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preaching article 3 Problems with Being Too Nice as a Leader

3 Problems with Being Too Nice as a Leader

based on 9 ratings
Jan 27, 2012
Scripture: none
(Suggest Scripture)

I was talking with a leader recently. She’s an incredibly kind and gentle person. She’s smart, hard working, and loyal. She’s a relational leader and usually brings out the best in people, so she’s had success in leadership. She is currently experiencing problems in a new position and asked for my help. In talking through the specific situation, it quickly became obvious that she has one weakness, and it is currently affecting her entire team. Her weakness? She is being too nice as a leader! It has made her well liked in the organization, but it also has made her team less successful than it could be. A few team members are taking advantage of her niceness by underperforming in their roles. She hasn’t challenged the problems, even though she knows she should. She’s losing sleep over it but doesn’t know what to do. The relational leadership she has used in the past is not working with these team members.

Perhaps you’ve seen this before in an organization. Maybe you’ve been on either side of this issue. If this is your situation, you have probably even thought or said things such as, “I gave them an inch, and they took a mile.” I am not suggesting one become a mean leader. I am suggesting one become a wise leader. Wisdom learns to guide people in the direction that’s best for them, the leader, and the entire team or organization. In the situation above, I advised my friend to take off her “nice hat,” at least temporarily, to address the few people causing the majority of the problems that are impacting the entire team. As hard as it will seem at first, in the end it will be a blessing for the entire team.

Here are three problems with being too nice as a leader:

It’s bad for the leader

The leader ends up stressing over the wrong things. Instead of worrying about the big picture, the leader is focused on a few problems with usually only a few people. The leader feels unsuccessful, even like a failure at times, as the team achieves less than desired results.

It’s bad for the organization

The team suffers because a few people mess up the system and progress for everyone else. Those on the team who wish to do the right thing lose respect for the leader. Others will follow the example of those taking advantage of the leader and lower their performance standards.

It’s bad for the person

Enabling bad behavior is never good for the underperforming team member. It keeps him or her from identifying their full potential and from realizing personal success. They may be a superstar if they are given structure and held accountable to complete their work.

Leader, have you become too nice as a leader? Are you allowing problems to continue out of a fear of not being liked? If you are not careful, you can become everyone’s friend, but nobody’s leader. The sooner you handle the problem (and the problem people), the sooner things will begin to improve on your team for everyone….and the sooner you can get a good night’s rest.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been in full-time ministry for over eight years.  

Talk about it...

