Eric Geiger - a Husband, Father, Author, Vice-President of LifeWay Church Resources


2 Barriers to Empowering Leaders

As the leader you are not the most qualified person on your team for every decision, every initiative, or every aspect of the team’s collective work. There are others the Lord has placed on the team who are more uniquely gifted and prepared to lead specific functions.

For example, the senior pastor may not be the most gifted to spearhead pastoral counseling or lead a new initiative. Or the team leader may not be the most creative or the best designer of systems that undergird the organization.

The team is stronger and her impact is greater when the leader of the team recognizes the gifting surrounding him/her, hands leadership to others, and graciously places himself/herself under their direction for specific initiatives and functions.

Max Depree referred to this as “roving leaders” in his classic work, Leadership Is an Art. Depree articulated that there are strong leaders throughout an organization who don’t carry the organizational title of team leader but are the ones who really lead, who really make things happen.

Those with the organizational title of “team leader” are wise to hand responsibility to others – to trust “roving leaders.” Practically this means the team leader delegates and serves as a team member under the direction of the “roving leader” who is running point on a particular function or project.

If roving leadership sounds idealistic it is because many of us have been confronted with two significant barriers to roving leadership.

1)    Insecure leaders

Insecure leaders need to be the ones making every decision and leading every initiative. Their organizations or ministries don’t need them to be the ones always running point; they need to be the ones always running point. Their egos will not allow another person to thrive, another person to lead, or another person to be perceived as “wiser” or more “effective” in a particular discipline. Their need for power or control debilitates the organization and stifles the development of the team.

Humble leaders delegate and gladly submit to others with proven character and competence. They care more about the health of the ministry/organization they lead than the credit they receive. Several have been credited with the maxim: “It is amazing what can be accomplished if we don’t care who gets the credit.”

2)    Unwise & unhealthy expectations

In some situations it is not an insecure leader but unwise and unhealthy expectations that prohibits “roving leadership.” If the ministry or organization believes and practices that the person with the “leader” title must be the one “executing” all the work rather than “equipping” others, then everyone suffers. The organization or ministry suffers as her influence is limited to one person. The leader suffers as he/she feverishly attempts to lead everything. And people suffer as they are sidelined without the ability to use their gifts to contribute.

Sadly, in some churches insecure leaders need to be needed, so they refuse to empower and equip others for ministry. They refuse to practice the biblical vision of church ministry where pastors don’t always do the ministry, but they equip others for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). And sadly, in some churches a lack of understanding or commitment to the beautiful doctrine that all believers are priests, all believers are ministers, pushes ministry to the paid clergy instead of to the entire body.

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The Importance of Multiplying Yourself as a Church Leader

Micah Fries tells the story of a pastor of large, successful church who didn’t measure his success by church size or ministry tenure. He measured it by the three younger leaders he mentored each year who then went on to mentor 3 younger leaders apiece the following year. He viewed leadership multiplication as the key to success. Micah shares three principles for how to do this well and the impact it will have for church health.

Read more about Ministry Grid and how it can help you equip leaders in your church.

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Links for Leaders 4/11/14

An important aspect of effective leadership is awareness of what your team is interested in and engaging. This list of the top 300 church blogs is exceptionally helpful in knowing what is drawing the interests of Christians around the web.

You can’t follow someone you don’t trust. The flip side of this is that people won’t follow you if they don’t trust you. Dan Rockwell shares 25 ways leaders exhibit trustworthiness.

Just as no team is healthy without a good leader so no team is healthy without all its members fitting well. Ron Edmondson shares 7 traits that make for great team members.

Few leadership roles are as public and obvious as prominent football coaches. Brian Dodd points to 30 habits of leadership we can learn from the best of these coaches.

Reading about leadership is a great way to glean insights, but often observing what leaders do is even more effective. Chuck Lawless shares 10 helpful ideas he has picked up from watching how other leaders live.

