3 Warning Signs of an Impending Leadership Train Wreck

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Have you ever witnessed a leadership train wreck?

It can leave carnage and destruction that can sometimes be beyond repair.

I witnessed such a calamity a few years ago, after a new leader had been appointed to lead a large church in a nearby town. Barely before the outgoing pastor had driven out of the parking lot, this new leader was redrawing the organization chart, he was hiring and firing key staff, and he was attempting to introduce a new vision statement.

Not surprisingly, this leader lasted less than two years, and in the aftermath the church was left with deep, gaping wounds that took several years to heal.

But if you know the warning signs to look for, these train wrecks can usually be avoided.

Warning signal #1: Talking is trumping listening

Leaders are communicators. But before launching any course of action, seasoned leaders will listen to, and even solicit, the opinions of trusted voices.

“Is there another way to look at this?” “Have we considered all of the angles?” Effective leaders want answers to these questions.

If you don’t stop talking long enough to hear them, a train wreck could be coming.

Warning signal #2: Action is trumping discernment

A bias towards action is a vital component in the make-up of a leader.

But if that bias toward action is increasingly drowning out the need for discernment, a train wreck won’t be far behind.

In his book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven Sample notes that when presented with a problem the first thing he would ask is, “How much time do I have?” Despite a desire to move to action, Sample wanted as much time as possible to think through the issue facing him.

Wise leaders do the same.

Warning signal #3: Emotions are trumping passions

Leaders are people of passion.

But that’s not the same as being overly emotional. Because when a leader is fueled by raw feelings of anger or frustration it can be very easy to make unwise, even foolish, decisions.

If you want to avoid a train wreck keep your passion high, but your emotions in check.

None of this is to suggest that leaders should be passive or afraid to act.

But watch for these warning signs. They’ll keep your leadership securely on the right track.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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