John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
The theory behind this article is not according to the word of God. There is no mention of any of the Persons of the Godhead in it. Like a previous article on leadership it drags the church down to the level of a commercial organisation. It fails to take into account that Paul's teaching in Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians stress that the church is a living organism with Christ as its Head in heaven. It is in direct conflict with Paul's own expressed mantra of service in 2 Cor.12:15.
Duane Sayre avatar
Duane Sayre
0 days ago
I agree with Ron's premise for the article. As leaders we must hold others accountable for their responsibilities and actions. This IS according to the Word of God. What makes the church different than any other organization that has goals and deadlines to meet, especially if you are getting paid to get them done? The church, for too long, has taken Mr. Miller's view and it is no wonder the world cannot take us seriously. There are souls at stake and eternity in the balance. Let us be good stewards of our responsibility and do the job we have been given with excellence!
John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
"As leaders we must hold others accountable for their responsibilities and actions". Who are the others? Who holds you accountable for your responsibilities and actions, Mr Sayre? You say that your statement is according to the word of God. Please give scripture to justify your assertion. Are you trying to say that you are responsible to God and those "under you" are responsible to you? Please clarify your thoughts for our elucidation.
James Sellers avatar
James Sellers
0 days ago
Some are called to lead and others are called to follow. Both hear from the Lord and both must be submissive to His will. If there are differences in visions for the church more prayer must be poured over it. I firmly believe that the Lord will provide the wisdom that is needed. If something ever causes divison among the people, it is a wise thing for the source of divisiveness to be removed for the health of the entire body.
Duane Sayre avatar
Duane Sayre
0 days ago
"Are you trying to say that you are responsible to God and those "under you" are responsible to you?" We are all accountable/responsible to God and anyone "under" me is...Yes responsible to me. Isn't that the chain of command of any organization. Scripture speaks of those having authority over us in Hebrews 13:17 = Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. I believe that answers your question and I hope provides elucidation...
John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
Duane Sayre, that's a very good scripture. The flaw in your post is this theory about the chain of command in an organisation. The church of Jesus Christ is not an organisation. Those who lead in it do so not as managers in some commercial undertaking but as servants, note the word servants of the Jesus Christ and servants of the saints of God. Their leadership is a moral leadership based firstly on their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then on adherance to the word of God. Let's look at the first "problem" in this article. "The leader is focussed on a few problems with usually only a few people". In Luke 15 the shepherd left the 99 and went after the ONE sheep that was lost. Now let's consider the second problem. I'm not going to quote it because you can read it. In 1 Sam. 30:24 Davis deals with this in principle and asserts his moral authority in the face of those who accused their brethren of having "messed up". If there is a lack of respect it stems either from the lack of moral authority on the part of leadership because of failure to live by and teach God's word or lack of preparedness on the part of those who follow to respect that authority. The problem does not arise because someone in a position of leadership is too nice. The issue is the principles of the house of God. Problem 3 according to the author - "enabling bad behaviour". One does not "enable bad behaviour by showing the Spirit of Christ. The ultimate sandard of service is encapsulated in Phil.2:5, and Paul's response to that is seen in 2 Cor.12:15. The arbitrary type of unsympathetic leadership that this article envisages does not fit in with Hebrews 13:17. "Performance standards", underperformance", relational leadership", "organisation", "impact on team performance", "personal success", "superstar", "structure of the organisation", these terms are all straight from a manual of commercial excellence. They are not part of the language of humble, self effacing service to the One who emptied Himself and took thr form of a bond-servant. "No wonder the world cannot take us seriously!" You said it all. The word of the cross is either an offence or foolishness to the world and it will be always thus until the rapture. The world is going on to judgement. Those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ are those who through grace take the truth of God's word seriously.
Chaplain Shawn Kennedy avatar
Chaplain Shawn Kennedy
0 days ago
THe example that Jesus uses of the shepherd going after the 1 sheep is an example of the depth of Jesus' love, not a standard of leadership. Jesus did not go after the rich young ruler, although I would think that the majority of us would hate to see young moneybags go. James states that teachers will be judged more severely. That seems to suggest that there is an order to leaders(teachers) and followers. Jesus also spent moments with Peter James and John, apart from the other disciples. He invested in a few to reach many.
John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
