Good Guys Can Be Bad Leaders

leaderGood guys don’t always make great leaders but great leaders are always good guys!  

You can read that again if you need to…because it’s true.  I have seen it happen too many times in the church or in the secular workplace, that we place “good guys” in places of leadership and they turn out to be bad leaders.  I’ve been guilty of it in my own leadership before.  Someone comes along who has “a great heart”, people seem to like them and everyone calls them “friend.” But just because someone is great at developing friendship does not mean that translates into developing followers.  That’s what leadership is:  the action of leading a group of people or an organization!  

Some people won’t like this but I’m going to say it anyway.  I think we do God’s Church and God’s people a dis-service if we only look at someones attitude but not their ability.  It’s not an either or, it’s a both and.  I’ve seen people who can’t carry a tune in a bucket be placed on the platform to lead worship because “They have a good heart.”  I’ve seen “good hearted” people released into the pulpit to preach a sermon when they probably aren’t even ready to lead a small group.  I’m not saying those people should never be allowed to sing or never be allowed to preach, they just may not be ready right now!

Before you think that I’m being too hard or harsh, I’d like you to look at this Scripture.  Not too long ago, I was reading through the Psalms in my quiet time.  I came across Psalm 78:70-72, which says about King David:  He chose his servant David, calling him from the sheep pens.  He took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants— God’s own people, Israel.  He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.

It’s not an either or, it’s a both and.  Good guys don’t always make great leaders but great leaders are always good guys!  David had a “true” heart but he also led with “skillful” hands.  He was good at who he was and what he did.  So what does this mean for us today?  How can we make sure that we have “good guys” who are also “great leaders”.  These aren’t the only things you can do, but I believe they will be incredibly helpful in putting good guys in the right spot so they can be great leaders.  (And by good guys I’m including our lady friends as well!  It’s just a term.)

1. Processes —  Do you have a process for vetting potential leaders in your organization?  When that good guy comes along and wants to lead a ministry, event, group or whatever, what is the process you have that helps place them in the right spot at the right time for the right reason?  You might call this your “Leadership Pipeline”.  Everyone has a little bit of leadership in them.  They might be able to lead 5’s, 10’s, 50’s, 100’s, or 1000’s.  So as the leader in your organization, how are you finding and developing those leaders?  If you don’t have a process you won’t produce any leaders!  These other “P’s” should all flow out of your process.

2.  Placement —  It’s ok to tell someone they aren’t ready to lead or they are leading in the wrong spot.  In an effort to protect someones heart I think we do more damage to it by leaving them in the wrong place instead of having the hard conversation and putting them in the right place.  Not everyone was chosen to be an Apostle and not everyone can be chosen to be allowed to lead worship, or a small group or preaching a message.  There is a place for everyone in the church to lead but not everyone can lead at all places in the church.

3.  Practice —  Once you place someone in a position of leadership you have to give them time to practice.  With practice comes failure and with failure comes frustration.  But a good guy will never become a great leader if they aren’t allowed to fall every now and then.  This doesn’t mean you allow bad leaders to remain in the wrong positions, but once you have the right person in the right place they are bound to make mistakes.  Remember, while you might not make mistakes now (tongue in cheek) you once made mistakes too.

4.  Provide —  Typically, good guys don’t become great leaders without a another great leader giving them their time.  When you’ve placed someone in the right position and you’re allowing them to practice in that position, they will need you to provide wisdom as they succeed and as they fail.  I think success sometimes requires more coaching than failure does.  It’s easy to learn from our mistakes but a lot of times we are derailed by our successes.  I’m not sure any leader is ever ready to lead alone.  All great leaders are also hungry for a provider.  Someone who will speak into their life and leadership to help them become even better.

5.  Purpose — This get’s lost for those of us who lead, especially those of us who lead in the church.  So often we view leadership development as a delegation tactic to get stuff off our plate.  There is a place in leadership for delegation and all great leaders do delegate, but great leaders remember that delegation is not just about getting stuff off your plate, it’s about providing a place and a purpose for those you lead!

In the Church, ultimately delegation is about advancing God’s Kingdom not advancing mine!  When I start getting people in the right place at the right time for the right reasons then the right things begin to happen.  God things!  A place and a purpose will always help good guys come alive and lead them toward becoming great leaders.

So there you have it.  Good guys don’t always make great leaders but great leaders are always good guys.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be like David and lead with a true heart and skillful hands, and I want to help other people do the same!

 

 

 

Jeff Maness
I am a follower of Jesus first, husband to a beautiful wife, father to four amazing children, lead pastor of Element Church in Cheyenne, WY, and blogger of all things life.

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