Leadership Pitfalls: Crashing on Autopilot
Question: "I seem to be wasting my time as a leader. No matter how much I invest, my leadership seems to be making very little discernable difference. It’s discouraging. What am I doing wrong?"
Welcome to the world of leadership. It’s often very discouraging. It takes everything we’ve got, and yet, more often than not, it seems like we’re losing ground. Leadership is messy and complicated.
In spite of what all the leadership experts and consultants tell us, it’s not an exact science, and there’s no magic formula. You can do everything right, and still everything will go wrong. You can do everything wrong, and without explanation, everything starts working right. You can do nothing, and stuff happens. You can do everything, and nothing happens.
However, though all of this is true, the role of leading isn’t as confusing or dark as it may seem. We really can make a huge difference through our leadership. Of course, it will seldom work predictably or quickly, but your leadership can and will make a significant difference if you faithfully invest it in the right areas, toward the right issues, with the right motivations and in the right ways.
Obviously, I can’t specifically tell you what, if anything, you’re doing wrong without being in your world. However, from my own failures and years of observing and consulting with other leaders, I can share what I’ve found to be a common reason for the lack of leadership impact.
It’s what I call the “Unintentional Leadership Investment”—investments of time, thinking, energy, effort, finances and influence void of any strategic intentionality. Of course, for leadership to make any worthwhile impact, it must be both intentionally and strategically invested toward fulfilling the organization’s purpose. Sadly, more often than not, this doesn’t happen. Most leaders waste a ton of their time and resources on unintentional, nonstrategic investments, significantly robbing us of any potential leadership impact.
When I’ve experienced this, I realize I haven’t forced myself to regularly assess the investments I’m making against missional effectiveness. Instead, we lead on autopilot, continuing year after year to invest our leadership in the same way, even though the needs of our church and the world around us are significantly changing. Or, out of a false sense of love for people or concern for our own well-being, we lead according to someone else’s expectations for us rather than God’s will.
Admittedly, one of my greatest weaknesses is falling in love with great ideas I or someone else has developed and continuing to invest in those ideas even when they don’t advance our church’s mission. Recently, I had to pull the plug on one of my all-time favorite ministry investments because it was not advancing the purpose of the church. It was very difficult for me. Making that decision took much longer than it should have. I believe this is a major reason for the insane time investments leaders are making with very little impact to show for it. Remember, time is one of the most valuable and limited resources we have. If we waste it, we significantly undercut the potential of our impact. Without a doubt, the difference between a good and great leader lies in how they manage and leverage their time.
So, from my own need to overcome this problem, I encourage you to consider a few practical suggestions.