7 Things Senior Leaders Love That Everyone Else Hates

senior leaders

It’s funny. Senior leaders love things that other people often don’t.

If you’re a senior leader, you might recognize yourself in this post. That would be a good thing.

If you’re not the senior leader, you might read this post and think “Absolutely! This is so obvious! Why on earth doesn’t my (dumb) boss get it?”

As a senior leader myself, it took me a while to figure out that the things I loved honestly frustrated my team or the people I served.

Some of these are innocent, some less so. But one of the keys to leading well over the long haul is to understand that just because it’s a win for you doesn’t mean it’s a win for everybody.

Most people don’t love the same things a senior leader loves. Neither do the people who are part of your church or organization. Understanding that is a key to leading everyone better.

Some of the seven outlined below are little ego boosts that honestly need to be prayed through. Others are just blind spots that are easy to miss.

The key to all of them is to see the impact your emotions, actions, and dreams have on everyone else in the organization. And sometimes, that’s hard to see.

So what do senior leaders love that everyone else hates, or at least doesn’t love nearly as much? 7 things.

Senior leaders, just because it's a win for you doesn't mean it's a win for everybody. Click To Tweet

1. A Jammed Parking Lot

A little confession. Every Sunday morning at our church I go up to the second floor of our broadcast location and look out at the parking lot to see how full it is. I’m not saying this is good. I’m just saying it’s true.

As a senior leader, I hate empty parking spaces. I get excited when the parking lot is overflowing. I get even more excited when the cars flow out to the street. (Staff park in an adjacent lot, so we leave all the spots for our guests. Here’s why.)

But if you’re the guest…it’s not so fun. I hate going to a restaurant or mall and not being able to find parking.

Or imagine being on the parking crew that morning and dealing with yet again more vehicles than the lot can handle. Sure, they’re pros at helping people, but still.

Who loves a crowded parking lot? Leaders do. Guests don’t.

Who loves a crowded parking lot? Leaders do. Guests don't. Click To Tweet

2. A full house

Well, if you love a jammed parking lot, you’ll probably also love a full house.

Please know that loving a full house and jammed parking lot definitely take you into mixed motive territory. On the one hand, it’s amazing to see so many people coming to your church or lining up to be a part of what you’re doing, and hopefully, their lives are changed as a result. But there’s also the rush that success brings, the thrill that growth brings…and that needs to be wrestled through in honest prayer and confession.

But as much as leaders love a full house, it creates issues for guests. Walk in 5 minutes late with 6 people and it’s almost impossible to find seats together. Everyone feels crowded and crushed. Lines form in restrooms and the lobby becomes a crush of confusion.

A full house not only stresses the system, it stresses your team and the very people you’re trying to reach.

A full house not only stresses the system, it stresses your team and the very people you're trying to reach. Click To Tweet

An almost-full house is usually better than a full house (add another service, friends).

Don’t let your love of a full house blind you to the issues it creates for a host of other people.

Pastors, don't let your love of a full house blind you to the issues it creates for a host of other people. Click To Tweet

3. Rapid Growth

Again, check your motives, but rapid growth can be a thing. As I look back on my time in leadership so far, the times when you double in size or grow by 50% in a year are pretty exciting. You see a lot of life-change happen as a result.

Leaders, growth is one thing. Sustainable growth is quite another.

While I’m not sure there’s an exact science to this, one figure I’ve heard repeatedly over the years is that any growth above 30% growth a year is hard to sustain.

Having been through some very rapid growth seasons, I couldn’t agree more.

Leaders, growth is one thing. Sustainable growth is quite another. Click To Tweet

Rapid growth stresses systems, staff, guests and everyone. And often the one who least feels it is the senior leader. But walk down the hall and talk to the pre-school people and they’re pulling their hair out. Or the guest services team who has no idea how to follow up with that many new people. Or the staff who are doing everything they did last year and 50% more, without a pay increase or more staff.

Again, as exciting as rapid growth is, leaders need to directly engage the issues involved.  And, trust me,  there are issues.

Deal with the issues rapid growth brings, and you can turn rapid growth into healthy growth. Don’t, and your church will struggle even though it’s growing.

Deal with the issues rapid growth brings, and you can turn rapid growth into healthy growth. Don't, and your church will struggle even though it's growing. Click To Tweet

4. More locations

So let’s be honest. There’s a bit of a subtle competition thing happening in some church circles. More locations = more impressive.

Again, please check your motives and pray deeply about why you’re doing what you’re doing.

But deeper than that, think about it from a guest standpoint. Guests don’t care how many locations you have. They care about whether the location they’re at is running well.

When it comes to growth, great locations beat more locations.

When it comes to church, great locations beat more locations. Click To Tweet

If you can create 10 great locations…awesome. But diluting a great experience at one location or five locations to simply add more probably isn’t helping your mission.

Think about it. If you’re at a restaurant and get served a lousy meal slowly by poorly trained staff, having the manager tell you “Yeah I hear you but we have 30 locations!!!” doesn’t make you feel any better. In fact, it gives you 30 locations you’ll now want to avoid.

Senior leaders, do better before you do more.

Senior leaders, do better before you do more. Click To Tweet

5. Positive News

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought “doesn’t anyone have anything positive to say?”

Left to my own devices, I would filter out all the bad news and only hear good news. After all, who likes bad news?

That, of course, is a critical mistake.

