stop doing list

As a leader, there are things you do every day.

Some help—others, not so much.

I’ve found that as I’ve grown as a leader, I’ve regularly had to change how I think, how I lead and even what I say.

Fortunately, there are hacks you can learn along the way that will help you get better faster.

What follows are some things you can easily banish as a leader starting today. Eliminating all of them or most of them will give you immediate traction.

Here are 7 things you should stop doing today if you want to make progress.

1. Lead by intentions

Your kids aren’t going to remember your intentions. Neither will your spouse or your church. The people who count on you only ever see your actions.

Which likely means no one’s going to stand next to your casket or urn and say “He wished he was nicer” or “He had always hoped to be more strategic” or “She really wanted to overcome her fear”.

Legacies never get built on intentions. They’re built on action.

So get over your intentions and start acting.

Legacies never get built on intentions. They're built on action. Click To Tweet

2. Use words that start with “Some”

If you want to get nothing meaningful done, just use words that start with “some” a lot. Like in every conversation or meeting you’re in.

What ‘some’ words? Well….





These words end up sounding like this: Somebody should do something about that sometime someday.

Guaranteed zero action happens. Ever.

Leadership is not simply talk. In fact, talking about doing something again and again is not leadership, it’s delusion.

Talking about doing something again and again is not leadership, it's delusion. Click To Tweet

There’s only one ‘some’ word I can think of that I like, and that’s somehow.

Somehow can be an amazing word when you’re up against and impossible task and someone asks you “How on earth will we do this?” and you reply “I don’t know. But somehow we’ll figure it out.”

Now that’s awesome.

But someone somewhere sometimes means no-one nowhere ever. Trust me.

Someone, somewhere, sometimes means no-one nowhere ever. Click To Tweet

3. Unnecessary meetings

The value of meetings once you get beyond the creative process, or meetings to nail down a few executional details or meetings connect for a check-in to sync up the team is pretty low.

For the most part, meetings are the enemy of work.

Far too many leaders waste their lives in meetings. Instead of doing what they’re called to do, they meet about what they’re supposed to be doing.

Dreams can be born in meetings, but far more often, dreams die in meetings.

Meetings are the enemy of work. Do your work instead.

Meetings are the enemy of work. Do your work instead. Click To Tweet

4. Fear

Fear is the thief of hope. It kills leadership. It murders courage.

Way too many leaders I know, live in fear.

The difference between effective leaders and ineffective leaders is simple: all leaders feel fear. The effective ones push past it.

Fear is the thief of hope. It kills leadership. It murders courage. Click To Tweet

So what’s the antidote to fear?

While there are a few, believe it or not, I think one of the antidotes to fear is the fear the right thing.

If you’re going to be afraid, I suggest you fear this:

Be afraid of never accomplishing your mission.

That will give you courage, or at least determination. And that in turn, will grow your faith.

If you're going to be afraid, be afraid of never accomplishing your mission. Click To Tweet

5. The Desire to Be Liked

Leadership requires you to take people to destinations they would not go without your leadership.

Stop for a moment and, if you would, re-read that sentence.

Do you see the challenge?

Leadership is inherently difficult because it requires a leader to take people where they don’t naturally want to go.

So you have a choice as a leader.

You can focus on leading people, or focus on being liked.

When you focus on being liked, you will instinctively try to please the people you’re leading. And when you do, you will become confused.

Pleasing people is inherently confusing because people don’t agree. One person wants it one way. Another wants it another way.

And soon, you’re bending over backward to make everyone happy, which of course means that in the end, you will end up making no one happy, including yourself. It’s actually a recipe for misery for everyone.

It’s also a recipe for inertia.

If you focus on being liked, you’ll never lead. You will never have the courage to do what needs to be done.

If you focus on being liked, you'll never lead. Click To Tweet

6. Selfishness

Ambition can be a good thing. It’s great to have hopes and dreams for your mission.

But selfish ambition is a different creature.

Ambition kills servants of God and turns them into servants of themselves.

Enough said.

Ambition kills servants of God and turns them into servants of themselves. Click To Tweet

7. Blaming Others

It’s so easy to blame everyone else and everything else for your lack of progress as a leader.

If you want to keep not making progress, keep blaming others.

The opposite of blame is responsibility. If you think about the leaders you admire most, they’re probably the most responsible leaders you know.

