Are you making these leadership mistakes?

One way in which the church has too closely mirrored the world is in its leadership paradigms. However, while some elements in the business world have begun to recognize certain truths about leadership, the church continues to commit some grave errors in its organizational leadership. One of these truths is that effective teamwork and leadership succeed far more than authoritarian management.

Knowing this, we can then avoid some of the more common team-building errors.

1. Lack of a consistent pattern to follow. Churches tend to build leadership teams based on conformity to a certain kind of thinking or opinion, and the communication patterns which signal this conformity. I’ve seen churches where folks will look at you like you’ve got two heads if you don’t pronounce (or even mis-pronounce) Biblical names exactly the same way as the senior leadership. While this may seem like a minor point, this sort of behavior often points to other issues, including a tendency to emphasize superficial conformity over character, and it’s rare to see a church with this kind of behavior that doesn’t have a good deal of ‘church politics’ going on. Even when this is not true, there is usually no real pattern by which leaders teams members are selected, other than vague claims of ‘hearing from God,’ which is usually just a way of justifying how we’ve chosen people that we like, or who we think are likely to support our every idea and opinion.

How do we correct this?

While some will make claims of hearing from God about who to choose for the teams that they are building, it’s rare to hear of leaders who have any methods by which they test what they’ve think they’ve heard, and too often the way teams are led is haphazard. We ought to at least have the following pattern for team building:

  • A clear declaration of vision and goals.
  • Clearly defined roles and functions for team members.
  • A list of the talent and skills required.
  • Shared understanding of procedure and protocol
  • Good interpersonal skills and/or the willingness to develop them
  • Understanding of the team’s role within and relationship to the organization as a whole
  • Means of supporting and celebrating team members’ contribution


2. Short term motivational leadership. A problem or challenge emerges and a leader gives some sort of pep talk to get his team going. The motivation gained thereby will always fade quickly, and teams that need to be motivated this way often will burn out or become less effective over time. Furthermore, short term motivation is a sign of immature leadership, and often points to a lack of direction. When building teams, we ought to consider the following:

  • Teams ought to be built not just for accomplishment of tasks, but rather for the building of character.
  • Teams should be assembled also with the aim of developing each member’s skill set.
  • At the minimum, team activity and direction ought to be planned for a full year.

3. Lack of a means of measuring progress and dealing with challenges. In the business world, there is a saying. ‘What gets measured gets done.’ I like to say that the team who gets measured gets things done and learns to get along.

  • Each team ought to be started with a thorough assessment of its members.
  • A leader needs to have a system for evaluating the teams’ function and development.
  • Challenges ought to be deal with internally. Teams unable to solve internal problems are always less effective.