Entries by Dave Kraft (1130)


Are your decisive or plain dictatorial? Find out.

I think it is non-controversial to state that one of the key elements of being a successful leader is the ability to make timely and good decisions. When sufficient information has been obtained and when adequate thought has been given to the clearly positive advantages and potentially negative aspects of the decision under consideration, the best leaders are then willing to pull the trigger, bite the bullet and own the decision.

No procrastination, no second-guessing what has now been decided, no blaming others or making excuses if the decision turns out to not having been a good one.  It was Ted Engstrom, a past president of World Vision who said:

“Readiness to risk failure is probably the one quality that best characterizes the effective leader.  Never vacillate in making a decision.  Indecision at the top breeds lack of confidence and hesitancy throughout an organization.”

The higher you are in an organization, the more responsibility you carry and there is more riding on each decision made. The bottom line though, is that leaders make decisions--that’s what leaders do! 

Here are a few things ou can count on as you make decisions--especially the controversial and difficult ones:

  • Some will like your decision(s);
  • Some will not like your decision(s);
  • Some will not understand why you made the decision(s);
  • Some will understand why you made the decision(s), but still not like it;
  • Some won’t care what you decide;
  • Some will leave because of the decision(s) you made.

 So, making decisions (especially the tough, agonizing and controversial ones) goes with the territory in being a leader. People in teams, in work groups and in any church or organizations expect leaders to make decisions. Nothing wrong here…so far! 

But there can come a point in time where this leadership responsibility, the expectations of those being led and the ability to be decisive goes south and the leader is now seen as domineering (See I Peter 5:3 and an earlier post on this topic titled “Not Domineering”) dictatorial, autocratic and egotistical. 

What started out well is now perceived as bad and unacceptable. How does this happen?

Let me take a stab at exploring how it happens:

1.  The leader has come to believe that no one in the room is as bright and gifted as he/she is;

2.  The leader begins to value his/her own thinking and decisions as being superior to everyone else’s;

3.  The leader now begins to make decisions in isolation, without discussing them with anyone;

4.  The leader is not open to having anyone question a proposed decision;

5.  The leader is not open to considering any alternative decisions or ideas on the issue at hand;

6.  The leader becomes angry when his/her proposed decision is challenged or questioned;

7.  The leader begins creating a culture of fear where honest and appropriate dissent and honest questions are not welcomed and people are afraid to disagree with anything the leader thinks or says.

8.  As a leader, it is critically important that you process with your people… not pronounce to your people what you’re thinking or deciding.

When you have a meeting (which I hope you would do regularly) to discuss key decisions needing to be made, your goal as a leader should be to go into a meeting with a decision that you are thinking of making and walk out with a better and more well-thought-through decision after receiving honest feedback.

What starts out as an admirable trait and quality (being decisive) can, over time, morph into a negative leadership style (dictatorial) that will, in the long run, cause more harm than good and result in many good and creative people leaving. Those remaining may keep great (and sometimes better) ideas to themselves out of fear.

“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, he said, and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you.” Mark 10:42,43 (The Message)

My fellow leader and follower of Jesus, his words to his close disciples then are just as needful for us to hear now!: “It’s not going to be that way with you.”



Strong Churches work like a healthy team

If I’ve learn one thing through the years, (and  learned it the hard way )it is to not try to do things alone but build healthy teams of complementary people to work with me.  Here is Rick Warren sharing some excellent thoughts on teams in local churches.

Originally posted by Rick Warren

Strong Churches work like a healthy team

I first began to understand the importance of teams as a seminary student when I did a study of the 100 largest churches in the United States. I asked them a series of questions related to staff and ministry, and the study showed strong churches have a strong team spirit.

These churches created a strong team spirit by combining two things: a common goal with good communication.

As you build your ministry team, you need to make sure both of these elements are present, because …

1.  You can have people working on the same project but not communicating with each other: they are not functioning as a team.

2.  You can have people who communicate well, but are not working toward the same goal: they are not functioning as a team, even if you call them that.

