Effective Leaders Make Decisions

A major part of being a leader is making decisions. In fact, some would say that it is key to being a leader because a leader’s role is to make decisions for others and then lead them forward towards wherever that decision takes them. As a leader, I am sure you sometimes make a bad mistake here and there, but you must not let that get you down, keep pressing on and keep leading.

making-choices-trees-in-the-pathWe all make small decisions every day. We decide if we will wear a blue shirt or red one, if we will eat at one restaurant or another, or if we will have one cup of coffee or two. These all seem like easy decisions because you have probably made them before, you have already considered the benefits of another cup of coffee and the only factor left is if you have time for it or if the coffee is already made. When you have a harder decision, it is usually harder only because you have not had to make that kind of decision before, or because you have not really considered the benefits and costs fully.

Decision making is something that takes time to work at and practice. You practice making decisions, and sometimes you make great decisions, and other times you do not. When you make a bad decision, you must learn from it, and then move on. A mentor once told me that decision making is something that you will always need to work at and practice, and it will become easier, but never easy.

I can remember one business class I had in college where the professor told us that all he wanted us to learn in that class was how to make good decisions. Everything we did in that class was aimed at helping us become better decision makers. It really was more of a transformational leadership class than a business class, but it has helped my leadership and decision making skills in many lasting ways.

So where are you at today? Do you avoid making decisions? Or maybe you are a fairly decent decision maker? No matter where you are, you must remember this; making good decisions takes practice, so get out there and start practicing, and soon your leadership and even life, will benefit from better decisions .

As a final note, if you are facing a big decision, it is imperative to include God in that decision. He knows the answers and he is willing to guide you. So rely on Him and his expertise in decision making to help you make better decisions.

photo by Rickydavid

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The Need to Inspire

In anything a leader does, he or she must inspire those around them. In the toughest situations or the darkest of nights, a leader who is still courageous and inspiring can give new hope to followers.

Be Inspirational, Be like sunlight coming through the clouds

Be Inspirational, Be like sunlight coming through the clouds

I remember one time when I was at a youth camp. We were planning to play some outdoor games all afternoon. Games like kickball, tag, and dodge ball. However, a few hours before the whole camp was going to take part in these games, it started to rain. And it kept raining. I, along with almost everyone else, was disheartened and frustrated. Now we would probably have to sit inside and play boring inside games or something equally  unexciting.

Yet the youth leader of the camp was unfazed and recognized the situation. He immediately announced that we would still be doing games outside, but they would be games suited for wet weather. He proceeded to talk these games up so much that everyone in the camp was soon even more excited about these new wet weather games than the other games we had planned. Even today I still remember all the games we played that day and the fun everyone had because of one inspiring leader.

A leader who can look at a situation, change plans, and then inspire others to follow is a great leader. It is not easy at times to throw out plans and come up with something new, but it is necessary to do in certain situations.

So how can you do a better job of inspiring people? The next time when your plans do not work out very well, try to be flexible and change, and then be excited about the new direction you are heading. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to follow an inspirational leader who is genuinely excited about leading.

photo by B Tal

5 Steps to Follow to Make Great Decisions

To reach our goal, we often must make a decision at a fork in the road

To reach our goal, we often must make a decision at a fork in the road

Decision making is something we all have to do, but few of us enjoy. Many people often make bad decisions for many reasons, but one reason is because they simply did not know how to make a decision. So if you would like to know how, or if you just want to make sure you make good decisions, check out these five steps to making a good decision.

5 steps to making a decision:

1. State the problem – begin by defining what the decision you need to make is. Try to put the problem into one sentence and make it as clear as possible. This is both for your benefit and others in case you are not the only one involved in this decision.

2. Identify alternatives – what are the options? Take time and carefully look at the deferent solutions to your stated problem. This is like a brainstorm session, so do not get rid of any solutions no matter how outlandish they might seem. Look for every possible alternative or solution.

3. Evaluate alternatives – which option is best? Look at all the factors involved, you might even need to put some criteria together to help whittle down your options. This is probably the longest step of the process and it requires some careful analysis of each alternative. Here is where you throw out the alternatives that do not solve your problem or are just impractical.

4. Make a decision – choose the best option. You have analyzed and found the best option to fix your problem, so go with it and do not second guess yourself.

