21 Things You’ll Never Regret As a Leader

If you’ve led anything for any length of time, you already have some regrets.

You wish you could get back some situations, redo some moments and in some cases, start over again.

Why is that? If you look for common threads, you’ll often discover the problem was not in the situation, it was in how you responded to it.

Put another way, it was who you were when the hammer dropped.

But you can also look back on other situations and see you handled things well. That you really have no regrets.

Challenges come and challenges go in leadership. The difference between great leaders and poor leaders is often how their character responds to crisis.

Great leaders adopt practices, attitudes and positions that they quite simply never regret.

And that’s the key: there are some things you do as a leader that you’ll just never regret.

While I haven’t gotten every situation right in leadership (far from it), I took some time to make a list of 21 things I’ve never regretted doing as a leader. My guess is when you’ve done them, you’ve never regretted them either.

And if you and I keep doing them, we’ll have far fewer regrets moving forward.


21 Things You’ll Never Regret

1. Throwing your heart into whatever you do

I’m increasingly convinced that a white hot sense of passion is one ingredient in churches and other organizations that are doing an outstanding job these days.

Far too many leaders are phoning it in. If that’s you, hang up.

Fully engaging the task before you with all your heart is one of the best shots you’ve got at making an impact.

2. Taking the high road

It’s easy to get pulled down into mud…arguing, jostling and getting caught up in cheap accusations that lead nowhere good.


Take the high road.

You know what that is.

Be kind. Don’t fight back. Prepare to be misunderstood. Forgive. Show grace.

The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s the best road.

You simply never regret taking it.

3. Saying you’re sorry

It’s easy to apologize when you’re new or just starting out. Everyone expects you to make mistakes.

It’s harder when you’re the leader.

It’s hardest when you’re a successful leader who’s been leading a long time.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re above reproach. You’re not.

In fact, I think the leader should be the FIRST to apologize (I outlined why and how to apologize well here).

So apologize.

4. Praying for your team

You will never regret praying for your team.

Pray for them by name. Ask them what specifically you can pray for.

A leader who prays for his team is a leader worth following.

5. Pushing through your fears

It’s not that great leaders have no fears. Pathological people may have no fears, but otherwise we pretty much all face them.

Great leaders push through their fears.

In this post, I outlined 5 signs that fear is undermining your leadership.

5. Smiling more

You’ll never regret smiling more.

I know I look grumpy unless I remind myself to smile. I’m actually not grumpy most of the time…I just look that way.

So smile.

6. Saying an encouraging word

Very few people I know would say they are over-encouraged.

Okay, no one I know has ever told me they’ve exceeded their lifetime dose of encouragement.

Encouragement costs you nothing as a leader but it means everything to the person you’re encouraging.

Think about that.

7. Saying thank you

Ditto with thank you.

When a leader starts acting entitled, followers lose heart.

Treat everyone—including staff—like they were volunteers. Thank them regularly and sincerely.

Even your staff have other options. They can quit. And if you fail to show gratitude, they will.

8. Helping someone who can’t help you back

Leadership ushers in responsibilities, but it also brings some perks.

At some point you might command a slightly higher salary than others, have access to expense account others don’t, or even have more control over your time.

Don’t use the perks of leadership solely for your benefit. Help someone who can’t help you back.

Buy them something. Be generous with your time. Open your home. Give them access to something or someone they couldn’t gain access to without you.

Can they pay you back? No, they can’t.

And that’s the point.

9. Finding a few great mentors

Leadership can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be.

Finding mentors is something you’ll never regret doing.

I look for leaders who are a stage ahead in life who are the kind of people I want to be.

10. Developing some replenishing relationships

Ministry can be draining. So can leadership.

You give all day and often go home exhausted.

Often, people will seek you out in your off time asking for ‘just a little more’.

My wife and I realized years ago that we need to have some friends who truly replenish us…the kind of relationships where time passes quickly and you leave feeling better than when you came.

11. Deciding ahead of time what your priorities will be

I am amazed at how often I have to re-establish priorities in leadership.

Deciding ahead of time what you will do and not do, when you will be off and when you will work, whom you will meet with and who you won’t, will help you keep first things first.

If you don’t do this, you will never have enough time and always be disappointed with the results you’re getting.

12. Adopting a fixed schedule

One of the best leadership moves I made was moving to a fixed schedule.

What I mean by that is I follow the same rhythm to my work every week with very few exceptions. I pre-determine writing time, meeting days and more.

Although the post is a few years old and some details have changed, I outline how to move to a fixed schedule here if you want more information.

13. Discovering what fuels and drains you

Ever wonder why some days you go home feeling excited and other days you go home exhausted—and yet you worked the same number of hours?

Some activities drain you and others fuel you.

Figuring out which does what can change the effectiveness of your leadership so much.

Great leaders will spend more and more time on the things that energize them and less on the things that drain them. It’s that simple.

I outline how to determine that in this post.

14.Investing in your personal leadership development

You can think of conferences, coaching, books, courses and development programs as expenses, or as investments.

If you think of them as investments, you will become a far better leader.

The best leaders never hesitate to invest in their personal development.

Becoming better is never a waste of money.

15. Taking meaningful vacations

Even when my wife and I were starting out and we had no money, we found money to take even a simple annual vacation.

It’s one of the best investments we’ve made over the years.

I say meaningful vacations because you’ll be tempted to cheat.

You’ll be tempted to say “3 days is enough”. No it’s not.

