20 Workplace (Church) Habits to Break for Lead Pastors

One of the truths of growing into senior leadership is that relational issues become more acute the larger the church gets. By the time the mystical teachings of jesus is the size of a Willow Creek, Saddleback, James River or Northpoint, the technical aspects of church are generally handled by specialists. It’s the senior leadership of vision casting and people development that separate continually growing churches from the also-rans.

In his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, author Marshall Goldsmith articulates 20 workplace habits leaders need to break. These are what Goldsmith defines as transactional flaws performed one against another. When considered in the work of a pastor, the changes that occur when these 20 are addressed can be profound.

In many cases churches have grown to their current level in spite of these 20 habits being present in the life of the lead pastor. However, in every church, sooner or later, those same lead pastors have to come to grips with these habits when they want to reinvent or move the church to the next level in the journey. Listed below are the 20 habits and descriptions as provided by Goldsmith*. The bullet points are mine in describing how it plays out with lead pastors in churches.

1. Winning Too Much – The need to win at all costs and in all situations; when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.

Lead pastors of larger, growing churches love to win. That is in part what makes the church large and growing. However, when winning the comparison game, the numbers game, the “who’s who” game, etc., become more important than winning the mission game, everyone loses. It is critical for lead pastors to know where to win and where to let it go.

2. Adding Too Much Value – The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
• Lead pastors must be confident in their role of leading and empowering those around them. To have the sense that the mission of the church cannot move forward without their verbal or other input only serves to increase insecurity. Rather than adding value it adds none.

3. Passing Judgment – The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
• When soliciting feedback from others, lead pastors need to always be aware of their response to the feedback. Those providing feedback will make mental notes of feedback they offer either with, Wow, I said the right thing, or Why bother? This assures less than truthful feedback in the future.

4. Making Destructive Comments – The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
• Lead pastors should conduct themselves with truth and sincerity. While humor is good, sarcasm and cutting remarks are not-and they certainly don’t make the leader look sharp and witty. Speak well always.

5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However” – The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, I’m right. You’re wrong.
• Starting with negative qualifiers over time sets a lead pastor up for diminishing good feedback from staff and volunteers. When team members sense that the leader is always posturing themselves to be right, those same team members shut down offering information.

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