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What fosters team spirit? What makes a healthy team?

All of us want to serve on healthy teams. Every good leader I know would want to lead a healthy team.

Most of us understand progress towards a vision is more possible if a healthy team is working together.

Also, all of us want to go home at night feeling we’ve done our best, we are appreciated for our efforts, and are ready to go at it again tomorrow. And, those emotions come best when we are serving on a healthy team.

How do we get there?

I’ve led many teams through my career – in business, non-profits and in the church. I’ve written lots of posts on healthy teams and included thoughts on creating them in my book The Mythical Leader. Some teams I have led I would say were healthy, some weren’t, and some were “under construction”. As a leader, I must take complete ownership of each of those scenarios. Team spirit – healthy teams – are greatly shaped by the leadership of the team. (And, that’s a hard word when, as a leader, we know the team isn’t as healthy as it should be.)

There are also seasons for every team. There will be seasons, maybe even because of external influences, where a healthy team is not as healthy as it once was. Among the healthy teams on which I’ve served though, the people and personalities were different, but there have been some commonalities I could clearly identify.

Here are 7 commonalities of healthy teams:

Clear mission, vision and strategy. To feel a part of the team, people need to know where the team is going, why they are going there, and what their role is on the team. An understanding of the overall goals and objectives fuels energy. When the big picture objective is understood each team member is more willing to pull together to accomplish the mission, because they know the why and can better understand where they fit on the team.

Healthy relationships. For a team to have team spirit it needs to be filled with team members who actually like each other and enjoy spending time with one another. This doesn’t mean there isn’t conflict, but conflict is used to make the team stronger not to divide people. There are no hidden agendas or suppressed grudges among team members. (As a leader, when I realize there is unresolved conflict on our team I know I can’t ignore it.)

Celebratory atmosphere. Laughter builds community. A team needs time just to have fun together. And, there needs to be a freedom for spontaneous (and planned) celebration. People need to feel appreciated for their work and that their participation is making a positive difference. On healthy teams no one every person is valued for their contributions. Encouragement is free-flowing and genuine.

Joint ownership – from everyone on the team. This one is huge, because without it the team won’t be completely healthy. Here’s the reality – some people are not team players. Period. They checked out years ago and are now just drawing a paycheck – or continuing to hold onto a title. They may be great people, but they aren’t building team spirit anymore. They don’t want to be on the team or not in the position they’ve been asked to play. Team spirit is built by people who are in it for the common win of the team.

Shared sufferings. A healthy team spirit says, “we are in this together” — through good times and hard times. In addition to laughing together, a good-spirited team can cry together through difficulties of life. They share the pain when things aren’t going well – regardless if it’s “their area” of responsibility.

Shared workload. There are no turf wars on a healthy team. Silos are eliminated and job descriptions frequently overlap. Everyone pulls equal weight and helps one another accomplish individual and collective goals.

Leadership embraces team. This may be the biggest one. As a leader, it’s easy to get distracted with my own responsibilities – even live in my own little world. And, let’s be honest. Some leaders would prefer to lead from the penthouse suite. They give orders well, they are good at controlling things, but they do not really enjoy playing the game with the team. A healthy team spirit requires involvement from every level, but a team-mindset must especially come from leadership.

It’s a challenge leaders. Why don’t you use this as a checklist of sorts to evaluate. How’s your team doing?

Let’s build better teams.

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This is one of those posts I hope someone learns something, which can help them in life.

I hope that for all of my posts – otherwise why am I writing, but, I see this one as a life-giving post for those who will read it and take some of it to heart.

My specific target is those who are in their 20’s, who are starting out in their adult life and career. As I’m writing, I’m thinking of my own two sons in that demographic (although one of them is about to hit the 30 mark), the young people who have worked on our teams, and hundreds of college students and young adults in our churches. Those who come to mind are driving my desire to invest something in those who will read this.

I’m 54, which is certainly not old – although it may have seemed like it was when I was younger, but it is old enough to have learned a few things. Like things I wish I had done when I was younger. And, some things I’m glad I did.

I have learned the only way to really sustain something in your life is through self-discipline. No one is going to force you to do some of the most important things you need to do.

If I were in my 20’s again, there are some disciplines I would make sure I incorporated into my life. I would practice them enough that they would be natural for me today.

