Leadership Maxims and “Praxims” – Law of the Lid

There is some heavy/intersting denominational dialogue on missionalcog.com right now. I don’t want to interupt it by adding an unnecessary topic. But, I would like to add to it by discussing some leadership maxims and their practice (praxims…my new word).

Leaders are excellent in sounding like we know what we’re talking about when it comes to leadership. Too often, we put on a good show and would rather people not look under the hood to see too closely. I know what I’m talking about. I get as uncomfortable as anyone when people start examining me closely. It is uncomfortabloe to say the least…until you begin leading with open hands and an open life. People are forced to accept you or reject you for who you are- nothing more or less. When you do that, something magical happens. People’s perceptions of you match more closely with your reality. And, a more authentic life and leadership begin to emerge.

Now, let’s put one of the more popular leadership maxims in play:

THE LAW OF THE LID – this law that says your followers will never be more passionate, have more integrity, be more tenacious, more excellent, or more dedicated than the leader. Sounds right to me. Yet, how often do we expect our people to be on time, be prepared, serve others, or maintain integrity even as we (leaders) do not. You can see consistent issues flowing out of a lack of congruency in leadership passion or excellence both on the local level and denomination level. This is a no brainer…congruency is a maxim and praxim that is too often overlooked and too easily dismissed as inconvenient or even situationally unnecessary.

BIG ENEMY? A sense of entitlement. When leaders feel that standards, expectations, or regulations do not apply to the leader, the leader and organization begin functioning out of a smaller cup. God will only give us what we are able to be faithful over (Mat 25:23) and will gladly reduce our container until we’ve reached our appropriate level of personal stewardship capacity.

Any more thoughts?

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6 Responses

  1. Travis,
    You said, “BIG ENEMY? A sense of entitlement. When leaders feel that standards, expectations, or regulations do not apply to the leader, the leader and organization begin functioning out of a smaller cup. God will only give us what we are able to be faithful over (Mat 25:23) and will gladly reduce our container until we’ve reached our appropriate level of personal stewardship capacity.”

    Could it be that God wants to give new wine once again in the mission field and and we keep trying to put it in old wineskins at the top level?

    No one puts… new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.

    The Church of God can live new again if we take the new wine of missional leadership in our global community and put it in a new wine skin. I think many of the question we have been asking on http://www.missionalcog.com is helping to produce a new wineskin if they will but only listen.

  2. This is great stuff Travis.

    I think I see some similarity between your thoughts and what Bishop Bill is saying regarding Humility vs. Arrogance.

    This thought of yours sticks out most to me:
    God will only give us what we are able to be faithful over and will gladly reduce our container until we’ve reached our appropriate level of personal stewardship capacity.

    I believe that is the mess we’ve gotten into. We haven’t been faithful with what we’ve got (or had) because we’ve wanted what we perceived others had and what we felt we deserved. That entitlement issue is probably public enemy number 1, or at least in the 10 most wanted.

  3. Guess I’m approaching this from the pastors perspective, not necessarily from the view of those in the congregation…

    The problem with the Law of the Lid as described above that I have is that is its not necessarily always true. It might be a good general truth, but I dont think it can be described as the people will never be as good their leader. Also, its approach seems to disregard the concept of multiple-leader eldership within the church – perhaps the people of a church might not be as strong in some areas. If the pastor is dependent on his elders to fulfill the role they should be doing, I don’t think this law of the lid would apply. having elders/leaders within the church takes the pressure off the pastor to be perfect in ever area and can let him excel in the areas he is truly gifted in.

    This principle of leadership seems to reinforce the concept of a singular authoritarian pastor, as it points to and puts pressure on the pastor thinking no one in the church will ever be as good as he is…While we do have the structure of pastor then associate pastor, I think we put too much pressure on individual pastors to have to do every single area of ministry.

    Just a few thoughts…

  4. The law of the lid speaks to leadership capacity and not necessarily specialized skill sets. It should be able to speak to the heart of leadership in any paradigm, beit elder-led churches, board-led, staff-led, etc….

  5. Thanks for this post, Travis. It is a topic in the area of my interest and passion.

    First, it is helpful for us to consider what tends to occur within a pastoral context– leadership or lordship? (I’m afraid too often it is the latter, which is spoken against in scripture. After all, there is only one Lord.)

    And, studies suggest an increase in apathy among organizational members when leaders fail to acknowledge and utilize the giftings of organizational members. Too often individuals have established organizational commitment, so they stay with the organization even though they are not given an opportunity to flourish in their strengths. However, over time this process increases their apathy/unconcern and sometimes their perception of their own usefulness.

    And, studies note pastoral leaders tend to feel threatened by church members or other staff members who may have strengths in areas where the pastor is either not gifted or less-gifted. Rather than looking at the members’ gifting as a way to add to the leadership, it seems the trend is for pastoral leaders to isolate the individuals they perceive to be a threat in some way. So, perhaps the real problem is not that members cannot “rise above the pastor” because they do not possess the ability/gifting, but because they are not given the opportunity to do so.

    This weekend I attended a conference on biblical perspectives of leadership. There was a great presentation about leader succession in organizations. One point was a leaders’ ability or failure to be humble enough to acknowledge when it was appropriate to step aside and let someone else lead. And, many organizations fail to properly develop a team approach to ministry, in which numerous individuals are trained and prepared to step-in/rotate as needed (much like the lead birds do when flying in a V-formation). Further, organizations often fail to properly prepare organizational members and/or customers on how to adapt to a change in leadership.

    As for leaders needing to follow the same rules they expect of followers, I could write a great deal. But, I will say it comes down to ethics and integrity. If I am unwilling to follow the rule myself, then I should not expect it of another. The two presentations I gave this weekend reflected the necessity for leadership from a Christian perspective with the example of Christ as the supreme leader. What action of Christ during his earthly life was contrary to His instructions to His followers? I would suggest we should seek to exemplify the leadership of Jesus in our life and practice. Numerous studies let us know that perceived leader integrity increases trust in the leader and leadership/influence is hindered by a lack of trust. Trust in leaders has been shown to increase job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and work output. And, these outcomes increase even more when followers perceive leaders trust them. Yet, so much of this goes back to leader integrity– and my argument that the Church is losing the heart of its message by trying to “do” (perform) without maintaining the “being” (relationship with God) part.

  6. “We must remember that we are all made out of dust and when dust gets stuck on itself it is mud” (Unknown) My on personal maxim is, “God cannot bless what you are not doing.” The greatest job of the shepherd is to take care of the sheep whether is it 50 or 500 they are still His sheep and he wants them cared for. Most people coming through our doors are just looking for someone who cares about them and their place in life. Feed the sheep then they will follow you making you a leader.

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