5. Implement your decision – follow your decision and do whichever option you chose. This is the most important step. You must implement or your problem will remain unsolved.

Let’s look at an example to help put all these steps together.

Let’s say that you are in charge of an organization and you want to do some sort of stress relief activity for your workers. The first option you have is to do a stress relief party. This would cost $100. The second option is to get stress relief balls for everyone. This would only cost $50. Which option should you take? Well follow the steps. Define your problem, which is that you need a stress relief activity. Then look for your alternatives, the two options. Now, evaluate each option. Which one would be a more effective stress reliever? Which one is more cost effective? Which one has a combined better value? After figuring out the answer to these questions, make a decision on one of the options. Now, the last and most important step of all, implement your decision. You will never know if you made a good decision if you do not implement it, and you will never solve the problem if you do not act on your decision.

Follow the five steps and the example and you should be able to start making better decisions today. Remember, it takes practice to make good decisions, so do not get distressed if your first few attempts end badly. Just keep trying and keep learning and very soon you will be a better leader.

Photo by pfly

5 Basic Leadership Skills Every Leader Needs

Sometimes you just need to focus as a leader on a few basic skills

Sometimes you just need to focus as a leader on a few basic skills

More than a few books have been written on what qualities or traits a leader needs. For some it might seem overwhelming – all the traits and skills a leader must have, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Here are five basic leadership skills every leader needs. If you can work on even just one of these at a time, you will become a much better leader and be able to lead more effectively and efficiently.

1.     Effective communication – a leader needs to be able to speak clearly and efficiently. They should not waste time babbling on about unimportant things. They need to make use of every opportunity they have to talk with those under them and they need to not overwhelm them with what they say. They also need to be willing to carefully and patiently reiterate what they said if it is not understood the first time. At times, a leader must use non-verbal means of communication to get the point across. So be sure to always analyze what you say and do to be certain that you are communicating effectively.

A leader should have a vision and long term goals

A leader should have a vision and long term goals

2.     Clear vision and distinctive goals – a leader should always have a vision or goal for the future. Think about this, if a leader is leading a group of people through a blizzard and decides to set no goals or direction, where do you think they will end up? Well, probably they will not end up anywhere they would want to be. They might even die because they got stuck out in the cold. It’s the same way with everything else; if a leader has no vision or direction, then the entire group will get nowhere and might even die (NOT literally though). A vision is important because it provides a reason for the group or organization to exist. Leaders should always be considering their long term goals and then structuring their short term goals so that they help accomplish the long term ones.

3.     Continued learning and coaching – you probably had someone who helped you and mentored you when you first started leading a group of people. This might have been your boss, pastor or someone else. Once you got the hang of things, you probably thought you could lead on your own right? Well, a leader really needs to always continue to learn how to lead. When a leader stops and thinks they have it all together then they set themselves up for failure. It is imperative to have a mentor or close friend who can offer advice, council, and even rebuke. We all make bad choices at times, and when you have a mentor or coach and are willing to learn, you will minimize the mistakes you make.

4.     Good decision making abilities – one of the biggest jobs a leader has is decision making. They must make the decisions for themselves, and all those who are following them. Good decision making skills come from experience and learning from others. Whenever you have a decision to make, consider the decisions other people have made in a similar situation and use that to help you. Also, and this is very important, rely on God to help guide your decisions.

5.     Positive attitude and outlook on life – lastly, a leader must always keep a positive attitude and outlook on life. A leader sets the example for others, so the leader must always try to be enthusiastic, excited, and positive. It’s not always easy, but when you rely on God, he will help you out on those tough days.

Leading others can be difficult and challenging but if you implement these five basic leadership skills in your life you should be able to lead a lot more easily and effectively.

photos by Ocell ,dsevilla Respectivly.

3 Reasons Why Leaders Must Delegate

Do not try to go it alone - A leader must rely on others to lead succesfully so try delagating

Do not try to go it alone - A leader must rely on others to lead succesfully so try delagating

Photo by Hamed Saber

Empowering delegated leadership is as important to leading as baseball mitts are to baseball. You can still play without it, but very soon you will notice significant decreases in your effectiveness.

