Leading an organization is invigorating, an honor, a privilege, a huge responsibility . . . and at the same time, often fraught with peril. Hidden traps exist that threaten to at a minimum, derail a leader, or worse, take him or her out.

Here are three of the most common leadership traps:

Trap 1: Wanting everyone to like us

I want everyone to like me. But over time I’ve discovered that everyone liking me is not a prerequisite to leadership success.

Trap 2: Wanting everyone in the church or business we lead to be rowing in the same direction

I think most leaders want every person who walks through the doors of their church or their company to be rowing with them vs. rowing against them. Truth be told, I think everyone being totally on board with you only happens in heaven.

Trap 3: Wanting everyone to love your vision, playbook, and values

Most leaders want everyone to catch the organization’s vision, to embrace its core values, and to be disciplined to run the playbook. But truth be told, not everyone will.

These three traps can entangle even the most experienced of leaders. The question is, how can we reduce the chances of getting caught in them?

Trap 1: Wanting everyone to like us

Not being constrained by the obsessive need to be liked is not the same thing as leading with an obnoxious “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me so I’ll just continue to be my nasty old self” kind of attitude. Jesus had deep compassion for people. He dealt with them gently, carefully, and at the same time . . . often pointedly. He knew who He was and to Whom He belonged, and so He didn’t need the approval of others to complete His mission.

The unhealthy drive to be liked is rooted primarily in identity fracture. We don’t fully get how loved and valued by God we are. We’ve not deeply tapped into how pleased He is with those of us who’ve surrendered to Him.

Trap 2: Believing we need everyone to be rowing in the same direction to experience success

Not needing everyone to be rowing in the same direction in order to have organizational momentum is not the same thing as letting work be a free-for-all where every person does what is right in their own eyes. Your leadership team should be rowing in the same direction as you are. This doesn’t mean they won’t have a better idea than you do from time to time. It means that attitudinally they’re in sync with you.  If not, hard conversations need to be had.

You won’t get 100 percent unity on organizational direction from everyone who attends the church you lead or works for the business you run, but on the leadership team, the oars need to be pulling in the same direction.

Trap 3: Wanting everyone to love your vision, playbook, and values

Not everyone will be excited about the vision you’ve cast and are casting. Not everyone will be a good cultural fit in terms of core values. You’ll have people who will disagree with the simplicity of your playbook and want to complicate it. These are not showstoppers in and of themselves.

Every church and business have some people in them who, no matter what you do, refuse to buy in. Once again, it’s my view that your key leaders do need to buy in fully. But some who attend your church won’t. Some who work in your business won’t. Don’t allow the few who don’t get it to discourage you from casting a bold vision, running a simple yet powerful playbook, and holding true to your values—those behavioral rumble strips that contain the ingredients for a healthy culture.

Final Thoughts

You don’t need everyone to like you to accomplish your assignment. Just don’t use that as an excuse to remain underdeveloped in your people skills.

You don’t need everyone to be rowing in the same direction to get where you’re going. Just don’t allow yourself to ignore obvious warning signs that your leadership team is fragmenting.

You don’t need everyone be passionate about your vision, committed to your playbook, and living out the core values for you to reach the end zone. Just don’t allow those individuals to prevent you from casting vision, keeping the playbook focused and simple, and continuing to use your organizational values to shape the culture you want and need.

I know the above sounds like a lot of work . . . but I also know that with Jesus’ help, you can do it!

Cheering for you,

John

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