5 Warning Signs a Leader is Leading at “Too High” a Level

Leaders are often encouraged to lead “at a high level.” “Lead higher” is a helpful way to describe rising above the details and the day-to-day operations so a leader can look to the future. By “leading higher,” a leader is able to set direction, remind people of the why beneath the work, clarify mission and values, and develop others. While leaders are encouraged to “leader at higher levels,” there is such a thing as leading too far above reality and too far removed from people and the work.

Actually, leading at too high a level is a common occurrence.

When a leader “flies too high,” the leader can lose passion for the ministry or organization. When a leader is removed from others, the leader is much more likely to make foolish decisions and to live without accountability. The ministry or organization also suffers, as a leader who is not connected to the reality of the organization inevitably stops leading in ways that are helpful and practical for the day. Here are 5 indications a leader is disconnected from reality, or leading at too high a level:

1. Daily action is disconnected from his/her thinking

A leader that is “leading at too high a level” is unable to put into action all the grand ideas, philosophies, and white boarding sessions. So, six months later there is yet another grand idea, philosophy, and white boarding session. Ideas are continually disconnected from action.

2. Unable to answer basic questions about his/her area of responsibility

A leader who is unable to answer basic questions related to the role and to priorities is likely disconnected from the current reality and context.

3. Acts “above the work”

A leader is who “flying too high” acts like the work is beneath him or her. Someone wisely quipped, “You can’t be a leader if you can’t setup chairs.” The heart behind the quote is that leaders must always be servants.

4. Sloppy with delegation

Sloppy delegation is when a leader hands responsibility to others but does not provide resources, training, accountability, or follow-up. Sloppy delegation often occurs when a leader just wants something off his/her plate and is no longer invested.

5. Low on passion for what is happening now

A disconnected-from-today leader can only speak with passion about something in the distant future. There is low passion and low intensity for today.

Do I agree with the coaching and encouragement to “lead at a high level?” I do. But not too high. When the Lord gave Adam and Eve responsibility and stewardship over the Garden of Eden, the Lord instructed them to “work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). “Watching over” does cause one to pull up from the details, to think further, and to lead higher. But “working” requires a leader to still be connected to the garden the Lord has given.