Great leaders never assign blame. Instead, they assume responsibility.

Great leaders never assign blame. Instead, they assume responsibility. Click To Tweet

Get Ahead…Work On You

It is a crazy world, and if you’re not careful, it can take you under. That’s what happened to me when, after my first decade in leadership, I burned out.

If you’re trying to find the time for what matters most in life, my High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

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A game changer.” Pam Perkins,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?

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What About You?

Those are 7 things I check myself on regularly.

What about you? What would you add to the list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Your Stop Doing List: 7 Things To Banish Today To Make Progress


  1. Stephen Cain on January 29, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    What is missing maybe in this analysis…which is great and helpful….is where am I controllling where I should be letting go? Where am I patrolling my church, staff, co workers, rather than investing in them. Am I overly conscious of the work of others as if I need to shape it or make it better? Where is my control need overcoming my common sense and arising out of a sense of over competence or jealousy, or the need to just be in control or in front of what is happening. Sometimes leaders need to lead from the back or the middle, or not at all.

  2. Kevin on January 29, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    Carey, looking forward to seeing you at our Council in Nashville in June. Am encouraging my military Chaplains to stay all the way to the Friday to hear what you have to say. Always great stuff. Thank you. Chaplain Kevin (CMA)

  3. Jim V on January 29, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    Great reminders!!! I did recently discover a pattern of leadership dysfunction through some old documents, meeting minutes, etc, that was that thing I couldn’t always quite put my finger on within our church that spanned 20 years and 28 staff changes in 3 positions. I have addressed that with our governing board, and while it truly didn’t excuse any of my leadership failures, I hope and pray that we can change systemic things that will foster a better leadership environment. Its tough to self-examine and know when you are looking for an out, and when you are trying to fix a systemic hole in your team practice and structure! Thank you for your 7 bits of deposited wisdom in my account today – keeps me on track!

  4. Nate Hogan on January 29, 2021 at 9:56 am


    I really appreciate your work through blogs, podcasts, and books. This blog is very encouraging.

    Fear is prevalent when you lead. I am really grateful that the Lord had me work in a crane maintenance department when I was younger. Fear is an everyday thing, but you have to face your fear, learn to respect where the real danger is, and act.

    Fear what ought to be feared. Perhaps this is what the wisdom writers had in mind when they encouraged us to “fear the Lord.”

  5. Steve Karum on August 20, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    I. Love. This. Blog. Thanks for sharing it.


    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 21, 2019 at 2:05 pm

      So glad to help!


  6. Monica on July 18, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    These are great reminders, especially the one about blame vs. responsibility. But I disagree about meetings. I think lack of (productive) meetings causes a breakdown in communication, and that is, in my opinion, one of the quickest ways to become an ineffective team or team leader. Productive meetings put everyone on the same page with what has happened, what is happening and what needs to happen. And gives everyone the space to communicate, relate, and brainstorm. I feel very unsettled when I haven’t had a meeting with my coworkers and we all end up working as silos. But they need to be led well, with concrete action points as the outcome, or I agree that they can become a waste of time.

  7. Naphutali Halerimaan on July 15, 2019 at 9:41 am

    You are very correct on selfishness and blaming others. Quite often I struggle with these two in my leadership career. I believe in your analysis. I personally believe that if my subjects don’t perform to my expectation, I am partly to be blame instead of blaming them solely.

  8. Jeffrey on July 15, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Regarding item #5, from a recovering (and sometimes backsliding) people-pleaser: do you have thoughts on where the line is between attentive listening / actively seeking and using feedback, and plain old people-pleasing. Yes, people have different points of view, often deeply and faithfully help, and in this day and age increasingly polarized points of view. How best to listen, respect, respond to others, without falling into the people-pleasing trap? Thanks. Appreciate your fine insights.

  9. Kitti Homan on July 15, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Love this list!
    Personally I must do a regular, brutal check-in on my heart as a Christ-follower. Am I growing more in love toward God and others? I can do so pretty good “ministry” from some dark places. When my heart is expanding vertically and horizontally, even hard ministry isn’t destructive.

  10. James Hert on July 15, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Saw myself as a young supervisor years ago. Article reminds me of something I heard years ago “If what you’re doing right now isn’t leading you to your ultimate goal in life, why are you doing it?”

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