Let me give you some foundation on why I think this is important:

First, the body of Christ functions as a team ministry.
Romans 12:4-5 says that, just as there are many parts to our bodies, likewise there are many parts to Christ’s Body. Essentially, God designed it so that we all need each other to have a fully functioning ministry and EVERY ONE of your staff members (or lay ministry leaders) plays an important role. The very fact that the church is a body and not a business means that teamwork is more important to those of us in ministry than it is to people in a normal business relationship.

Nobody has cornered the market on all the gifts it takes to make a church successful. If you only surround yourself with people who mirror your strengths, then the church is going to have problems. For instance, I can see the big picture, but in order to make that vision a reality I need other people around me who can hammer it into a reality. You don’t want to hand me the hammer. I might hurt someone!

The problem that I see with a lot of pastors, and I’m being frank here, is that too many of us are afraid to admit there are some things we cannot do. In a sense, the first real step toward teamwork is for you to admit you need a team.

The success of Saddleback is not about Rick Warren. The success of Saddleback is really about the many people who worked together toward a common goal. No doubt I provided the vision, but it’s guys like Glen Kreun, who came on staff two years after I founded the church, who turned the vision into a reality.

That’s why, at Saddleback, I intentionally choose staff people with strengths that compensate for my weaknesses. I think the secret of a good church is that you hire people who are smarter than you, particularly in areas that you know nothing about.

Second, teams accomplish more than individuals working separately.
This principle is taught all through Scripture. When there are more hands working, more can be accomplished. One example of this is found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, where we’re told that two are better than one, and a rope of three cords is hard to break. Another example of teams accomplishing more than individuals is in Nehemiah, where people worked by groups or families.

In the New Testament, Jesus sent people out by two to minister (Mark 6:7). Luke, in Acts 18, specifically mentions four people who were part of Paul’s ministry team.

This mutual encouragement is vital to your ministry because you’re NOT just working on well-meaning projects: you are in a spiritual battle — carrying the most important message the lost world will ever hear! The devil wants to defeat you, and one of his favorite tools is discouragement. That’s why you need a team working with you, whether you’re a senior pastor over a large staff or the only paid staff member at the church.

Third, a strong team is not threatened by disagreement.
Remember there are two essentials to teamwork: a common goal and good communication. In order to have good communication, people have to be willing to express their opinions no matter how different they are from everyone else’s.

Peter Drucker says if only one side is being presented in a discussion, then THINKING is not taking place. So, if the people on your team are not coming up with more than one opinion on a particular idea or project, then chances are not a lot of thinking is taking place. Or maybe they ARE thinking, but they’re AFRAID to express their opinions.

You need to create a team environment where people are not afraid to say something stupid, where they are not afraid to make a mistake. And you need to make sure you are not threatened by disagreement.




The price and payoff of leadership

As I look around the landscape and see all the corporate / political damage and “dead bodies,” it really is scary and unnerving. At times I ask myself if being a leader is worth it.

The Price Of Leadership

First of all, there IS a price to pay. Often it is the price of loneliness. The loneliness of wrestling with issues that, at times, others don’t see or care about. There is the loneliness of making tough and unpleasant decisions. Part of what makes some decisions hard is the temptation to keep everyone happy. Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know what the secret to success is but I know what the secret to failure is, and that’s trying to keep everybody happy.” Would you be inclined to agree? I would.

 I collect definitions of leadership and one of my favorite’s is: “A leaders is a person who makes decisions some of which are right.” But the price a Christian leader pays in praying, thinking, information gathering, and emotional and mental sweating can be high. Leaders live with a lot more stress than others due to the nature of the decisions that fall to their lot. Your motives can be judged, called into question, or outright attacked. Maybe that’s why there is so much “buck passing” and finger pointing when a decision turns out to be a bad one.

Years ago someone told me that if I accepted the role of a leader, I should plan on being misunderstood. I didn’t comprehend it then, but I certainly do now. Oh, the horror stories I have heard of what has happened to good leaders of integrity who have been ambushed by what Marshall Shelley calls, “Well-Intentioned Dragons.” In the book by that title, Shelly says, “Criticism comes with the territory-some of it deserved, some of it unfair, all of it devastating.” How true. How true. There is a big price tag on leadership.

