Through the years, I have come across more than one leader who was stranded on the side of the road, leg entangled in an ugly trap. They were hurt and bleeding and their leadership was sidelined.

I have listed a few of these traps and have given some advice about how to avoid them. Honestly, I have a few scars from being caught in a few of these snares. Maybe I can help you to go around some of these:

Pleasing people: Don’t ever believe that you can make people happy, that you are responsible for the fulfillment of others or that they can count on you to make life work for them. It’s not true and trying to do so will only destroy your effectiveness as a leader. It’s OK if everyone doesn’t like you. In fact, unless someone is currently ticked at you, you probably aren’t doing a very good job leading.

Answering to only one (other than God): All of us need to be accountable but we need to give account to a multiplicity of people. Submitting to any one person alone creates unhealthy dependences. Obviously, we all bow to the Father.

Messiah complex: Unless you can walk on water, you are not Jesus. You are not indispensable. Don’t forget it.

Special interest groups: People with an agenda tend to want to force that agenda on you. Don’t let it happen. Stay clear of manipulators who try to attach your name/reputation to their cause.

Tolerating disloyalty because of talent: If a person is not loyal to you, they will cause you more harm than good – end of story. It doesn’t matter if they have mad skills, they will submarine you and you will regret trusting them.

Not reading:
Busy leaders have to make time to feed their minds. The least productive times in my life were the ones when I was too busy or too lazy to read. Keep a good book close by and read it.

Cynicism: Weary leaders often fall to the low level of cynic. Past defeats, let-downs and disappointments with people can bring about a skepticism that becomes cancerous to leaders. Stay fresh, take a break and keep your heart soft. Cynicism will destroy you.

Large donors: Don’t ever be under the control of large contributors. Once they have too much influence over you, they are driving and you are merely a passenger.

An undisciplined schedule: Empty spaces on the To Do List creates stagnation for leaders. Busyness for the sake of busyness is silly but a blank calendar is the devil‘s playground. Schedule productive activities.

Because I appreciate symmetry (and am a bit OCD) I can’t end on the number 9, so here’s one more:

Giving out more than you take in: Some leaders seem to have an endless supply of energy, enthusiasm and passion. Even these super-leaders have to take time to feed themselves. If you fail to do this, you will find yourself depleted and weak. Take the time to do something for yourself – those you lead will be glad, and you will be more effective.

Keep these things in mind. Stay out of the traps. Lead strong!

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