Here are 10 disciplines I would recommend everyone start in their 20’s:

Saving. It’s easier to start setting aside money before you start spending it. Setting a budget and living by it makes so much sense to me now. I didn’t in my twenties. I wanted all the disposable income I could make. But, I didn’t spend it wisely and now I have to make up for lost time saving for my future.

Exercising. I exercise everyday. Now in my 50’s I recognize more than ever my need for regular physical activity, but some days the body doesn’t want to do it. Without it being intrinsic to who I am I’m not sure I would start now. I wish I had developed a better habit of this in my twenties.

Journaling. I have journaled off and on throughout my life. It is so much fun to read my thoughts from 30 years ago and reflect on how much I’ve learned and things God has done in my life. Still, there are periods missing where for years I didn’t journal. Knowing the value of this now I wish this had been more disciplined then.

Friending. Those deep, lasting friendships often start early – and they take work. At this stage in life, friendships have deeper meaning and importance to me. I need people who can speak into my life who know me well. I have those, but not necessarily among people I knew in my 20’s — who have a long history with me. I look on Facebook at friends from high school and college and I wish I had worked harder to keep those friendship strong. I miss them. At the time, I thought they would last forever. They didn’t. They are still “friends”, but not at the level they once were. I’d make sure I surrounded myself with the right friends — and those may or may not be the people from your 20’s, but I’d build healthy, long-lasting friendships.

Identifying. Specifically here I’m referring to learning who you are – who God designed you to be – and then living out of that truth throughout your life. This is the discipline of faith. Figuring out what you believe about the eternal and why you believe it and then putting faith into practice is vitally important. It will be challenged so many times. The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come.” Such wise advise. Knowing what you believe – nailing it down without reservation – will help you weather the storms of life which surely come to all of us. As a believer, knowing God’s approval of you will help you believe in yourself and your abilities and empower you to take the God-sized risks you may look back and regret if you don’t. This discipline also helps you develop the discipline of prayer so you can seek wisdom from God. When you fully recognize the value of being “in the family of God” you are more likely to cry out regularly to “Abba Father”.

Giving. Just as saving is an easier discipline if you begin early so is giving. Whether it’s time or money I now realize the value there is to me in helping others. I have practiced this one throughout my adult life and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I highly recommend starting this discipline early before the world and all its demands takes the ability from you.

Resting. Those in their 20’s now seem better at this one than my generation was but for those who need it – start resting now. Work hard. It is a Biblical command and a good virtue. The older you get, and the more responsibility that comes upon you, the harder it is to find the time to rest. It needs to be a discipline.

Life-planning. Creating a discipline of stopping periodically to ask yourself huge questions will keep you heading in a direction you eventually want to land. Questions such as: Am I accomplishing all I want to do? If, not, why not? Where should I be investing my time? What do I need to stop doing or start doing to get where I want to go? In what areas of my life do I need to improve?

These can be life-altering questions. Ideally, we should ask them every year, but at least every few years this is a healthy discipline to build into your life – and the sooner the better.

Honoring. This discipline is honoring the past – learning from those who have gained wisdom through experience. When you’re young you can be guilty of thinking you know more than you really know. It’s not until you get to a certain age – I’m there now – where you realize how much you don’t know. There is always something to be learned from another person’s experience you don’t have. This one seemed to come to me naturally, because I grew up most of my early life without a father in the home. I craved wisdom, especially from older men. But, I cannot imagine where I would be in life had I not developed the life-long discipline of wisdom-seeking early in my life.

Coaching. Pouring into others is a great discipline and should begin early in life. In my 20’s I didn’t realize I had something to give others from what I had already learned. Imagine the impact of a 20-something person investing in a middle or high school student – maybe someone without both parents in the home. It wasn’t until I recruited one of my mentors in my mid-20’s and he said, “I’ll invest in you if you invest in others” that I began this discipline. I wish I had started even earlier.

It’s probably not too late for most who will read this to start most of these. Most of them, however, become more challenging the older you get.

Someone will wonder how I chose the order of these or if some are more important than others. There may even be push back because I started with one about money. I get that and it’s fair. Obviously, one on this list is MOST important. In my opinion, it would be “Identifying”. All else is an overflow of that one. But, had I started with it then the natural question is which one is number two, and number three, etc. Whichever one would have ended up number ten could seem less important. I think all of them are important, so I didn’t prioritize them.

