The Unaware Leader: 10 Symptoms

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A couple years ago there was a consistent problem in one of our areas of ministry. It was something which I would have quickly addressed, but no one brought it to my attention. Thankfully, I’ve learned the hard way that what I don’t know can often hurt my leadership or the church the most, so I’m good at asking questions and being observant. Through my normal pattern of discovery I encountered the problem, brought the right people together, we addressed the problem and moved forward.

End of story.

It reminds me though that the leader is often the last to know when something is wrong. I tell this to our team consistently. You only know what you know and many times, because of the scope of responsibility of the leader, he or she isn’t privy to all the intricacies of the organization. Some people, simply because they would rather talk behind someone’s back than do the difficult thing of facing confrontation, tell others the problems they see before they share them with the leader. Without some systems of discovering problems the leader may be clueless there is even a problem.

Not knowing is never a good excuse to be unaware.

It’s not a contradiction in terms. I’m not trying to play with words. I’m trying to make an important leadership principle. As a leader, you may not know all the facts, but you should figure out how to be aware enough as a leader to discover the facts which you need to know.

Not certain if you are an aware leader?

Here are 10 symptoms of the unaware leader:

  • Not knowing the real health of a team or organization.
  • Clueless to what people are really saying.
  • Unsure of measurable items because they are never measured or monitored.
  • Not asking questions for fear of an unwanted answer.
  • Not dreaming into the future; becoming content with status quo.
  • Preferring not to know there was a problem than that there is one.
  • Ignoring all criticism; dismissing it as negativity.
  • Not learning anything new, relying on same old ways to consistently work.
  • Making every decision without input from others.
  • Assuming everyone supports and loves your leadership.

There are some things the leader will never know. That’s okay. Walking by faith is a good thing. I highly encourage it. There are issues within the life of an organization, however, that while the leader may not know readily, or even want to know, he or she should explore continually.

Want to test your awareness?

Try this simple experiment. Send an email to a fairly sizable group of people you trust…key leaders…staff members…friends…. Make sure there are some people on the list who you know will be honest with you. In fact, tell them you want them to be. Tell them that you are trying to be more aware as a leader and need their help. Ask them: What am I missing? What do you see that I don’t see? What should I be doing that I’m not doing? What are people saying that I’m not hearing? Who on my team is keeping from me how they really feel?

Now, to really make this experiment successful, let them answer anonymously. You trust them, right? Set up a Survey Monkey account and let them respond without having to add their name.

See what responses you receive.

Not ready to do that? You could simply address the symptoms above and see how that improves your awareness as a leader. Whichever you choose…here’s to knowing what you do not currently know! :)

What other symptoms are there of an unaware leader?


Ron Edmondson is Lead Pastor of Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tenn.
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