get it! Nothing compensates for simple practicality. Too many leaders chase the impossible right past hundreds of opportunities to accomplish the possible. Remedy: Ask, Will it work? Seek counsel. Refuse to elevate stupidity to a virtue. Chances are that if trusted counselors see no wisdom in a plan, it will not succeed just because it took root in your mind. Demand scrutiny of any idea.

Failure to integrate faith and life. A professional member of my last congregation consistently emphasized ministry in the workplace. Her message was clear. If my belief does not impact performance of my vocation, I am not a believer. Remedy: Experience, then teach, the impact of the gospel in your daily life and work.

Special thanks to Bert Beach, Ray Dabrowski, Ben Maxson, Rose Otis, and Dick Stenbakken for sharing their wisdom.

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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