Any you would add to my list?

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I was working with a church a few years ago that was facing a growth barrier. They had experienced rapid growth, but the staff was stretched beyond what they could do. There were holes of responsibilities not being filled. My opinion, and they agreed, was they couldn’t continue growing unless something changed.

The “genius” suggestion I gave them is not genius at all. It’s commonsensical. They needed to find new leaders, empower them with authority, and spread the load of responsibility.

Duh! And, to think I sometimes get paid for this stuff.

Yet, in every church, sometimes finding volunteers feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.

The obvious question: Where do we find these new leaders?

And, that’s a great question!

I suggested they look for 3 types of people:

People currently “doing” who need to be leading.

These are people who are consistently serving. They are the reliable people you couldn’t do without. They have been given responsibility, but never been tapped for authority. Not all “doers” have the capability of being leaders, but many do if given the opportunity. Seek them. Recruit them. Empower them.

People serving in one area, who could lead in another area.

These are people who are serving in the children’s ministry, for example, who could be leading in the parking ministry – or vice-versa. Many times people are serving in one area, because there is a need, but they could easily be stellar leaders in another area. And, it might even build new enthusiasm to them and their service. In fact, discerning these type people early enough often keeps them from burning out where they are currently serving.

People leading outside the church.

This is absolutely my favorite, yet one I don’t see many churches doing. There are often people in the church who are tremendous leaders in the secular world, but they’ve never been given an opportunity to lead in the church. These are sometimes “big asks”, but in my experience they won’t often get involved until they are asked. In my last church, some of our best leaders on our finance committee, for example, had never served in leadership in the church. They were, however, tremendous leaders in their careers.

The final thing I would say is you have to be intentional in leadership recruitment. People come to your church and see things working. They don’t know you need help, because everything appears to be working. There doesn’t seem to be a place for them. Again, in my experience, you’ll have to ask the best leaders to join your team.

How do you find new leaders?  What would you add to my list?

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Ever wonder why the introvert on your team isn’t talking?

Occasionally I will hear another leader complain about someone on their team who the leader feels doesn’t contribute as much as others. “She’s too quiet.” “I wish he would speak up more.” “He doesn’t participate as much as some of the others.”

And, sometimes I wonder if the team dynamics allow for them to be heard.

The fact is introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They usually take time to think things through thoroughly, which is a valuable asset to a team. They can lead, take charge, and drive a project to completion.

And, on behalf of my fellow introverts I should say your team needs to hear from them.

If I may be so bold to say chances are, if introverts aren’t sharing, you’re likely missing out and some of the best ideas are not being discovered.

Here are 7 reasons introverts may not be talking:

Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They simply won’t share.

You are rushing the answers – You have to give introverts time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.

I often receive push back from introverts and leaders about the process of brainstorming and their participation. Brainstorming often involves quick thoughts being shared. But, I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. And, fellow introverts, we don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of this post.

There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers” an introvert will often let others do the talking. Again, they won’t likely interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered they are usually silenced. You can sometimes solve this by breaking larger groups into smaller groups.

You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Put an introvert in the awkward front row seat or in the middle of a crowded room and they aren’t going to be as vocal. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention. The set up of the room is a huge part of team dynamics for everyone, but especially introverts. Give them their space, maybe even let them have a corner, but mostly don’t assign seats. Don’t force it – let them choose.

They’ve got nothing to say – And, it could be as simple as that. Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.

The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk or chit chat. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest. The more you can stick to your agenda the more likely they will be to participate.

You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. And, it’s not that they have nothing to say. They simply want to be prepared before they share what’s on their mind. The more advance notice you give them the better. You might even say, “Tracy, I’m going to ask you to share in just a few minutes about ______” and then come back to them. You’ll get a better answer.

Of course, all of this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts on your team? And, how introverted are they? What is their ideal setting for being heard? This takes time and practice – and realizing everyone on your team is not the same.

But, everyone on your team has thoughts you need to hear. If not, why are they on the team? Our challenge, as leaders, is to create an environment conducive for hearing from everyone.

By the way, I have a whole chapter on this subject in my book The Mythical Leader.

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Here are four random leadership observations I’ve learned the hard way. And, some I repeated many times. I hope you can learn them from me without having to repeat them.