When a leader delegates, he or she is allowing others to take responsibility and experience what it is like to lead. A leader can use delegation for a number of reasons; to relieve themselves of a certain task or role so they can focus on larger ones, to let someone else gain some experience, or even just to work more in line with the way God has created them and allow someone else to use their God given gifts.

There really are three key reasons why a leader should delegate in a way that empowers others. The three reasons are:

1.  No one person can do everything.  The more you are able to delegate the closer the organization is to reaching its goals.

2.  To help the leader stay focused on what is really important

3.  To raise up and build up new leaders.

As a leader, it is very important to share your vision and plans, and one key way to do that while leading others is to delegate. When you delegate your leadership, the people who you delegate to will have their own ways of doing things, often times better if they are gifted in that area but they will probably catch a lot of your values. The old saying goes, “The Speed of the leader is the speed of the team.”  So if you have a vision that you want shared with others, simple give certain people specific tasks or roles and the ability to help accomplish your organizations goals.

Can you think of a time when someone you looked up to gave you a task to help complete a bigger project, and because of that you became much more interested in the whole project? Well, now it’s time for you to use that same idea. I can think of a time when my dad was to be involved with a big Franklin Graham revival. As a kid I wasn’t all that interested in it, but he asked me to help by being in charge of parking cars. Because he delegated that responsibility to me, I got involved and interested in the success of the entire event.  Bringing others into the loop of what you are doing and asking them to get on board is a great way to increase ownership.

To help you stay focused on essential activities, it is sometimes useful and even necessary to delegate certain tasks and jobs to others. In doing this, you make it possible for you to be completely focused on a few vital jobs, while letting others do more menial tasks or things that you should not be focusing on.

A leader must be able to recognize when they are getting overloaded with extra tasks and when they need to start delegating. If you, as a leader, allow yourself to get bogged down with tons of tasks, you effectiveness will drop dramatically.  One of the reasons for the great success of the E-myth was the idea of working on your business or ministry and not just in it.  If you are only doing the work and not focusing on how to increase the work or do the work more effectively or involve more people in the mission you are not likely to grow.

Finally, delegation helps build up new leaders. You will not be around forever, so you need to start building up a few people who could take your place or take on other leadership roles. No one can just jump right into a leadership role, so you must start slowly and delegate certain small tasks first, and then move on to bigger and bigger jobs for the new leader to do. Eventually, you will have a very competent and useful co-leader to help you accomplish more and lead others better. Don’t let your fear of being replaced stop you from building up new leaders.  In fact, if insecurity only plays a negative role in your leadership.  Make sure you deal with that head on and speak the truth to yourself.   Instead, instill every bit of knowledge you have and do everything you can to help a new leader succeed.

Are there some areas of responsibility that you could be delegating to others?  Over and over again I have seen the joy that others have when you delegate and area of responsibility and they are able to be involved with the organization’s goals in significant ways.  Frequently, you should take a step back from your problems, tasks and to do list to gain some perspective and see if there are things you can pass off to others.  Even the earth looks small from a distance.  :-)

A Leader Must Depend on God

There are 3 areas in every leader's life that they should be relying on God for.

There are 3 areas in every leader's life that they should be relying on God for.

photo by Pandiyan

Many leaders rely on worldly things to help them lead. Things like computers, other people, or any other of a number of things. They think that they will lead better if they have something to rely on. But all of those things are imperfect; they fail, they break, or they just do not help.

There is only one thing you can rely on that will always be perfect, that will never fail, and that is God. He is the source of every leader’s authority, whether they know it or not. God wants us to rely on Him, and as a leader, we should in three key areas.

First, we should trust in God. God is the only being that is perfect. Do you not think it would be wise to trust in the only perfect being in existence? God desires, and created us for that purpose. As a leader, our authority comes from God, so we should trust in his judgment. When we are faced with difficult situations or tough people, we must trust in God to help us get through them.

Second, we should put our faith in God’s plan. After all, He is perfect, so He has a perfect plan for your life. This does not mean that your life will be without pain, suffering, trials, and difficulties; it means that God has planned these things to help you grow and know Him more. So as a leader you must recognize that when unexpected events happen, they happen for a reason and you should make the most of them. When you trust in God and have faith in His plan for you, your life will gain meaning and purpose. You will start to see all the little things God does for you, and then you will be able to help lead others and show them these things as well. But there is one last key area in which we should depend on God.

