Why a Hard Worker Is Not Always a Good Leader

I introduced this discussion of Equipper vs Doer yesterday. If you haven’t read that yet, please go back…

I introduced this discussion of Equipper vs Doer yesterday. If you haven’t read that yet, please go back and read that first, as it sets up what we’ll be looking at today.

First let’s talk about what leadership is: “Leadership has been described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. (Wikipedia)

I see leadership as both influence and a process, meaning you have to be intentional and strategic – two words I use often in my consulting and work with churches, organizations and businesses.

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” – Alan Keith of Genentech

Now on to the title of this blog post: “Why a hard worker is not always a good leader.” Am I against a strong and hard work ethic? Absolutely not. I have a very strong work ethic myself, but I’d rather work smart than hard. I’ve seen way too many leaders that are burned out and frustrated in their life and job and often times they are reaping what they have sewn. Andy Stanley’s book The Principle of the Path is a great read for more on this.

There are many hard workers across the country in churches, organizations and businesses that are working their tail off, but not experiencing health, growth, joy and the unmistakable test of being effective at what they do. If you’re flying solo in your area of ministry and playing the lone ranger, I can guarantee you that you’re not being as effective as you could be. You’re not reaching your full potential and worst yet, your organization will never be all it can be until you make some intentional and strategic changes in how you work and lead. Let’s look at this in more depth: In Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges book Servant Leadership they say:

“One of the quickest ways you can tell the difference between a servant leader and a self-serving leader is how they handle feedback, because one of the biggest fears that self-serving leaders have is to lose their position.”

Insecurity is at the root of many doers. Pride is at the root of other doers. Let’s look at both: First, insecurity is the downfall of many leaders from senior pastors to executive pastors to mid-level leaders and beyond. I’ve told several leaders over the years: In a small church, job security is “I’m the only one that can do this.” Think of that one sound man that runs sound every week, makes no effort to duplicate himself and thinks “They couldn’t make it without me.” Leaders in many small churches, do everything themselves because they think that secures their job. Leaders in large churches lead others to do the work of the ministry and empower those under their authority- that’s their job security.

*Please understand when I say “small churches”, I’m talking about small-minded churches and churches that have stopped growing. I work with many church planters and love churches of all sizes. Church plants won’t be small forever – they’re hungry and highly evangelistic and seek to grow. I’m referring to churches that have been small for decades.*

The other reason for a doer is pride. They think that they can do it better than anyone else and relish in the fantasy that they are the only one qualified to do a particular task or function. In truth, we all have a handful (maybe 3) of things that we alone can do. The majority of what you are in charge of can be given over to a team of volunteers to serve the church in that area of ministry. If you’re a senior pastor, obviously you don’t delegate the weekly preaching and sermon prep; however, you could put together a teaching team and start to share the pulpit with others, as many growing churches are doing.

The key is to not lead from a place of insecurity or pride – both are wrong. If you are to grow as a leader and be effective in your place of service, you must deal with these two issues head on. Emotional Intelligence is another great read that someone asked me to read in my 20’s. There’s no room for insecurity or pride in the church. This is a matter of character and knowing your identity in Christ as a Christ-follower first and leader second. In the beginning of Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus book he says,

“Every leader must answer two critical questions:

  1. Whose am I?
  2. Who am I?

The first question answers “Who am I trying to please?” The second question deals with your purpose in life. My encouragement to you is to wrestle with these two questions and two sins of insecurity and pride and leave them at the foot of the cross. You’ll be a better leader for it and those you lead will be glad you did. We’ll continue down this path tomorrow. For today, how do you handle areas of insecurity and pride as a leader? Do you ever sense them creeping into your life and ministry? Have you answered Blanchard’s two key questions? Where do you find your identity?