Don’t make solo decisions involving people.

The hardest decisions a leader makes always involve people. Many times a leader knows the right thing to do in employment situations, but simply needs (whether the leader knows it or not) someone to confirm it. That’s why we must continually surround ourselves with other people we trust and never make decisions involving people alone. This is true whether hiring, firing, or correcting.

At times, the person helping me discern has been my wife. Other times it has been other coworkers or a team of people formed only for this purpose, obviously dependent upon the confidentiality of the situation. If you’re hiring a new employee you would include different people than if you were having to release someone. In some cases you need outside advice. I have consistently relied on a board of advisors in leadership – whether formal to the organization or informally gathered by me.

Bottom line: Rarely make decisions alone, which impact people in major way.

Little things can be big things.

The little things are often bigger deals and cause more problems in an organization than the big things. Take something such as enthusiasm, for example. One person on the team has one success in his or her area and it’s worth celebrating to them and those closest to them. But, that one smaller dose of enthusiasm, if celebrated well and strategically, may become contagious to the entire team. A little enthusiasm goes a long way.

The reverse is true also. If one person on the team develops a negative attitude, for example, and it’s allowed to continue impacting the team, the entire team might be affected. And, it doesn’t matter how minor a role the person plays on the team. (Of course, that’s because there are no minor roles.) Years ago, when I was in another field, we had an administrative assistant several layers down from me in the organization, but her attitude impacted mine. I didn’t have to interact with her a great deal, but over time I realized she was negatively impacting more of the team than I knew. It was actually toxic to be near her. In this case, it was no longer a small matter. It was a big deal.

Bottom line: Don’t ignore the little things. They matter.

Healthy change requires a healthy team.

The greater the challenge the greater the need for a healthy team. Healthy teams are formed when everyone feels they add value to the team and their voice is being heard. As a leader, what you don’t know CAN hurt you. Communication is often the missing element in many organizational problems. When a leader says, “I don’t know”, it welcomes the input of others on a team. Let people have input into the way change is made. Give them a seat at the table of discovery and implementation. And, remember, people never tire of hearing “thank you”.

I’ve tried to implement changes in an area only to have the changes fail, because I didn’t have adequate health on the team to move forward. We moved too soon, or with the wrong people, or without building enough consensus or motivation. People didn’t understand why, so they resisted. The health of the team should always be considered first.

Bottom line: If you need to make major changes, spend as much time developing a healthy team.

Humble leaders attract loyal followers.

Everyone makes mistakes. I once had someone meet with me who was offended by something I said years ago. They had even carried it with them even after they left our team. I was devastated. I’m confident my intent was misunderstood, and didn’t even remember the exact incident, but I hated knowing I had hurt someone with my words. What could I do? I apologized. I asked for forgiveness. I didn’t try to make excuses. I simply said, “I’m sorry” and thanked the person for the courage to come forward. (And, I hope the person can now move forward, but that will be up to them.)

And, I wish I could tell you that was the only time something like this has ever happened, since I’ve been leading. It’s not. In the course of leading, and this has become more true for me the larger the organization gets, I make so many decisions in a day I’m bound to make one wrong or say something in a way I didn’t intend. I’m going to be misunderstood regardless of how hard I try not to be. I’m human. The more I can humble myself, seek forgiveness, and attempt to learn from them and make fewer similar mistakes, the more willing people seem to trust me and follow my lead.

Bottom line: No leader is perfect. Stay humble. Keep learning. Keep trying to get better.

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I heard of a very well known band who demanded Skittles and M&M’s in their dressing room prior to the show, but there was always one color, which had to be removed. The color consistently changed. If the band showed up and the requirement wasn’t fulfilled exactly as requested they would pitch a fit.

It may sound extreme, and I was also told they did it to test how willing the hosting group was to pay attention to details, but it’s still a little quirky, in my opinion.

But, they were a great band and was in huge demand, so if you wanted them in your venue you simply made sure that one color was removed.

It reminds me of an important leadership principle.

If you want to work with excellence you often have to deal with quirky.

Some of the most excellent people at a certain task will come with their own quirks.