Lastly, we must not worry. God wants us to trust in Him and have faith in His plans for us and when we worry, we show our doubt for his supreme power and planning. Jesus says in the New Testament, “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34). He is saying don’t worry! I have a plan and you should trust me with this. Yet not only does God call us to not worry, it will actually benefit us to not worry. Worry and anxiety are one of the big causes of stress. So when you give your worries to God, you will help decrease the stress in your life.

So how can you depend on God more? Have you been trusting Him in all areas of your life? If you have not been, do not worry, it is a slow process to change years of patterns and habits, but do not try to change on your own, ask God for help, and seek out someone else who is also willing to support you.

If you would like help in this area, leave a comment or contact us directly. We would be happy to help you start leading better today.

Trust in God, have faith in God’s plan, and do not worry!

3 Critical Leadership Actions

Follow these 3 critical leadership points to help you start leading iothers better

Follow these 3 critical leadership action points to help you start leading others better

photo by paul+photos=moody

Every leader, no matter what their position, should be doing each of three key actions. They should be setting a good example, delegating responsibility, and taking responsibility.

Setting a good example as a leader can be so powerful and effective.  As you seek to become a better leader you want to make sure that the example that you are setting is one that you want others to emulate. When you set a good example for others to follow, you inspire people, and instill in them whatever key values you are living out. People want to follow someone they look up to and respect, and if you do not set a good example, then you will lose the respect of those you are trying to lead.

When you are trying to start setting a good example, you do not need to do some huge kind of transformational leadership change, you should just start by thinking of a few important ideals or values you want to start following. Then, work on a few more once you begin to live out the first of your values.  Eventually, you will be setting a fine example for others to follow. But remember, none of us here on earth is perfect, so you might struggle at times, but God can help you so rely on Him.

Delegating responsibility is the next key action you should take. You have to realize that you can’t do everything. If you try to, you will soon become burned out and depressed. So work on sharing certain tasks and leadership positions with others. In doing this you will help yourself, and also help build up other people’s leadership experience.  Think through the areas of your life and responsibility and see if there are areas that you could pass off to someone else who is better gifted to do those thigns.

Finally, the last action you must do is take responsibility. You are the one who must take the heat when something goes amiss, you must be the one who answers when questions arise, you must be the one who takes the blame. It can be easy to want to shirk the blame or pass it off when things do not go well, especially when you weren’t directly the one who messed up. But, as a leader you are the one in charge and need to be willing to accept responsibility when things go wrong and pass out the praise when things go well.  Those above you will probably recognize you for the success but either way you need to be the person who is encouraging others.

There are lots of other characteristics a leader could or should have, but these are three key actions that you can use today to start leading others better.

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7 Reasons why leaders fail

failure comes in many forms

failure comes in many forms

Photo by greekadman

Many leaders fail every day. They fail for lots of reasons. But there are seven key reasons that you should know to help you avoid failing as a leader.

1. They Lose sight of their vision – when a leader stops setting goals and forgets their vision they will soon fail. They fail simply because they have no objective, no reason for leading. Every leader must have a reason for leading. As soon as the objective is accomplished, or the leader stops making goals, the leader will be unnecessary. So always be aiming for a goal, and always have a vision of what you want to do in the future and where you are leading.

2. They fail to communicate their vision and goals to others – as important as it is to have a vision, it is also important to effectively communicate that vision with those under you. If a leader stops communicating, their followers will become disconnected and will soon quit following. Always be clear and communicate often what your goals are with those under you. Make sure they understand what you are saying and what you want from them. Clarify anything that might be unclear, go above and beyond to ensure you are effectively communicating.

3. They try to work on their weaknesses more than their strengths – we were each created with certain strengths and weaknesses. When a leader starts to try to do things they aren’t good at, they will fail. A leader must recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and then use their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. There will be times when you might have to do something that is not a strength.  That is fine, you just do not want the bulk of your life or work to be focused on areas that you are weak in.