Nobody likes confrontation (at least no decent person), but it is an inherent and important part of leading well. Aaron Coalson explains the bad of not confronting and the benefits of doing it well.

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3 Questions to Help You Evaluate Ministry Practices

How do you know if the ministry you’re doing is valuable? How do you know if it’s working? It’s easy to do ministry work day in and day out without ever stopping to evaluate the work and test the value. Philip Nation shares three questions to help you do “ruthless evaluations” – hard critiques – of your ministry. If you know that your ministry is pointing people to Jesus and is in-step with God’s word, these questions will help you continue to grow and improve.

1) Did we achieve the goal?

2) Was it worth it?

3) Could we have done something better with our efforts?

Read more about Ministry Grid and how it can help you equip leaders in your church.

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3 Ways to Implode as a Leader

We shouldn’t be surprised when great leaders implode, when their inner lives cave in dramatic fashion. We should grieve, pray, and love, but we shouldn’t think ourselves better and we shouldn’t be caught off guard.

David, a man after God’s own heart, imploded spiritually, and this adversely impacted lots of lives in the process. Sadly, when leaders implode, they aren’t the only ones impacted. And if David, the king of Israel, can self-destruct—surely I can too. After all, I haven’t penned any psalms, expressed kindness to an enemy to the degree in which David expressed kindness to Saul, led God’s people into war and then worshiped, or killed the representative head of a pagan army. My leadership resume falls way short of David’s.

Yet we can learn from David’s internal implosion, a disaster that was externally expressed in adultery with Bathsheba, subsequent murder, and an elaborate cover-up. The first few verses of 2 Samuel 11 provides some insight. If you want to self-destruct as a leader, follow these simple principles:

1) Isolate yourself

David isolated himself. He sent all his men off to war, but he remained in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). Some servants remained with David, but not the men who would speak truth into his life, not the men who would challenge his soul.

If you only surround yourself with people who validate anything you want or desire, you’re actually isolated with merely the impression of community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself,” and a leader can be by himself in the midst of others if he stops seeking or receiving counsel and correction from wise leaders.

2) Leave boredom unchecked

At other times in David’s life, he thought about the Lord through the watches of the night (Psalm 63:6). But not on the night he discovered Bathsheba. On that night he strolled around the roof, bored, looking for something—looking for something to capture his heart and attention (2 Samuel 11:2).

Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” When we lose our awe for God, when we are bored with Him, then something else, something less, will capture our hearts. If we sense our awe for Him waning, we are wise to do whatever we can to stir our affections for Him.

3) Think you are awesome

David reached a dangerous place in his leadership where he believed he was above some of his responsibilities. For example, it was spring, a time when kings go to war, but he stayed home. He knew Bathsheba was married, but it didn’t matter. He had grown accustomed to getting what he wanted, whenever he wanted it. Pride and entitlement grows like a cancer in our souls.

We are wise to ask the Lord to search our hearts. If isolation, boredom, or pride are taking root in your heart—by all means, repent now. Receive His grace and forgiveness. They are richer and deeper than all your sin.

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Links for Leaders 4/4/14

“Be real with people or be prepared to lose them.” These strong words open this article from Brandon Cox about how to foster authenticity in your leadership culture.

Many leaders fail to get the most out of their employees. Here are 8 leadership attributes to help you encourage your employees to go the extra mile.

If leaders are readers then making time to read, while difficult, is essential. Here are several practical tips for making time to read and leaving yourself fewer excuses not to do so.

If you haven’t seen it already you will soon: millennials are taking over the work force. It’s important to understand how to lead this dynamic generation effectively, and many misconceptions abound about them. Here are several of those misconceptions to avoid.

Sometimes optimism is needed to guide a situation, sometimes pessimism in order, and often realism is most valuable. But how do you know when to try which? Scott Cochrane helps sort it out.

Leaders often face obstacles to success, and many times those are people. John Morgan lists 12 people who are obstacles to your success . . .with a twist.

