Recently, there was a frantic knock at our front door. Our new next-door neighbors were throwing a house warming party and their propane grill was not working properly. The neighbor was concerned because her tri-tip was not going to be finished cooking in time and she wanted to borrow our grill. She was frustrated because she had a full tank of propane and the grill was warm but the flames and heat were low. As she described what was happening I said, “Ahhh….I know what your problem is. Your regulator valve is tripped.” I walked next door and within a minute or so, she was back to cooking with full heat. Now before you think I’m some barbequing genius, I only knew this because the same thing has happened to me on several occasions.
The regulator on a gas grill is the round device on the hose that is screwed onto the propane tank. Its purpose is to regulate the flow of gas. It contains a safety mechanism called a bypass. This is a small piece of plastic that is inside of the regulator and automatically shuts off the gas supply if there is no back pressure in the hose. This often happens when there is a gas leak. The bypass valve also can inadvertently be tripped if the gas tank is turned on while one of the grill burners is also turned to “On” position. So, with a few easy steps, you can release the bypass valve and be back in action. Until the regulator valve is released, however, you can have a full tank of gas but you won’t have the full flow of power available.
As I reflected on my neighbor’s grill issue, I thought about how often something similar happens to leaders. Often, leaders limit their leadership potential and influence with certain behaviors. Like a tripped regulator valve on a propane tank, until these behaviors are released, they will determine the threshold of the leader’s influence and effectiveness.
This is not an extensive list of behaviors; however, these are behaviors that I’ve recognized in working with leaders. I have also had to release many of these in my own leadership.
Behaviors that Limit Leaders
1) Trying to do too many initiatives at once
Often, leaders will have limited effectiveness because they have “too many irons in the fire.” This old blacksmith idiom refers to the problem of putting too many rods into a fire, so that the blacksmith can’t keep track of what stage of heating for each piece. The blacksmith can only work so many pieces, before some start burning and wasting resources. Blacksmiths realized that there was an optimum amount of work that they could handle at any given time, and still accomplish their goal. The same is true in leadership.
We may have many great things that we want to do, but by trying to do too many at once we run the risk of losing focus and too thinly allocating resources. A far better practice would be to determine two or three major goals or initiatives and focus on those.
2) Ignoring seasons in the life of an organization
Churches and organizations have seasons just like nature. To misunderstand or ignore these seasons can lead to the fatigue of leaders and participants as well as missed opportunities. There are seasons of planning and preparation, seasons of growth, seasons of harvest and seasons of rest and renewal. As the writer of Ecclesiastes proclaimed, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Eccl. 3:1, NIV). It is wise leadership to know the rhythm of your church or organization, as well as your community. For instance, I fought the “summer slump” in churches I led for years. Finally, I realized not to fight it, but to think of summer as our half-time. So, this became a crucial time for us to rest, reflect on what we had done in the first-half of the year, make changes to our game plan, and prepare for a strong second half. Prior to that realization, I worked harder during the summer, tried to do more and then found myself in the fall season (a growth season for us) worn out and depleted.
3) Refusing to get rest
Leaders need to refuel and refill our wells. Many leaders are limiting their influence and impact because they are pumping sludge rather than life giving water. What do I mean? If you have a well that’s pumping water but the pumping does not stop long enough to replenish the water supply, then it won’t be long until the pump will be spewing the sludge at the bottom of the well. The same is true when we refuse to replenish ourselves as leaders. Even our creator rested and certainly Jesus did. On purpose leaders realize that one of the most selfish leadership behaviors is to NOT take time and replenish oneself.
4) Unwilling to make difficult decisions
One of the leadership axioms that has become a regularly repeated thought for the leaders who have experienced our leadership development process is this, “Leaders are comfortable being uncomfortable.” Difficult decisions are varying, and impactful leaders understand it’s part of the call of leadership.
Posted by Peter Barron Stark | Print This Post:
Sound decisions are a hallmark of great leadership. But, that doesn’t make decisions, such as whether to terminate a member of the team or share an employee concern with your own leader, any easier. How leaders handle these decisions varies, but one thing remains certain: you simply can’t spend your time avoiding tough decisions.
Peter Stark says,
“When you consider why some leaders are successful and some are not, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful leader is often directly linked to the choices and decisions they make…our experience in coaching has shown that more leaders have had their careers ruined for the decisions they did not make versus any one bad decision they did make.”
Some of the difficult decisions leaders may need to make include:
- Determining if a leadership team member should be terminated.
- Deciding if a new staff member should be hired when resources are minimal.
- Deciding to cut programming or staff.
- Deciding when to include which Board members or stakeholders in a decision, if at all.
- Making an unpopular decision that will result in greater organizations effectiveness but result in political fallout.
5) Refusing to deal with problems
Effective leadership requires grit and moxie. I’m reminded of how the nation of Israel was terrified by a “giant” of a problem. No one was willing to deal with Goliath until a young kid with grit and moxie addressed the problem. Deborah, Nehemiah, Mary, the apostles in the book of Acts…the Bible is loaded with examples of leaders who made a positive impact because they were willing to deal with problems head-on.
6) Lack of delegation
“Being a leader is tough. Whether you’re a CEO of a big company, trying to run a small business, or even in charge at a volunteer or non-profit organization, it can be exceedingly tough to have so much responsibility on your shoulders. For this reason, it’s safe to say that the best leaders simply delegate out the work.”
7) A sense of entitlement
The best and most effective leaders never have a sense of entitlement. Servant leaders are the most influential and impactful leaders, not entitled leaders. Great leaders are servant leaders, not entitled leaders. Entitlement is like a malignant tumor. Untreated, it grows and expands until it destroys the leader. Entitlement can lead to ethical and moral compromise. Entitled leaders can even begin to rationalize that their immoral or even illegal behavior is okay.
Again, this is not an extensive list of behaviors that limit effective leadership, but worthy of our attention. Certain choices and actions most certainly restrict leadership effectiveness.
 Dr. Fred Johnson, Founder and CEO of InitiativeOne Leadership Institute. Fred repeatedly uses this axiom in his leadership development process.
 Peter Barron Stark, “Great Leaders Make Tough Decisions Quickly (https://www.peterstark.com/great-leaders-make-tough-decisions-quickly/”)