4. They have weak team members around them – the people a leader brings around them will have a great impact on the effectiveness of that leader. Many good leaders have failed simply because they gathered incompetent team members around them. To avoid this, carefully evaluate each person you hire or bring in to work with. Be sure that they are a good team member. And, of course, make sure you set the example by always learning and always increasing your abilities and effectiveness.  Hire slow and fire fast.  You do not want to make a bad hiring decision so take it slow. Once you realize that you need to let a member of the team go make sure you make it happen fast.  If you are have worked with a person and tried to find areas of strength where they could add to the team and that still does work make the firing decision quickly.

5. They become prideful or headstrong – when a leader stops taking suggesting, stops listening to council, and starts doing everything on their own, it is only a matter of time before they make a bad choice and ruin themselves. Every leader needs to take advice from others; every leader needs people around them to give council and help. Pride is often a key reason behind ignoring others advice. When you become prideful, you think you are better and smarter than everyone else. Do not go down this path, instead, have a good mentor or friend who can keep you humble and on track.

6. They do too much – a leader must know what they can handle and what they need to pass on to others. When a leader takes on every task, they become busy and ineffective at accomplishing any task well. They do a lot of work, but it is all poor quality. Eventually, a leader heading down this path will become tired, stressed, and burned out. To steer clear of this, carefully look at every task you accept. Ask yourself if you can devote the necessary time to do a good job. if you can not then delegate or just say no. it is better to be focused and accomplish a few tasks very well then to do a lot of jobs poorly.

7. They do not keep their relationship with God fresh – if a leader stops relying on God, stops connecting to God, they will run into difficult times and have nothing to turn to, no one to help them. If you are experiencing tough times in your relationship with God continue to pursue his heart.  Many times leaders do not want to draw near to God unless they feel like it.  Draw near to God and the feelings will follow.  Just this morning I was reading 2 Chronicles 312:31b  ”God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.”  As people grow in their relationship with God it seems that everyone goes through a season where things are not as easy, fun or fruitful.  Usually these times are tests to see if the leader will renew his hunger and thirst for the Lord.  Let your dry time be a stepping stone to a fresh experience of your relationship with God.

If you have any other thoughts on why leaders fail please feel free to leave a comment.

Leadership and Humility

Humility and Leadership rarely are associated together but a leader must learn to be humble

Humility and Leadership rarely are associated together but a leader must learn to be humble

photo by BUR?BLUE

When you do a word association with humility, leadership probably does not pop into your head. A leader should be great, glorious, and confident right? If their confidence leads them to be prideful well then so be it.  It’s probably OK for someone to be a little prideful if they have earned the right to be prideful.   Well not according to Jesus and many others in recent history who have studied truly great leaders.

Take a look at the example Jesus left for us at the last supper. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus did something extraordinary; He got up, got a towel and water, and began to wash the feet of each of His followers. In that time only a servant, and the humblest of servants at that, washed people’s feet. Yet Jesus did this to show us what a leader should really look like. He showed us that a leader needs to be thinking and serving those who follow them. They need to put their follower’s needs ahead of their own. A leader has incredible responsibility, and one of them is to make sure that the needs of those entrusted to him or her are taken care of.

When a leader is humble and takes time to look after the needs of those following them, then the followers will be more willing and able to follow and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the goal at hand.

Especially today, humility is not a popular trait.  Somehow William Bennet left it out of his best seller The Book of Virtues.  Maybe there were not enough stories of a humble protagonist, or maybe humility does not sell.  :-)   If a leader does not continue to pursue humility it is likely they will soon become prideful and fall into traps caused by the sin of pride.  A humble leader accepts the council of others and grows from it.

I once heard the phrase that humility is not thinking less of yourself it is not thinking of yourself at all.  President’s Lincoln and Reagan both modeled this characteristic of humility well.  Nancy Reagan said of President Reagan that he had no ego.  He was not concerned about himself.  Though many great leaders are attributed with the quote “You can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”  It was certainly an opinion that Reagan voiced often and probably helped to keep him humble as he made his way up the ladder of success.

If you want to pursue humility it helps to keep your focus on Christ who was humble despite being God.  It helps to give away all the credit you can.  It also helps to receive encouragement and praise with a simple “Thank You.” or “Praise God.”  A false humility that says, “Oh it was nothing.”  Simply causes the giver of the praise to have to offer more or justify their original statement, whereas a thank you or focus on God causes the attention to go back to that person or to God.