Top Four Mistakes Leaders Make
by Dr. Waylon B. Moore
Dr. Han Finzel, leader to hundreds of Christian workers, has sharply fused
together the mistakes of leaders with the Biblical solutions. He passes on his
The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make.
These mistakes are common to the point of being accepted leadership
styles. But, they're wrong! May I combine 40 years of ministry
perspective with highpoints of the
book's first four chapters? I'll concentrate on the pastor's roll in
Parent, pastor, teacher, sibling . . . you're a leader! How do you spell
leadership? Influence. That's it! A one-word definition. Anyone who influences someone else to do something has led that person. Another definition might be: A leader takes people where they would never go on their own.
We are in a crisis of Biblical pastoral leadership. Why have eight pastors in
mega-churches lost the staff person closest to them? Each had a pastor who made
a severing kind of mistake in leadership. Another large church pastor required
the evangelism staff worker to produce two public professions
of faith every Sunday. Two staff men in a row with that job resigned,
getting divorced. The third worker resigned in time to save his marriage.
The senior pastor never related the staff family breakups to his ego
demands. Later, immorality and divorce ruined his ministry.
Why are leaders failing? First, few leaders have had any training. Some leaders
just wing it all their lives with constant staff turnover. Second,
today's leaders may lack the diligence to discern true godly models. And, if
found, they may not get the critical mentoring from these busy leaders. Many
pastor-leaders try to copy large-church leaders, thinking that baptisms,
buildings, and budget successes equal Biblical leadership. Not necessarily.
Many magnetic communicators, only observed from a distance, have private
tragedies in their families and ministries when seen close-up. Also
ministers often lack basic skills for common leadership
demands. There is, lastly, the confusion over the conflict between
secular and Biblical leadership values. Adopting many current
business practices with staff people can guarantee tragedy.
The privilege of leadership is a high calling . . . and adventure.
Let's see the mistakes and some practical answers to becoming Biblical leaders.
The Top Four Mistakes
1. The top-down authority attitude.
2. Prioritizing paperwork before peoplework.
3. The absence of genuine affirmation.
4. No room for mavericks.
The Trap of Top-Down Authority Attitudes
People fall into this losing attitude for five basic reasons: It's traditional
. . . old dad did it, the army, and my boss. It's by far the most common model
people use. It's the easiest for it takes little thinking, only threats. It
comes naturally, for that is the way we are. And it certainly reflects the
depravity of man. Satan began the problem, and he is called the deceiver still.
What is the model to counter top-down leadership? It is what some prefer to
call servant leadership. The servant leader idea has been around in business
circles since the 60's, contained in a landmark work written by Douglas
Human Side of Enterprise.
Let's illustrate. Instead of everyone in the organization there to serve the
leader (and the Lord?), the leader is at the bottom of an inverted
pyramid, with everyone resting on his shoulders. Dr. Finzel explains:
I spend countless hours helping others be effective by providing them the
facts, the energy, the resources, the networks, the information, or whatever
else they need to do an effective job. Most of my day is spent laying aside my
own priorities to help others fulfill theirs.
Jesus on the night he was betrayed showed his servant heart in the upper room
washing the disciples' feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I
tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his Master.
Putting Paper Before People
Some signs of a paper-pusher even if he doesn't make lists of lists
may be seeing people as interruptions, preferring to work alone, or
being a poor listener. Perhaps his self-worth is based on accomplishment
more than relationships.
Henri J. Nouwen in his book
Out of Solitude,
writes A few years ago I met an old professor at the University of Notre
Dame. Looking back on his long life of teaching, he said with a funny
twinkle in his eyes: I have always been complaining that my work was
constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were
my work. This is the great conversion in life: to recognize and
believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return.
Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, built one of the most successful companies in
history because he never allowed the organization to replace people as his
number-one focus. During one meeting managers were reviewing customer problems
with Mr. Watson. On the table were eight to ten piles of papers, identifying
the sources of problems: manufacturing, engineering, etc. After much discussion
Watson walked slowly to the front of the room and, with a flash of his hand,
swept the table clean and sent papers flying. He said, There aren't any
categories of problems here. There's just one problem. Some of us are not
paying enough attention to our customers. He turned and walked out.