I’m not going to share examples in this post, because I don’t want to single out people I’ve worked with who fit this principle. Plus, you likely know who they are on your team. They may be super at completing projects, flawless with details, but they can be a baby sometimes if things don’t go their way. They might be extremely creative, but they have to have a certain setting in order to create. Perhaps they have to be left alone, unbothered when they are doing their best work. The gifts they bring to the team are invaluable, but they can easily get their feelings hurt and need consistent reassurance.

I’m not talking about people who are simply difficult to work with. And, I’m not talking about the ones who bring negativity to the team or are constantly stirring conflict. You don’t need these type people on a healthy team.

I’m talking about people who, if they didn’t have a few quirks, would be amazing. They are great people, they simply have a few idiosyncrasies you have to deal with if they are on your team. They like things a certain way. They have pet peeves.

You often have to determine whether the quirks are minimized enough by the excellence you receive from the person.

As a leader I have to remember, I have my own quirks. I have my own pet peeves and my certain ways of doing things. It comes with working with me. We all have our quirks.

Don’t dismiss people with quirks. It often leads to excellence. And, remember, their quirks may simply be ways they are different from you.

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I have some hard advice for young leaders.

Before I share , I feel the need to be clear, in case you’re a new reader or don’t know me well, I’m a supporter of young leaders. Ask anyone I work with, or look at decisions we’ve made as a church, or the personal investments of my time into young leaders and you can clearly see I believe in the next generation of leaders. I only build my case of support, because this may be a hard word to receive.

To illustrate this principle, let me begin with one of my favorite stories.

When out oldest son Jeremy was in high school he was on the wrestling team. It was intense training. I loved the discipline and confidence it gave him and I loved the wrestling matches. Although he was in the smallest weight class actually was pretty good.

When Jeremy would come home from a hard day of practice he wanted to bring what he learned in training into our family time. I had always enjoyed wrestling with my boys, but now he wanted to take our play time to a whole new level. We would start wrestling in the “assumed position” he had been taught, but then I would use my extra 70 pounds as an advantage and quickly pin him to the ground. He would often yell, “No, you’re doing it wrong! That’s not the rules!”

To which I would always reply, “No buddy, you’re on my turf now, you play by my rules – and I say there are no rules.”

And in that illustration lies a principle younger leaders need to learn as they enter the field of leadership.

Here’s the principle:

If you’re gonna play leadership with the big boys and girls – you’ve gotta bring your big boy and girl game.

I’m not trying to sound cruel or disrespectful. If you made it to the “real world” you’ve surely earned your spite. But, the reality is some people enter the field of leadership having been given much of what they wanted and had few demands placed on them personally.

And, that’s not a generational statement, as much as it is a reality statement. My sons, for example, who are now grown, fully independent, professionals, didn’t necessarily have to get a job until they were out of college. They were blessed in that way. And, I’m thankful for that.

I should also point out I see some incredible young leaders today. Hard-working. Conscientious. Dedicated. Loyal. (My boys fit that category too.)

So this is an “if the shoe fits” post.

Yet when this is the case, when a young leader enters the field of leadership with no prior experience in it, I often see some unrealistic expectations. For example, they sometimes expect to receive equal reward without paying their equal dues.

What disturbs me most is when young leaders – or any leaders, for that matter, fail to live up to their full potential.

Here are 10 ways I’ve seen unprepared young leaders enter the field of leadership:
  • Making excuses for poor performance rather than attempting to improve
  • Pretending to have answers to problems they’ve never experienced.
  • Refusing to learn from other people – especially older people – discounting anything which isn’t from your generation.
  • Demanding more than they are willing to give.
  • Expecting a reward they haven’t yet earned.
  • Depending on step-by-step instructions instead of learning by trial and error.
  • Refuting another generation for content when technique is the real difference.
  • Being cynical towards anything opposite of the way they think it should be.
  • Remaining fearful of taking risks or making a mistake.
  • Treating loyalty as if it is a strange idea from the past.

I titled this post hard words, but they only sting if they’re true.

And, granted, all of these were probably true to some extent of every generation.

My advice:

Young leaders be patient, teachable, humble, grateful and mold-able, as your enter positions of authority and as you are given responsibility. Don’t fail to learn all you can from those who went before you or to grow from your mistakes. Expect to work hard to achieve the things you want from life and realize things may not always be as you would want them to be. There are a few stories of people who stumbled into instant success, but those are rare.

