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10 Times You Don’t Need a Leader


I talk a lot about leadership. A mentor of mine says everything rises and falls on leadership. (I know he’s repeating someone else, but to me—he says it.) I have an advanced degree in leadership. I believe it’s an important subject—for organizations and the church.

But, here’s the truth: You don’t always need a leader.

Sometimes organizations, churches, corporate worlds—should simply send the leaders home. They don’t want and don’t need them.

I once interviewed for a position I really wanted. I was so excited about the opportunity and really—even to this day—believe I could have done some incredible things with this company. (This position was in the business world—not the ministry world.) I would have basically run a company for owners who were retiring. It was between me and another person. The other person was an operation manager. I was in a senior leadership position, where we had experienced explosive growth and change in recent years. The bottom line in the decision process was whether the owners wanted someone to maintain the business as they were leaving it—or someone who would take the business to something new—hopefully (at least I felt we could), somewhere beyond where it had ever been. They opted to leave things as they were. I understood and admitted I wasn’t a good fit for them.

No hard feelings—maybe some initial disappointment, but I understood. They didn’t need a leader.

Here are 10 times you don’t need a leader:

You don’t need a leader if there is no risk involved.

You don’t need a leader to maintain status quo.

You don’t need a leader if it doesn’t involve change.

You don’t need a leader if you already have all the answers.

You don’t need a leader if every outcome is predetermined.

You don’t need a leader to manage current systems.

You don’t need a leader to keep things the way they’ve always been done.

You don’t need a leader if the structure, or tradition, or popular opinion, has already dictated the decision.

You don’t need a leader to give everyone what they want.

You don’t need a leader if “safe” is what you’re looking to achieve.

We need leaders—lots of them, in my opinion—but there’s no sense recruiting a leader unless you need one. The best time to determine this is on the front end, before the person is recruited to do the job.

I give this advice frequently now to churches seeking a new pastor. I’ve given it to business owners who are seeking to fill an internal position. I’ve shared it with nonprofits who are looking for board members or key volunteers. Sometimes knowing what you are seeking helps eliminate frustration—from both parties—in the future.

What would you add to my list?