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Your Leadership Shelf Life

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season.

Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

Moses understood the temporal reality of leadership and the necessity to develop others. He personally selected and invested in leaders. As you read through the Scripture, you see him pouring into his successor, Joshua. Moses took Joshua up the mountain to receive the tablets. Joshua was with Moses when Moses crushed the tablets. Joshua guarded the tent of meeting as Moses met with the Lord. Joshua was the one chosen to spot out the land of Canaan.

Through all these critical moments in the life of God’s people, Joshua was there with Moses. And immediately after Moses’ death, Joshua was ready to lead Israel.

After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: “Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. (Joshua 1:1-2)

The leadership legacy of Joshua, sadly, is very different:

Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110… That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. (Judges 2:8, 10)

Why the stark contrast? There is no record of Joshua investing in anyone. We don’t see him intentionally developing leaders. We don’t read of him pouring into others. And the generation after his leadership doesn’t know the Lord.

A soul-searching question: If you were to hand your temporary leadership assignments over today, would a statement about your leadership sound more like Moses or more like Joshua?

Your leadership has a shelf life. Embrace it. And prepare the ministry for the future by preparing others now.


How the Bible Defines Shepherd

“Shepherding” is an unusual term in our modern society. Most of us have only encountered sheep at a petting zoo. But shepherding is a term the Bible uses often in referring to leaders. Shepherds were a normal, common part of the culture in the Ancient Near East, and people who heard this term in Jesus’ day would have understood immediately what it meant and why it mattered.  Aaron Ivey, the worship pastor at The Austin Stone Church, explains what the Bible means by this term and why it’s crucial to understand in our modern, western context.

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The Effectiveness of a “Lazy, Intelligent” Leader

Erich von Manstein is historically known as one of Germany’s best military strategists and field commanders. He was a part of Hitler’s regime and committed/allowed horrific atrocities against the Jewish people. Some believe Hitler may have won if he would have listened to Manstein. If that is true, we should be grateful Hitler did not listen.

People still reference Manstein’s theory on selecting leaders, which can be explained with the following chart, followed by Manstein’s words.

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There are only four types of officer. First, there are the lazy, stupid ones. Leave them alone, they do no harm… Second, there are the hardworking, intelligent ones. They make excellent staff officers, ensuring every detail is properly considered. Third, there are the hard-working, stupid ones. These people are a menace and must be fired at once. They create irrelevant work for everybody. Finally, there are the intelligent lazy ones. They are suited for the highest office.

~ Erich von Manstein

Obviously Manstein’s values and life were in deep contradiction to those of us who are members of God’s kingdom. Our King and Commander values all people, affirms diligence and stewardship, and renounces laziness.

But is there anything good that can be gleaned from Manstein? What does it mean to be what he called a “lazy, intelligent leader,” and why might this increase effectiveness? Three leadership thoughts emerge from his thinking:

1)    Find the simplest solution.

The reason that Manstein believed “lazy, intelligent people” would make the best generals is that they were most likely to choose the simplest solution, the simplest strategy. They chose simplicity, sometimes out of a desire not to overwork, but the simplest solution always proves to be the most actionable—the one that is easier to implement. While a Christian leader should never be lazy, we are wise to consider the simplest solution.

2)    Delegate well.

Great leaders accomplish work through others. They don’t hold responsibility and authority tightly; they give it away to others so the scope of work can be broadened and the impact of the team exponentially multiplied.  

3)    Reposition mismatched team members.

Someone who is not in the correct role, someone Manstein articulated as hardworking yet incompetent, does not provide a neutral impact to the team, despite what we like to think. A mismatched team member creates a negative impact because the harder the person runs, the more work (extra conversations, picking up dropped balls, etc.) is created for everyone else.

As members of God’s kingdom, we should not be lazy servants. At the same time, it is wise for leaders to seek the simplest, most actionable solution, to delegate well, and to reposition mismatched team members.

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