Three Problems with Over-Quoting the Leader

In many organizations and ministries, people often over-quote their leader. Even in organizations where leaders involve others in decision-making, lead in community, and submit themselves to accountability, the over-quoting often occurs. It is an epidemic that lowers ownership, fosters disunity, and unintentionally creates the perception that the leader is leading in isolation.

If I lead my team with a “Dr. Rainer (our CEO) said this” posture, my team would wonder if I own the direction or if I am merely implementing because it is my job. The former creates ownership and energy as we move together in a direction. The latter fosters a passionless team that will merely run through a checklist.

How can you tell if this unhealthy practice is taking place? If you listen carefully, do you hear statements such as:

  • “NAME” said …
  • “NAME” says we need to …
  • Leadership has decided that …
  • The direction I have been given from “NAME” is …

If you serve on a team while also leading others, here are three problems with over-quoting your leader(s):

1. You send the signal that you are not fully on board

If you lead a meeting and over-quote your leader, you give the impression that you have not fully bought in, that you are just executing like a good soldier, that you don’t fully own the direction or the strategy. Those you lead are much less likely to implement or serve with passion because they view you as merely “doing your job.”

2. You give away your leadership voice

If you lead a team and you consistently use your leader’s name as the trump card, your own leadership is weakened. You become the person who can’t share a God-induced burden and can’t invite people to commit to a vision.

3. You don’t take the time to create ownership and buy-in

Perhaps one reason a senior leader’s name is over-used is that the others leading find it simpler and faster to just quote him/her. Instead of helping teams see the logic, passion, and calling for a decision, it is just quicker to quote someone else. But the speed short-circuits the buy-in and ownership that really builds teams and engages people in the mission of the ministry/organization.

A better way is to own (not merely rent) the direction of the ministry, lead and speak with passion and conviction, and invite those you lead to participate. It is better for the whole ministry, better for the people on your team, and better for your leadership development.