The reward: 

Over time, as you are diligent, you will likely change some of the rules. I hope you do. Some of the rules of my generation need changing. I’m not afraid for you to teach this old dog new tricks. I want to learn from you.

I want you to have responsibility and authority. I want you to be fully rewarded and recognized for your contribution to society. I also want you to realize, however, that most things of lasting value take time and discipline to achieve.

The world of leadership can be tough, but you can make a huge contribution if you are willing to pay the price.

By the way, I gave this same advice to my sons as they have entered adulthood and the workplace.

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Are you easy to follow as a leader?

I might ask – are you followable?

Followable may not be a Scrabble approved word – or even a word, but the application and the intent of the word is huge.

A followable leader has people who want to follow. See how elementary I can be?

Seriously, leaders who are easy to follow inspire people to join them on a journey and they develop loyalty from their team.

A couple of good questions to ask yourself: Do people want to follow my lead? Why would they want to follow me?

The best example I know of a followable leader is Jesus. Considering some of the reasons He was able to develop such loyalty among the people He led helps us learn why He was easy to follow.

Here are 7 qualities of an easy to follow leader:

Has a vision worth following

A leader needs a vision which lasts beyond today. There needs to be an element of faith and risk to motivate followers. The vision needs to take people somewhere they want to go, but aren’t sure how to get there. It needs to be a “bigger” reality than people are experiencing today. (Do I have to make that point for Jesus?)

Willing to lead the way

A leader who is easy to follow is willing to go first. They pave the way. (Jesus went first. He suffered first. He challenged the tired, worn out system first. Others could follow, because He led by example.)

Remains steadfast with integrity

Even through difficult days, a followable leader stays the course and keeps his or her character in tact. Followers know they can depend on the, resolve, strength and fortitude of the leader during the darkest hours. (Jesus remained sinless all the way to the Cross!)

Displays grace and patience

A followable leader extends grace and forgiveness when mistakes are made. They pace the team until the team is ready for greater challenges. They equip the team with the proper training and resources to complete assignments. (Jesus gave His disciples, and everyone He met, much grace.)

Challenges followers with high expectations

People want to follow someone who sets the bar for achievement high. There’s no intrinsic value in following easy-to-attain goals. (Jesus pushed the disciples beyond what they thought they could do. Recall Peter walking on water?)

Practices humble servanthood

To be followable, a leader should display humility and be a servant of others, especially those he or she is supposed to be leading. (Jesus washed the disciples feet.)

Places energy into others

Followable leaders consistently invest in other people. They give real authority and responsibility as they encourage and develop other leaders. They even replace themselves in key positions. (Jesus sent the disciples out and He’s left His church in our hands.)

Would you follow a leader with such qualities?

Which of these do you most need to improve upon?

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Many times in leadership the intangibles determine the quality of our leadership. I have learned this is especially true in church revitalization.

Of course, we need change management skills, there’s always a need to cast vision, delegation and we must manage effectively. I didn’t realize,however, how important the intangible skills of leadership would be.

As we end this season of our ministry, I reflect back on some of the successes we’ve had – and, some of the mistakes we made. If you want to attempt church revitalization, or honestly, just practice better leadership, learn from some of the things we did right – and things we did wrong.

Here are 7 intangibles needed in church revitalization:

Listening – Thankfully this was one I had learned earlier in my ministry and business career. There was a day when I tried to convince people I knew more than I really did. I felt people needed to know how smart I was so they would follow my leadership. I was wrong. People actually follow people best when they feel they are being heard.

As leaders, especially in seasons of change, we need to practice listening far more than talking – especially in the early days. In revitalization it would be arrogant to arrive at a church and assume you have all the answers or that nothing good has been done before you arrived. Listen. Hear from people. Listen for the good times and the not so good times. Your best building (or rebuilding) will be from what you learn.

Understanding – People want to be understood. In church revitalization, for example, there are likely reasons why the church needs to be revitalized. You’ll hopefully discover them while you’re listening, but also realize more than the stories you hear there are real emotions involved. People may have been hurt.

Most people love the church and want what’s best for it. Most will know things could be better. But, before they will accept changes they want to make sure you understand how they feel. The emotional aspect of change is often more important than the actual change.