In II Corinthians 4: 8, 9 the Apostle Paul speaks to the price when he says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” And, again, in II Corinthians 11:27, 28, “In weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness, besides the other things, what comes upon me daily; my deep concern for all the churches.” Now, admittedly, some of what Paul faced had to do with his calling as a mobile apostle, but at the same time it was part of being a leader.

The high price of leadership keeps some from ever stepping into it and forces others into quickly stepping out of it. I have long since lost track of those who once served as leaders who would rather drink motor oil than try again. It is so sad. I think that the key to lasting as a leader is weighing the price against the pay off. I have been tempted to quit many times. To come to the conclusion in my mind that I can’t handle it any longer, but the grace of God and the promises of God give me the fortitude to continue on.

The Payoff Of Leadership

The thrill of winning a game keeps people on the floor, the field or the ice and allows them to put up with the training, the pain and the pressure. The coach’s job is to help the players keep perspective and keep their eyes on the payoff. Winning the game, the league championship, being world champions, the end result of the process.

Is it any different in the world of Christian leadership? It’s imperative to keep our eyes on the end goal. Standing before the Savior with joy and love in our hearts and hearing his “well done.” I heard the story of a missionary couple returning home by ship after many years of faithful and difficult service. As it turned out Teddy Roosevelt’s ship came in about the same time. There were great crowds awaiting Teddy’s arrival , but hardly anyone welcoming this couple home. As he started to be discouraged, he heard the Lord quietly remind him, “But you’re not ”home” yet.

Paul again has something to say to the weary. beat up and  discouraged leaders who are paying a high price that is exacting a toll. “Therefore we do not lose heart. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we do not look at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Cor 4:16-18.

When we get to heaven and see all the people we have deeply impacted, the lives that have been transformed, the people who have come to faith through our lives and our lips, it will be worth it all. I heard about a Christian lady named Helen .

Ever since she was a small girl she made decisions by asking herself “Is it worth it?” After serving the Lord for many years, things got tough and she was paying the price of leadership. She began to waver and asked herself if “it was worth it.” Jesus put a vastly different question to her, “Am I worth it?”

Yes, Jesus is worth it. The price is worth the pay off. As the old song puts it, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. All problems seem so small when we see Christ. One look at his dear face, all trials will erase, so bravely run the race ‘till we see Christ.”

So fellow leader. Hang in there. Don’t quite because of the price. He didn’t quit when the price was high! “Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2



I love lists of things to think about, pray about and pick a few things to trust God for in my own personal and leadership development. Here are several lists from Dan Rockwell. Don't let the lists overwhelm you. Read, think, pray and pick one or  two that will take your leadership to a new level.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell


Extraordinary leadership is about who you are. There’s hope for all of us.

One quality rises to the top when I think of extraordinary leaders. Before I give you that quality, here’s my complete list of extraordinary leadership qualities and behaviors – minus one.

The list:

1.  Face reality.

2.  Define “better.”

3.  Live organizational values.

4.  Serve.

5.  Reach high.

6.  Take responsibility.

7.  Make decisions.

8.  Set goals.

9.  Act with boldness.

10.  Adapt.

11.  Deliver results.

12.  Measure progress.

13.  Instill confidence in others.

14.  Listen.

15.  Trust.

16.  Connect.

17.  Receive help.

18.  Delegate. (Different from #15.)

19.  Provide abundant feedback.

20.  Leverage areas of above average intelligence.

21.  Learn persistently.

22.  Develop leaders.

23.  Possess high EQ – behave authentically.

24.  Take care of yourself.

Plus one:

All the skill in the world won’t compensate for a stingy heart. 

Ridiculous generosity makes you remarkable.

The difference between successful and extraordinary is generosity.

Generosity requires:

1.  Humility.

2.  Courage.

3.  Compassion.

4.  Connection.

No-strings-attached generosity lifts you above the pack. Half-hearted generosity is barter.

Some will take advantage of generosity.

Be wise, but be more generous than wise.