You’ll be tempted to say “We can just stay home and relax.” And maybe you can. But I just want to catch up on household projects when I do.

Taking a meaningful vacation doesn’t mean you have to drop thousands on Europe, but it does mean you need to rest and recharge. I wrote about my new rules for vacation in this post if you want more.

16. Developing a hobby you love

I could almost be a ‘work is my hobby’ guy. Maybe you could be too.

I love what I do and even writing this blog and doing my leadership podcast are “hobbies.” Work just doesn’t feel like work to me most days.

But I also realize I need interests outside of ministry and leadership. At least if I’m going to stay healthy and balanced.

It took me a bunch of false starts, but I’ve eventually settled on cycling and BBQing as hobbies (I’m a Big Green Egg enthusiast).

Despite what you think, you need a hobby.

17. Becoming an early riser

While there’s still a debate about whether early risers really do get the worm, I’m sold on getting up early.

I think you’ll never regret becoming an early riser because you simply get 1-3 hours to accomplish things when no one is texting you, bothering you or slamming your inbox.

Guess when I write this blog?

I think one of the keys to success is simply beating the patterns most other people follow. For me, getting up at 5 gives me (and you) a 2-3 hour advantage over almost everyone—and everything—else.

Try it.

18. Getting to bed on time

I am also a sleep evangelist. Having cheated sleep through my 20s and 30s, I repented.

I try to get as close to 8 hours of sleep I can every night. I really believe sleep is a secret leadership weapon.

There’s evidence that people who are sleep deprived operate with a similar impairment level to people who drink too much.

Leaders who are rested always bring more to the table than leaders who are tired.

19. Eating better

Diet can have a tremendous impact on mental clarity, alertness and even your quality of sleep.

Sugar and carb crashes happen to far too many leaders.

Cutting down on sugar and carbs has helped me not only lose weight, but feel much better throughout the day.


20. Working out

For years I resisted working out, but in the last ten years I’ve taken exercise more seriously.

It’s still a discipline, but finding something I love (like cycling) has really helped.

And most of the productive leaders I know take their health and working out at least somewhat seriously.

21. Carving out a daily time with God

Why is that the first thing to go in the lives of many Christians is our time with God?

Anchoring myself in scripture and prayer at the beginning of every day is a discipline I’ve never regretted.


You lead better when you hear from God.

What Would You Add?

I realize this can sound like a bit of a moralizing list, but just scan back through the headlines.

You really wouldn’t regret any of these, would you?

And that’s the point. Sometimes the key to better future is simpler than we think.

What would you add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

21 Things You’ll Never Regret As a Leader


  1. Helga on November 21, 2019 at 12:13 am

    I share your view for the large part, I presume that a few
    factors are worth using a more detailed
    look to comprehend what’s going on.

  2. Sheila Foston on November 20, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  3. Royvia on September 13, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Great post.

  4. Jason Kennedy on August 17, 2015 at 2:50 am

    These are soo, good thanks for sharing. I want and need to do all of these and don’t! God help me! The only thing I would add is save some of your best energy for your family, they deserve it and it will pay off in the long run.

  5. Life Changing Ministry on August 15, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    […] have appreciated Carey Nieuwhof’s blog, “21 Things You’ll Never Regret As a Leader,” as a reminder to keep my live in balance, so I can make my best contribution to this […]

  6. […] 21 Things You’ll Never Regret As A Leader by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  7. Nancy McLaughlin on August 11, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Hi Carey, these are great! (Although for #8 I would say everyone has something to offer in the Body of Christ.) And I like Chris’ point about keeping a journal or a prayer journal too. When I taught at the university the one exercise that the students always got the most out of was Sacred Reading or Lectio Divina. (1) Pick a passage from scripture – I recommend a short gospel passage focusing on Jesus’ actions or teaching – perhaps the gospel for one’s upcoming sermon. (2) Meditate/reflect. (3) Next respond – Using the insights from the reflection speak to God from your heart. (4) Finally contemplate God by letting go and listening to God. Hearing God in this way leads to transformation within and will impact daily life as well.

  8. Jason Fitch on August 10, 2015 at 5:38 am

    Thank you for another great post Carey. I would add “regularly pulling away with your spouse”. I’m not even, necessarily, saying date night, although that’s a good thing. In the last year, my wife and I have begun regular (4-5x per week) walks in our neighborhood and weekly grocery shopping together. Those have been BIG game-changers. We’re so much more connected than we’ve been in years. Those kids will take over the marriage if you let them. Don’t let them. We recognized that our kids are big enough now that they can do a hour or two at home without us.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 17, 2015 at 6:23 am

      Yes! Couldn’t agree more. Wrote a ParentCue.org version of this post that will go up soon. That’s a point in that post. It was huge for my wife Toni and I. Still is!

  9. Leadership Roundup | Worship Links on August 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    […] Carey Nieuwhof shares twenty-one things that every leader should practice: […]

  10. Lawrence W. Wilson on August 6, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Love this, Carey, especially no. 5. Heather taught me that, and it’s made me a much happier guy.

  11. Chris Symes on August 6, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Carey, thanks for the post! One thing that I would add is the practice of journaling. This has been significant for me as a leader in collecting my thoughts, recording reflections. I often write things that I will later find myself using in some way as a teacher and leader. I know journaling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I have never regretted it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 17, 2015 at 6:24 am

      Thanks Chris. I have tons to learn from you journalers!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.