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Highly IneffectiveIt’s much easier to identify poor leadership in others than it is in ourselves. We have a tendency to judge our leadership based on our intentions and the leadership of others based on the results.

An old Russian Proverb says it this way, “The eye cannot see the eye.”

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to observe all kinds of different church leaders who are leading in different sizes and “flavors” of churches. No matter the size or the flavor of the church I’ve seen the following 7 habits come up over and over again. So in no particular order, here are 7 common bad habits I’ve seen in church leaders over the years:

1. Crosstalk and Triangulation

Far too many times the dynamics of a church staff are such that staff talk about one another instead of to one another. Usually this is because it’s allowed and even modeled by the lead pastor. Biblically (Matthew 18) the scriptures would teach us that if you have an issue with your brother then you go to them, not someone else, about them. One path is a leadership path, the other is a political path.

2. Dictatorship

We have a saying here: “The team outperforms the individual every time!” When the lead pastor takes a dictatorial approach to decision making and the direction of the church everyone loses. The young staff lose out because no one delegates tasks that give them the opportunity to learn to lead, the senior staff lose out because they’re not empowered to make decisions which will ultimately result in losing your best team members, and the whole church loses out because no lead pastor is as good alone as they are with a great team, no matter how much of a superstar they are.

3. Unclear Expectations

When expectations are unclear it always leads to frustration, disappointment, and let down. It’s true in our more important relationships and it’s true in leadership. Lead pastors can set their teams up for success by drawing a clear target on the wall and agreeing to and writing down clear, attainable and measurable goals.

4. Micromanagement

Some lead pastors are so insecure that they’re incapable of trusting their teams. They feel as though they have to control every aspect of what’s going on in the church, no matter how small. This kind of leader ends up building a team that is incapable of thinking for themselves, which will become a huge barrier to the movement of the gospel! The first step in combating micromanagement is delegation and the next is empowerment.

5. Hiring Friends

I’ve seen teams go south because a lead pastor hires friends instead of the best-qualified candidate for the role. When the vision is trumped by the convenience of friendship it begins to erode trust on the team and trust is the fuel that leadership runs on.

6. Lack of Moral Authority

Nothing is more demoralizing for a staff team than when the lead pastor takes a, “Do as I say not do as I do” approach. A simple example of this is when a pastor says it’s important for everyone to be in a small group but won’t be in a group themselves.

7. Unresolved Conflict

When the lead pastor doesn’t keep short accounts and instead allows unresolved conflict to exist it can lead to serious dysfunction on a team. Small gaps between senior leaders at the top appear as huge chasms the further down you get from the senior leadership team.

What other habits of ineffective church leaders have you observed? What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!


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