The best news your team can give you as a senior leader is honest news, whether that’s good news or bad news.

The best news your team can give you as a senior leader is honest news, whether that's good news or bad news. Click To Tweet

As much as you love to hear good news, the truth is going to help you be a much better leader and forward your mission must faster.

Plus, good staff won’t stick around if they can’t tell you the truth.

So, create an environment where your team tells you the truth, and you thank them for it. Even if it’s the news you didn’t want to hear.

As a friend of mine told me years ago, there’s isn’t good news or bad news. There’s just news. Good perspective.

As a senior leader, the more truth you hear, the better you’ll lead. Reward the truth tellers.

As a senior leader, the more truth you hear, the better you'll lead. Reward the truth tellers. Click To Tweet

6. A Busy Team

Because achievers tend to end up in the senior leader chair, it’s easy to love being busy and seeing your team busy.

And I’m all for productivity. As Tony Morgan once told me, church staff tend to either be lazy or workaholics. There’s not a lot of middle ground. Increasingly, I sense that’s true of the wider marketplace too.

But just because you’re driven doesn’t mean you need to drive your staff to the breaking point.

But just because you're driven doesn't mean you need to drive your staff to the breaking point. Click To Tweet

Your staff hates it if they feel like they’re giving their best and you just want more.

So what’s the alternative?

Being healthy is much better than being busy.

After my burnout twelve years ago, I focused on living in a way today that will help me thrive tomorrow. And I’ve tried to lead my teams the same way.

Guess what? Healthy teams not only enjoy the journey more, they produce more. So do I as a healthy leader.

Healthy teams beat busy teams all day long.

Being healthy is much better than being busy. Healthy teams beat busy teams all day long. Click To Tweet

7. This New Thing That Won’t Take Any Time

Finally, another thing senior leaders love that everyone else hates is a new idea that the senior leader is convinced won’t take you (the team member) much time at all.

Senior leaders almost always underestimate the amount of work and time involved in a project. I do this for myself…but I especially do this to my team unless I check myself.

Most senior leaders stink at estimating the amount of time it takes to get a job done. In particular, they stink at estimating the amount of time it takes to a get task done that they’re not doing.

Want to make your team love you just a little more and not die under the burden of endless tasks?

Two things.

First, why not let them tell you how long it will take and how much effort it will take. Ask, don’t tell.

Second, begin your one-on-ones with your direct reports by asking them how they’re doing before.

Smart leaders always ask the team how they’re doing before they ask them what they’re doing.

Smart leaders always ask the team how they're doing before they ask them what they're doing. Click To Tweet

Understand Yourself Better…(Much Better)

Of all the mysteries we try to crack as leaders, the mystery of leading ourselves is one of the greatest.

That’s why I’m so excited about my new book, Didn’t See It Coming. It’s all about overcoming the 7 greatest challenges everyone experiences, and no one expects.

Think You Or Your Team Might Be Burning Out? Take the Quiz!

If after reading this post you feel too tired to change anything, take my free burnout quiz to see whether you may be burning out. Run your team through the quiz so they can see how healthy you are.

Burnout is one of the subjects I cover in detail in Didn’t See It Coming. Leaders are raving about how the book is helping them get their life and leadership back.

Jud Wilhite, Lead Pastor of Central Church, Las Vegas, called Didn’t See It coming “the most important book you’ll read all year.”

Brian Houston and Andy Stanley call it ‘powerful.’

Check it out for yourself and pick up your copy here.

Anything You’d Add To The List?

So, senior leaders and teams, anything you’d add to the list?

How are you getting better at all of this?

Scroll down and leave a comment?

9 Comments

  1. Margo MacDougall on October 10, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Good article. On the same note but in a little different direction: some pastors/song leaders LOVE to read over the entire first verse of the song to be sung. As a singer, worshiper, and pianist (not in that order), it drives me crazy. I appreciate drawing attention to what we are actually singing, but reading over the entire verse with no comment is something my pastor back in the 1970s did and it still drives me crazy… lol! Blessings to you; keep up the Lord’s work as He keeps you up! M <.

  2. Harry Court on October 4, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Thank you
    Is this a US thing?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 5, 2018 at 6:25 am

      Ha ha. I think it’s a human thing.

  3. Chris Dixon on October 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Isn’t it odd how I see “resting” in scripture so frequently (Genesis 2, Exodus 20, Psalm 23 as examples), but I feel guilty about “not doing God’s work”. Maybe I lack healthy boundaries? Or maybe I don’t understand that resting is actually “God’s work”? And because I’m good at/motivated by what I’m doing, I assume everyone feels the same about it.

    My employer has the mantra that everyone needs to “work to your strengths”, because in that place, everyone makes the greatest contribution. I think that’s pretty smart, but it recognises that everyone will bring something different.

    So thank you Carey for reminding me that other perspectives are so very valuable, and that I am so much better off in a diverse team than in a clone team. I need lots of reminding.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 5, 2018 at 6:26 am

      Totally agree Chris…I need reminding too, and healthy boundaries.

  4. Rev. Sophia Snyder on October 4, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    I will store it up for when I have my own church. I appreciate your information.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 5, 2018 at 6:26 am

      Good plan!

  5. Josh Pennington on October 4, 2018 at 7:38 am

    Very helpful. Brilliantly accurate from my point of view as a senior leader! Thank you, Carey!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 5, 2018 at 6:26 am

      Thank you Josh!

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