Shawn Kennedy I cannot disagree with what you say but leadership in the church must adhere to the scriptural pattern that was set firstly by Jesus and then by the Apostles. It must be sacrificial, as Paul was prepared to spend and be utterly spent. It must be based on love as Jesus loved His own and loved them to the end. It must be motivated only by a desire to lead to Christ because that is the service of the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, we are told that this Divine Person does not speak of Himself (John 16:13). How often do we listen and read the words of "leaders" whose main theme is themselves and their thoughts about organising their church? In short the moral authority of anyone who is in a position of leadership can be judged by how much he exalts Christ, points to Christ and hides himself behind the cross. To tell a fellow servant of the Lord that he or she is too nice does not fit the biblical pattern of leadership.
Duane Sayre avatar
Duane Sayre
0 days ago
Mr. Miller, I do not agree with your reasoning. I believe you take scripture out of context and fail to understand the basic reason of this article. The Church is an organization [look up definition] and to say it is not clearly shows that you do not understand the principles of order and structure. Even with in the Heavenly Host there is found this systematic structure. Even God had to deal with angels who refused to do what they were supposed to do and there fore had to be reprimanded and "fired"... I agree with you that as leaders we must be servants and humble and Christ like but that does not mean we are to allow others especially those who work for us and get paid to do what ever they want. We deal with them in grace and mercy and give them opportunity to "step up" and carry their load but if they continue to slough off then they can go work for someone else...You can still be nice but there comes a time when you have to cut off bad behavior because as you allow it, you will lose the respect of others who work with you and for you. One final scripture then I will be done with this article, is found in the parable of the Talents - Matthew 25:14-30. In it you have a master (God) and 3 servants (us). Each of the servants was given a responsibility (talents) according to his ability. Two of the servants invested their ability wisely while the other hid his or under performed according to the standard of the master. Two received their reward and acknowledgement and the other his punishment. For the one who was punished or held accountable for his "ability" where was the understanding? Mercy? Servant's heart of the master? That one servant was still accountable to his "ability" yet chose not to and tried to use a weak excuse as to why he chose not to be obedient to the master. He was called wicked and lazy and severely punished...Even God calls all men to accountability from both the employer and employee stand point, in the church and outside. Good old common sense mixed with practical scriptural principle and reason brings this out...God bless you and be excellent in all you do, especially as you Lead others!
Chaplain Shawn Kennedy avatar
Chaplain Shawn Kennedy
0 days ago
Perhaps the issue isn't "niceness" then, rather a desire to please or be liked by others. Many in leadership will not delegate or say "no" to requests. This leads to burnout and doesn't allow others leaders to learn by doing. In Exodus 18, we're given a good example of delegating authority from Jethro to Moses. Jethro saw that Moses would burn himself out and began to delegate leaders, beginning at 10. Moses still heard the tough cases. though. No one would dispute Moses' love for his people, yet to manage he had to start saying "no".
Charles Mallory avatar
Charles Mallory
0 days ago
Wow...Sermon Central, what is your beef? First, an article bashing "being introverted" and now one on "being too nice." Are you implying that these are flawed leadership skills? I think it is just the opposite. It is "agenda driven" congregants who have mistaken "membership" for "ownership" and lash out at others and continually live at odds with the Pastor. So, Sermon Central, I guess we'll all try to be more outgoing, loud-mouthed, agressive Pastors. There is a "middle" between BOTH styles (introvert/extrovert and nice/agressive) and that is where we work to be...balance.
John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
Duane Sayre, your understanding of what the church is, how it is presented in the Bible and what it's purpose is differs from mine. The church leadership in the New Testament is overwhelmingly spiritual. There is not even a suggestion that a local church owned property apart from the houses of individual believers. There is no biblical pattern for so-called mega-churches. In the beginning of the Acts where three thousand were saved on one day, the reality is that this great number would largely disperse and return to their own countries and neighbourhoods where relatively small Christian fellowships would then be set up. One perceptive commentator recently wrote, "We also need to be aware that ?large followings? are not necessarily a measure of good leaders: there are many Pied Pipers in the church. Hitler had a large following. And anyone can ?grow? a mega-church using clever (management) techniques. All that is needed is a wealthy catchment area, a seeker-sensitive venue, and programme of nice comfortable homilies with sing-along melodies." I think that there is a great measure of uncomfortable but wholesome truth in this. My observation is that the huge Cathedrals of Europe and Great Britain are very similar in style to the mega-churches that are such a source of pride to many western Christian professors, I use the term in the non-academic sense. They are mighty monuments to human achievement. Try and enter one of these Cathedrals and what confronts you at the door? An official sitting at a desk asking for an entrance fee is the first obstacle, then there is a display of useless paraphenalia which you are invited to purchase. Hmmm! Jesus envisaged the twos and threes and guaranteed HIS presence. I wish you every success in your organisations, but beware of leaving the Lord outside. Take note of His warning to the wealthy but spiritually dead Laodicea. "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me." The call is to an individual not to the church. That is very significant.

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Thank you.