13 elements of generous leadership:

1.  Courageously give yourself first. Generosity is about who you are.

2.  Slow down. You can’t be generous and frantic at the same time.

3.  Look for everyday opportunities to practice generosity in small ways.

4.  Define enough. What is enough for you today?

5.  Carry cash. Give yourself a daily generosity budget.

6.  Stand up for others.

7.  Forget barter. Don’t give to get. Give to give.

8.  Earn to give. Don’t give it all away. Earn more so you can give more.

9.  Hang with the lower-crust. The upper-crust is disconnected.

10.  Feel it. Generosity that doesn’t touch you is nice, not remarkable.

11.  Get your hands dirty. Don’t delegate generosity.

12.  Build channels of generosity for others.

13.  Honor generosity when you see it.

What would you add to these qualities and behaviors?

What are your top ten qualities and behaviors of extraordinary leaders?

How might you practice generosity?




Is it time to move on? Questions to ask yourself!

First posted on “Leading Smart.”

Change is always uncomfortable, no matter the circumstances.

I love this quote from Henry Cloud’s book Necessary Endings: “Endings are not only part of life; they are a requirement for living and thriving, professionally and personally. Being alive requires that we sometimes kill off things in which we were once invested, uproot what we previously nurtured, and tear down what we built for an earlier time.”

Is it time for you to have a necessary ending?

If you're experiencing any of these ten circumstances, it might mean that it's time.

1.  You are wearing yourself out with sideways energy.

Instead of moving the mission forward, so many of your team’s conversations are about structure, analyzing what’s happened in the past, talking about things that don’t matter, navigating difficult relationships, or debating the direction with other leaders in the church. It’s okay to do this for a short season to fix a problem—but sideways energy in the long haul will suck the life out of you.

2.  You dread coming back after vacation.

Everyone has a pile on their desk after vacation—so I’m not talking about the normal struggle of working your way through the post-vacation pile. But if you return after a restful vacation and find yourself dreading the work, relationships, conversations, and meetings, then it might be time to move to something you can love again.

3.  You like your team but can’t stand your senior pastor.

“Houston, we have a problem.” There is no way to be supportive to your church if you’ve lost trust in your lead pastor. You can’t fake it. Stop trying. You are cheating yourself and cheating your church.

4.  The only reason you are staying is for security.

It might be the security of a paycheck; or because you don’t want to uproot your family; or because it took a long time to find a mechanic and you really don’t want to go through that again. Security shouldn’t be ignored, and supporting your family is an important factor to consider. But gone are the days when you have to stay in a stress-filled job that you stopped loving long ago.

5.  Outwardly you are supporting the leadership, but inside you find yourself questioning more all the time.

You probably aren’t as much in stealth mode as you think. If you are having an internal problem in supporting the leadership—then it’s probably seeping out and impacting others. Don’t do damage to your church. Find a place where you can wholeheartedly support your leaders.

6.  You aren’t even sure you believe in the mission anymore.

Perhaps nothing changed at the church, but you’ve been learning and growing and discovering—and you aren’t the same person you were when you joined the staff. That is the natural course of being human. It’s possible that the best gift you can give your pastor and church is to quietly resign, and move to a place where you can embrace the mission once again. 

7.  You are going through the motions.

You’ve shifted into neutral. You used to love it and have passion for the vision, but you’ve decided that the only way you can stay is if you stop caring. The problem is, you can’t stop caring. God hasn’t wired you to coast. You were created for more than that. You must find a place where you can thrive and grow and contribute with everything you have.

8.  You stopped giving (or are thinking about no longer giving) to the church where you lead.

The Bible is pretty clear—“where your heart is, that’s where your treasure will be.” So if you have a really hard time giving money to your church, then it’s likely symbolic of something going on in your heart. I remember Mark Beeson saying, “First your heart leaves, then your mind wanders, and the last thing to leave is your body.”

9.  There is a lack of integrity not being addressed.

You see stuff no one else sees. You may not be in a structure where there is a clear way to confront such issues, and so it might just be time to leave. To stay might mean you are contributing to the problem.

10.  You know you were created for something more.

That doesn’t mean you are better than your current surroundings. It doesn’t mean they don’t measure up. It could just mean that God has wired you for something different. Perhaps you are angry because you came to this place thinking it was “the” place. But it wasn’t. And it’s not. And you don’t want to move your family again. But the damage of staying where you are is likely worse, long-term, than the pain of moving once again.

What would you add to this list?