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How Leadership Habits Can Hinder Your Effectiveness – Part 1

In his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, author Marshall Goldsmith articulates 20 workplace habits leaders need to break. While written for business, it has drastic application to a pastor’s leadership effectiveness.

These are what Goldsmith defines as transactional flaws performed one against another. When considered in the work of a pastor or church leader, the changes that occur when these 20 are addressed can be profound.

In every church, sooner or later, lead pastors and church leaders have to come to grips with these habits when they want to reinvent or move the church to the next level in the journey.

Listed below are the first 10 habits and descriptions as provided by Goldsmith*. I cover the remaining 10 in part 2 of this blog series. For each habit I want to share how it plays out with pastors in churches.

1. Winning Too Much
(The need to win at all costs and in all situations; when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.)

Pastors love to win. That is in part what helps churches grow – when pastors push things forward. However, when winning the comparison game, the numbers game, or the “who’s who” game becomes more important than winning the “mission” game, everyone loses. It is critical for pastors to know where to win and where to let it go.

2. Adding Too Much Value
(The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.)

Pastors must be confident in their role of leading and empowering those around them. To have the sense that the mission of the church cannot move forward without their verbal or other input only serves to increase insecurity. Rather than adding value it generally adds very little.

3. Passing Judgment
(The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.)

When soliciting feedback from others, pastors need to always be aware of their response to the feedback. Those providing feedback will make mental notes of feedback they offer either with, Wow, I said the right thing, or Why bother? This assures less than truthful feedback in the future.

4. Making Destructive Comments
(The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.)

Pastors should conduct themselves with truth and sincerity. While humor is good, sarcasm and cutting remarks are not—and they certainly do not make the leader look sharp and witty. Speak well always.

5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”
(The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”)

Starting with negative qualifiers over time sets a pastor up for diminishing good feedback from staff and volunteers. When team members sense that the leader is always posturing themselves to be right, those same team members shut down offering information.

6. Telling the World How Smart We Are
(The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.)

It would be nice if pastors were automatically humble. Unfortunately, they are just as much a part of the human family as everyone else. There are those whose insecurities drive them to regularly communicate their value to the church. My recommendation to them? Be secure in the Lord and let others determine your leadership smarts.

[NOTE: Want video resources to train your team of staff or volunteers? Click here to access these church video resources.]

Church training video resrouce for pastors

7. Speaking When Angry
(Using emotional volatility as a management tool.)

One of the strengths of strong pastors is the ability to drive forward and make things happen because they are emotionally charged. A great weakness of many of those same leaders is the sin of anger. Wise and discerning leaders, in the heat of emotion, take stock in their words before releasing them. Those who don’t, lose.

8. Negativity, or “Let Me Explain Why That Won’t Work”
(The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.)

For churches this one ranks right up there with “We’ve never done it that way before” or “We tried that and it didn’t work.” These are absolute total disincentives. There is plenty of negativity with critics in and out of the church. Leaders should not contribute!

9. Withholding Information
(The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.)

Information is power. To withhold it undermines the efforts of churches to attain mission. Pastors sometimes have occasions to share information on a need-to-know basis. Most of the time, however, sharing information strengthens the leader’s ability to influence direction.

10. Failing to Give Proper Recognition
(The inability to praise and reward.)

Give credit where it’s due. While a lead pastor may chafe at the thought of having to pat everyone on the back all the time, it is critical that when good things happen, the good people who made them happen receive thanks and recognition.

Give credit where it’s due. Recognize and appreciate the people who help you make things happen. Click To Tweet

Spiritually discerning leaders want to address these habits in their lives. They may publicly deny some or all of them, but privately they realize something has to be done. It is not easy to do but when it is done, the pastor and the church are on the road to the next level of growth God has in store for them.

In the next blog, I cover the next 10 habits. Click here to go to part 2 now.

* Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (New York: Hyperion, 2007), pp. 40-41.

[NOTE: Want video resources to train your team of staff or volunteers? Click here to access these church video resources.]

Church training video resrouce for pastors


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