What has been found is that the higher the rank, the more interpersonal
and human the undertaking. Our top executives spend roughly 90 percent of their
time concerned with the messiness of people problems. A seminary Dean
shared with me the shocking trend of small church pastors copying the mega
church leaders in isolating themselves from ministry and wanting educational
staff do most of their pastoral work except preach on Sundays. Perhaps this may
reflect the desperate need for a people skills curriculum and especially the
personal touch of mentoring in seminaries? In reading the Gospels have you made
the amazing discovery that Jesus spent more time touching people and
talking to them than in any other action? Jesus was not
primarily task-oriented even though He knew He had only three years to train
12 men to carry on the movement that would change the world!
How Are People Changed?
Of all the change agents around us, what is the most impacting? How may we
influence others into Christ likeness? Look back in your mind to what has had
the greatest impact on your growth. A book, a tape, a sermon? Every survey
gives the same answer, A person, or a number of key people with whom
we have had real-life personal contact, have been the primary change agents
in our lives. In one word:
Since this is true, a leader can qualitatively deepen his ministry impact with
a mentoring touch with staff and church leadership. This is beyond his public
ministry. Jesus made his private ministry training his disciples
how to pray, witness, nurture, and disciple. Jesus refused to be comfortably
insulated, and mentored his team of 11 into greatness and extraordinary
spiritual production. Biblical leaders, intimate with Christ's heart, mentor
Every church problem, money, personnel, needs, has its answer in God's
provision of a Spirit-filled man or woman. You build them by mentoring. Paul
gave his reason for living as:
I know that I shall continue with you, for your furtherance and joy of
(Philippians 1:25). You can invest in two or three a year. Nothing I have done
in ministry over the decades has paid off like this mentoring heart-ministry to
staff and key men at church. And my failures have been in the mistakes Dr.
Finzel has highlighted.
Another Way to Spell Leader
What could be better than a pay raise? Affirmation! Leadership has as
much to do with the soft sciences as with getting things done. We
wildly underestimate the power of the tiniest personal touch of kindness.
Your people need varying levels of affirmation. Most affirmations, however, are
biodegradable and must be replenished regularly. We all remember
positive sentences said to us, and play them again and again. I
know one exceptional Christian Education Minister who would never have left a pastor had this busy, spiritual leader focused simple kindness on his staff. The pastor still doesn't know why staff moves.
How do we encourage others? First, by listening (see
). The L in Leader stands for listening. Then we E Empathize (see
). Rejoice with those that joy, weep with the sad. Ask the Holy Spirit for the
heart of Christ to feel with the one with whom you're talking. Next, Biblical
leaders are good at comforting. Pain is standard in ministry and leadership.
Our pain experiences become comfort avenues for others (see
2 Corinthians 1:3, 4
). And we carry others burdens, fulfilling the whole law of Christ
(Galatians 6:2). Listen, Encourage, Affirm, Disciple, Empathize, Respect those
God has placed in your hands! Potential miracles surround every leader. Praying
together can begin the process of bonding their heart with yours. This is
my continual prayer, the perfecting of your characters. (2 Corinthians
Make Room For Mavericks
Maverick Industrialist Henry Ford said, I'm looking for a lot of men with
an infinite capacity for not knowing what can't be done. Is there room
for mavericks in your organization, your house? The new staff member can bring
fresh ideas, excitement, and valid perspective. Yet many soon flame out from the
cold water sprayed by the leader. Leaders who have lost the quest to jump into
a new century and win, rarely encourage the maverick staffer. Webster defines a
maverick as a pioneer, an independent individual who does not go along
with a group. No staffer is to be a rebel. Rebels are like witchcraft, and
must never be hired (see 1 Samuel 15:22,23). It is rarely the institutional core of the church, but its radical fringe that makes the mega strides advancing Christ's cause worldwide.
Joseph, Moses, Jesus, Paul, were all counter-culture in impact. Tom Edison and
George Washington Carver were strange inventors who changed our world. Chester Carlson was laughed out of town for inventing the Xerox process. A Swiss watchmaker invented the quartz watch. His superiors rejected the idea. Americans and Japanese patented it, and Switzerland went from 85 percent global market share of watches to less than 15 percent.
When I suggested we evangelize Southern Methodist University to a leader years
ago, he did not take to the idea. We were busy. I protested. My leader taught me a great lesson. He said, If you believe God hears my prayers, that I desire to obey Him, pray that God will tell me. I prayed four months. Suddenly the leader told me to begin evangelizing SMU. One of the harvest of students won and changed was the university president's son! My maverick personality had to be willing to trust God to work in and through His leader.
All of us have failed in leading at home, on the job, in the church. But
Jesus is the Lord of change. Come unto Me. Get honest before God.
Repent. Confess your sin also to those who follow you. Let's return to Biblical
leadership. The model for our ministry is still Jesus.