You Can’t Lead in Isolation
It’s lonely at the top. There's an element of truth to that, but it’s more about decision-making, weight of leadership, and responsibility. It’s not actually or literally about being alone.
We were never designed to lead alone.
It’s common for many pastors, and leaders in general, to attempt to lead from isolation. Candidly it’s easier to lead alone in the short term, but it’s never a good idea. The truth is, you can lead from isolation, just not long and not well.
Leading from a disposition of isolation stems from several possible factors. It’s not likely that any leader would experience all of them, but the more you are tempted to lean into these, the more dangerous it becomes. Which ones tempt you? Identify them and resist!
7 Temptations to Lead Alone:
1) Saves time.
We all want to save time and sometimes it’s faster to do something yourself. But that’s only really true if you will never repeat it, or your church never grows larger. If your church grows, you need others to help you. It takes longer to equip and develop people than doing it yourself, but in the long run leading with others is the better choice, and that multiplies your time!
2) Protection from hurt.
If you have served in ministry for any length of time, you’ve been hurt. It comes with the territory. We work with people and it’s common to be disappointed, and unfortunately even betrayed on occasion. Thankfully the latter is much less common but if it happens, leaders will naturally pull back. The better response is to forgive, move on, and stay close to people.
3) Less accountability.
There can be a great deal of freedom in ministry. It’s natural to lean into that freedom, which isn’t by itself a bad thing. But without intentional accountability, it’s easy to get in trouble. The problems begin in innocence, from not working a full week but perceiving you do, to more complex issues such as a having a skewed perspective because there is not enough conversation with other leaders.
4) Fits personal wiring.
God makes leaders differently. Some are more introverted or extroverted in their personality type. Some have type A drive and some have type B drive. Some creative, and some more analytical. There is not a right or wrong combination. But there are some personality types whose personal wiring leans more toward seclusion than others. If you are a leader that likes to think and study, and enjoys time alone planning, that’s good, but be careful about this temptation. It can lead to more alone time than is wise. Mark time in your calendar for social, strategic, spiritual and developmental time with people.
5) Your church is small.
A smaller church setting can make this temptation more prominent. If you are the pastor and the only staff member there is a lot of work that you carry yourself. Part of that is normal and just the way it is. But there is so much that the people in your congregation can help you with. Sometimes asking just one more person to help you is enough help and encouragement to keep going and make real progress. Try not to get overwhelmed with all the volunteers you’d like to have, and focus on just one more.
6) Hiding becomes a habit.
When too little accountability becomes part of a lifestyle, hiding can be the next step. Once hiding begins it’s difficult to break out of this vicious circle. Genesis chapter 3 makes it clear that hiding is part of our sin nature. We want to cover up what we know is wrong. Admittedly, this is on the dramatic side of isolation, but it’s nonetheless a possibility for any leader. Coming out of darkness into light requires confession and accountability. Do you need to talk with a trusted friend?
7) Including others can be exhausting.
As already stated, equipping and developing takes time. In the case of developing leaders, it takes a great deal of time. From casting vision over and over again (the same vision), to taking someone with you when you do any kind of ministry, the process can be exhausting. There is little quiet time to recharge. We all want to run a little “faster and lighter”, and that is more difficult the more people you take with you. However, the larger your ministry grows the more you need those people to help carry the load.
Good Reasons to Lead with Others:
Your soul is refreshed when you serve in partnership with other leaders, and there is tremendous strength and wisdom from good teamwork. For one specific idea, I encourage you to form a small and committed group of prayer partners. Perhaps seven people who each pray for you one day a week.
Jesus could have led on this earth any way He chose to lead, but he selected a team of 12 and formed a strong ministry community within that group. Those leaders, minus one, launched the entire movement of Christianity. He spent time with them, loved them, prayed for them and trained them. This simple model is the best one for all of us to follow.
Your leadership will gain more momentum.
The greater your skill and ability to include, develop and empower others the greater your leadership potential becomes. The more people who are inspired to follow your vision, the greater momentum your church will experience. It does get more complicated with more people, but reaching and building more people is what we do! Other strong leaders around you will help you figure it out!
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