"What you are doing is not good."
Has anyone ever said that to you?
For a performance-based, people-pleaser like me, those words were painful to hear–even though they were told in love–because they were true.
Now I know how Moses must have felt when Jethro, his father-in-law, said these same words upon evaluating his leadership. Here's how their conversation went:
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?"
Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and instructions."
Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone." Exodus 18:13-18 (NIV)
This conversation sounds suspiciously similar to the one I had recently with Pete Wilson, the lead pastor of my church. Quick growth and multiplying campuses put me in a situation where I was directly managing 11 other staff members. Unfortunately, like Moses, I was trying to lead and manage everything, and in the process I had become worn out and frustrated with everyone.
Pete reined me in: "What you are doing is not good," he gently pointed out. Not only was it not good for me, it wasn't healthy for our team and for the health of the church. We had to make changes.
In the weeks that followed, we reorganized our staff and reduced my direct reports from 11 to 5 and empowered those leaders with more authority. In addition, we've taken some concerted steps to develop a leadership pipeline for our entire organization–from first-time volunteers to senior leadership–that allows training and development for every level of the organization.
It's easy to overextend ourselves like Moses did. When Jethro asked Moses why he was doing too much, Moses explained: "Because the people come to me to seek God's will."
Isn't that why we all do what we do? We want to lead others in God's will. But we can't do it alone.
Moses had the benefit of the wise counsel of his father-in-law to give him a wake-up call before it was too late. Unfortunately we don't all have this wisdom spoken into our leadership soon enough.
As leaders we have to resist the temptation to be the hero and handle it all ourselves. It's critical to reevaluate your leadership structure at least once a year. Are you trying to manage too much? How can you develop more leaders? Who can you entrust with more?
Jethro gives Moses some great counsel on how to train and develop leaders:
But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." (italics mine) Exodus 18:21-23
Did you notice that caveat at the end: "If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain." Ministry leadership is tough. There is no guarantee that the stress and strain will go away, but this passage makes it clear that there are some things that we should do to develop others and spread the leadership responsibility out to our team of capable men and women.
Let me encourage you to consider how this applies to your circumstance. What about what you are doing is not good? Don't allow unhealthy structure to get so out of control that you've exhausted yourself and frustrated everyone around you. You're a better leader than that!
Jenni Catron serves as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. She loves a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hanging out with her husband and border collie. Jenni's passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage other women to do the same. That passion drove Jenni to start the women's leadership community, Cultivate Her. Jenni blogs there and at www.jennicatron.tv.