Leadership isn’t a one-and-done achievement. We’re constantly growing and learning, and God is always refining us. Over the years, I’ve worked with some wise ministry leaders and learned a great deal through their guidance and coaching.
Here are 17 ways to transform your leadership in 2017 that I picked up from these leaders over the years. I hope they’ll help you lead well in the coming year.
1. Consider the “climate” you carry. Everyone has a climate they bring to a team. We’ve all been in situations where when certain people walk into a room, the mood of the room changes. It may be that people become more energized or, in the case of a volatile personality, people may become more tense.
This has a huge impact on the flow of ideas and a team’s general well being. As a leader, you control the climate you bring to your work environment.
Are people at ease when they’re around you, or are they on egg shells?
2. Give unreasonable generosity. In Matthew 5:38, Jesus is teaching about what our response should be when people take calculated, negative actions against us. He uses words like slapped, sued, and demand. It doesn’t take long to learn that, even in “church world,” people are still people.
At one point or another, we’ve all taken negative, calculated actions towards others and had those actions taken against us.
When we’re the culprit, it usually stems from fear and/or insecurity. We also have the tendency to think that other people on our teams and in our churches should be more like us. The danger in that, however, is that our own expectations of others move towards demands of others.
Expectations create clarity for people, but demands create burdens and frustration.
When we’ve been the victim of such calculated attacks, our immediate, and natural response is to retaliate. But, Jesus says we’re to give relational generosity to the people who wrong us. I know, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
But, we have to remember that “the Lord Himself will fight for us” (Ex 14:4). Our responsibility is to stay calm.
3. Core values matter. Your church probably has a set of core values. But, don’t assume your staff and volunteers know them. If you’re not being made fun of for talking about your core values all the time, you probably need to talk about them more.
4. You can’t innovate by doing, you innovate by thinking. It’s easy to bogged down in the details of daily ministry. Problem is, that doesn’t leave much time to actually think.
What would happen if you set aside 30 minutes each day in 2017 simply to think and dream?
5. Challenge your processes. If you can’t check off the items on your to-do list in 40 hours/week, you may need to reevaluate how you get things done.
Make a list with three columns:
- Column 1: What can only you do? These are the things that you are best at and that you thrive at doing. These tasks should consume 80% of your time and energy.
- Column 2: What can someone else do? After you’ve figured out what only you can do, see what items can be passed on to someone else.
- Column 3: What needs to be stopped altogether? These items are the leftovers. Do they add any real value to your ministry efforts? If not, cut them.
At the end of the day, challenging your processes is about stewardship. It’s an exercise in stewarding the time and energy God has given you.
6. Don’t just present problems, provide solutions. Challenging a process without providing a solution only leads to frustration for both you and your people. That doesn’t mean you always have to have an answer, but don’t be the one who always highlights problems. Otherwise, you just sound like a complainer.
Make a list of what you’re currently doing and then ask yourself “why do we do it this way?” You may find room for improvement and discover some creative solutions to challenges you and your team are facing.
7. Focus on the right work (and get the right results). Frantic activity never produces favorable results. If you’re like me, you probably always feel the weight (actually lets call it the burden) of your task list. This year, don’t be afraid to hit pause on that frantic activity, and instead focus on the right work that will produce the right results.
8. Say “no” more often. I have a tendency of too quickly saying yes to things. Then, I feel overwhelmed because I over extend myself. The problem with saying yes too often is that, if you don’t deliver, it breaks the trust of the people who initially asked for your help.
A former boss of mine that was a good leader said it this way, “saying no allows your yes’s to be more accurate.”
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. How do you know if you’re taking yourself too seriously?
Have you ever thought “this place would fall apart if I wasn’t here”?
Or, maybe you’ve said to yourself (or aloud), “if they would just do this my way, everything would work!”
As hard as it is to swallow, everyone is replaceable—including you. Remember, you’re part of something, but you’re not THE something.
10. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Obviously we’re not talking about moral failures here. We’re talking about taking risks and trying things that could lead to greater ministry impact. It might be a new outreach effort, or launching a new ministry in your church.
Making mistakes means you’re trying things and learning.
11. Commit to resting. It’s much better to work from your rest than it is to rest from your work.
12. Create rituals for yourself and your people. Rituals will produce the results you’re looking for in 2017, not wants. Rituals are what you do consistently.
13. Prayerfully consider each task you work on. God is at work in all that we do—our tasks, our relationships, everything. That means that everything we do is sacred. There is no division between our work and our worship.
14. Apologize when you make a mistake. Defensiveness begets defensiveness, apologies beget apologies, and gratitude begets gratitude.
15. Squash negativity. A negative attitude is poison to your staff and volunteers. If not stopped, it will spread like a cancer in your church creating division and an environment that is ripe for gossip.
Many a church has split because of the bad attitudes of a few.
Note: Being positive doesn’t mean we avoid hard conversations, it just means we choose to encourage rather than tear down. It also means we extend grace to others.
16. Practice gratitude. This one’s pretty self-explanatory.
17. Don’t be a hero. Your role as a leader isn’t to know more than anyone else on your team or be the most skilled person on your team. It’s to discover the strengths and giftings of those around you, and place them in roles in which they can leverage those gifts to succeed. Help them succeed and don’t be scared to acknowledge your own limitations.
If you want to be a leader everyone wants to follow, these 17 tips are a good place to start in the coming year.