Humility – Again, many of my best leadership skills came from painful experiences of doing things the wrong way first. There is a huge difference in confidence and pride. People want a leader to be competent, courageous, and visionary – all products of confidence.

But, people reject a leader who thinks they know everything or tries to convince people they do. (God seems to reject this kind of leader also.)
Don’t have all the answers. You don’t, but don’t act like you do either.

Forgiveness – There will be things said and done, in person, by email, written on the bulletin and slid under your office door (not that I know what I’m talking about here), in person and behind your back. People often respond unkindly to change. And, yes, it can hurt.

But, to have any success in leading change long-term, and to live with yourself and God, you must learn to forgive. As pastors, we certainly would teach this truth to our people. We must live it before them also.

Repentance – This may be on behalf of the pastor or the church. There may have been some sin involved in bringing the church to the point of needing revitalization. Sometimes you can’t move forward until people repent the past.

And, yes, this is a hard one. Very hard.

Healing – People need time to heal. And, there is such a fine line of time between initiating needed change and giving people their ability to heal. I don’t know if there is a perfect way to discern which needs more priority, but we must be cognizant of people’s processing of pain.

This is one reason I found we couldn’t have too many major changes happening at the same time. I tried to lead us through no more than two or three major changes per year. And, then allow people in between to heal as needed, celebrate, and reflect, before we attempted another major season of change.

Challenging – There may be people who have used way too much power to control the church. There are others who simply aren’t kind. There are those who stir trouble with gossip and passive agreesion. We need to love everyone. We need to make sure we remain open to correction and teachabe. But, we must also not be afraid to challenge – wisely and gracefully – those who are simply disrupters.

I realize there is a lot to this post, which for my friends who are in the early and hard days of church revitalization can be difficult to read. I hope it’s equally helpful.

Don’t neglect the intangibles. They don’t always make the leadership posts and books, but they are just as – if not more – important in leading church revitalization.

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The best leaders I know don’t have all the answers. They haven’t got everything figured out yet. Most wouldn’t even consider themselves “experts” in the field of leadership. (I certainly don’t consider myself to be one.) In fact, they are usually humbled as to why people would ask for their input. They realize they have much to learn.

The best leaders I know are consistently getting better, but while all of that is true, you can often spot a mature leader. They share common attributes.

Here are 7 attributes of a mature leader:

Able to think strategically in the moment.

They don’t just spout off the first thing that comes to their mind and worry about cleaning it up later.All of us have done that at times, but maturing leaders have learned their words carry great weight and so they choose them carefully. (I wrote a post about that HERE.) They are encouraging and guard their tongue from reckless and hurtful words. It’s not a matter of being politically correct – it’s caring for people. It’s valuing others. It’s being intentional to use the power of words to bless others rather than tear them down.

Recognizes the contributions of others and willingly cheers other’s success.

It’s natural, especially early in a person’s leadership to seek to “build a resume”, but a mature leader doesn’t have to get all the glory. In fact, they may get none, because the attention is shifted to the team – often to those who did the real work. This leader has learned when others succeed the leader succeeds.

Doesn’t react in anger.

Mature leaders carefully plans a response. They take time to “cool down” before addressing a heated issue. Possibly they have been burned by their own quickness to react and so now they are becoming more careful and methodical in their approach.

Releases more than controls.

Mature leaders place trust in others. They empower people to do work and take ownership. They know, often by painful experience, the more they control the less things can grow and be healthy.

Thinks beyond today.

Personally and for the organization, a mature leader is guiding a path towards a better reality. They strive to see what’s coming and prepare the organization for it. They have likely experienced what it is like to not being prepared and so they want to protect the vision for the long-term.

Concerned about, but doesn’t stress over small things.

Some things just don’t matter as much in the grand scheme of things. Leaders should be concerned about the details – even the smallest things can make a huge difference, but mature leaders look to the big picture and dismiss issues which have little impact on the overall vision. A mature leader has learned they cannot make everything matter or nothing really will.

Receives correction without becoming defensive.

This is huge. Mature leaders don’t hold a grudge. They forgive easily. They see feedback, even that which is hard to hear, as valuable information which can make them better. Leadership can be painful, so it takes time for a leader to get here, but mature leaders have learned life is too short and there is no value in lingering in the past.

You may not have all of these as attributes yet, but my encouragement is to keep improving.

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