Quit Playing Good Cop/Bad Cop

“Go ask your mother.”

“You’re father is not going to like that!”

“You’ll need the boss’ approval.”

“If the leader of that department is okay with it, I’m okay with it.”

We do this all the time.

We pass the buck.  We play good cop/bad cop.

Some of us are wired for mercy.

Some of us are wired for justice.

And because of that wiring we usually become either the good cop or the bad cop for those we lead.

But good cop/bad cop is a bad philosophy for leaders. 

When we perpetuate a good cop/bad cop scenario, we create heroes and villains.

The philosophy doesn’t emerge from dysfunction.  It emerges from that natural wiring and at first it even seems balanced.  We need mercy and justice.  We need grace and truth.  Since both exist there seems to be an equalibrium in the organization.  And for a time there might be the illusion of such, but in reality you’re enabling a dysfunction that will wear down the relational chemistry of your team.

The leader who plays the “good cop” role, while well-liked, will become less respected.  She can never be relied upon to speak truth.  The team eventually catches on and realizes that in her desire to be the “good cop” she’s never coaching you for improvement or constructively giving you feedback.  She leaves that to the “bad cop”.

The leader who plays the “bad cop” wears the organization down.  As the person who is always delivering the bad news, he is avoided.  People dodge when they see him coming.  They know that whatever he has to say, it’s not going to be good.

Good cop/bad cop leadership philosophy divides teams.  It perpetuates unhealthy alliances and ultimately severs relationships.

As leaders, we can not delegate the good or the bad.  We must embrace both as our leadership responsibility.  I must be equally willing to be merciful yet just.  I must be both truthful and gracious.  Every leader must embrace both sides.  That’s healthy leadership.


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Happy Friday!

What God Makes of Our Mess

I’m doing some research about great leaders for my next book.  One of the resources that I read is a little book entitled Greatness by Steven F. Hayward.  It’s about the leadership lives of Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.  It’s a fascinating read on the parallels of the leadership styles of these two men.

Whether you believe these two men were great leaders or not, consider this quote from the book:

“Alexander Hamilton wrote that the love of fame is the ruling passion of the noblest minds, and we can see in Churchill that the thirst for personal honor was the spur to perform great and noble deeds.”

“the love of fame is the ruling passion of the noblest minds”

“the thirst for personal honor was the spur to perform great and noble deeds”

I get these statements and they mess with me in a big way.

Seeking recognition, honor, notoriety feel as natural as breathing and yet as destructive as poison.

The assumption here is that people who are wired for great leadership potential are also cursed with a love of fame and a desire for personal honor.  Why else would one work so hard to accomplish so much?

It seems that God takes these selfish motivations to give us the gumption and the courage to push through criticism and fear to leap out on ledges where few others dare.

How do we reconcile that mess?



Read to Lead

Read at every wait;

Read at all hours;

Read within leisure;

Read in times of labor;

Read as one goes in;

Read as one goest out.

The task of the educated mind is simply put: read to lead.

~ Cicero

 HT: Huffington Post


What are you reading right now?

Careful Selection

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”  Matthew 6:12-13

Choosing the twelve was a significant leadership decision.

These twelve would be the core group that Jesus would invest in the most.  His focus was on teaching and training them to establish the church after he was gone.

Jesus knew his time was short.  He had limited time to teach a group of leaders how to carry on his work on Earth.

While he went about his ministry, he also was strategically building into and investing in this group.

He modeled for us what it looks like to invest in others.  He displayed what it looks like to do the work we’re called to do while also developing others along the way.

None of us know when our season will end.  In our modern world, career change is common and we must constantly think about who we’re preparing to take over for us when we’re gone.

The first step in succession is careful selection.

The verse above says that Jesus spent the entire night before he selected the twelve praying.  It doesn’t say that choosing the twelve was his only topic of prayer but given that the first action he took after his night of prayer was gathering the disciples and naming the twelve, it’s a safe assumption that praying about who those twelve should be was likely a key part of his prayer time.

Prayerfully selecting our teams is essential.  Many of us in the haste and pace of our lives hurry to add staff members without counting the long term cost of that selection.

Building teams is a critical responsibility for every leader.

How much time, attention and prayer are you devoting to selecting your core team?

#LentChallenge – What’s Your Gift?

As I was reading Luke’s account of Jesus birth, I was struck again by the significance of God choosing Mary to birth the Messiah.  Why her?  What stood out about her?  How did she get God’s attention and favor for this tremendous gift?

I don’t know why God chose Mary.  I marvel at how honored I would feel to be chosen for that responsibility.  I anticipate all the emotions that she must have wrestled with.  I wonder what I would have done in her shoes.  How would I have stewarded this amazing gift?

But God has given me (and you) a gift too.  He has given me gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that he hasn’t given to anyone else.  He has given me these to steward, to cherish, to develop and to release into the world for his good, for his glory.

What he’s asking me to do is the same thing he asked Mary to do, just a different gift.  He asked Mary to be faithful to steward the raising of Jesus.  We too have been asked to be faithful to raise up the gifts that God has given us.  Would Mary have ever dreamed of starving or neglecting Jesus?  Would she have kept him hidden?  Would she abandon him or abuse him?  Would she scorn him or ignore him?  I don’t think so.  Mary knew the tremendous value of this gift that was her’s to steward and she was faithful to that responsibility.

What are you doing with your gift?  Are you cherishing it and developing it or are you ignoring it and squandering it?

Whatever you’re gift, your responsibility is to be faithful.

4 Steps to Regaining Perspective as a Leader

“The key is being willing to do something because it matters, not because it will get you noticed.”

John Maxwell from The 360 Degree Leader

What’s your motive for leadership?

I’ll admit.. I easily fall into the trap of desiring leadership because I want the attention and the accolades that I perceive come with it.

But that’s not what leadership is about.  There will never be enough attention, accolades or praise to satisfy the sacrifice that leadership requires.  We have to be willing to lead because it matters.  If praise or acknowledgment never came our way, we need to be content because we know that what we did mattered.

I suspect that most of us start out with healthy motives for leadership.  I think we aspire to leadership because we believe that what we’re passionate about leading matters.

But then we drift…

towards entitlement

into unmet expectations

into exhaustion, impatience, frustration

And before long we’re not leading because it matters.  We’re leading to prove ourselves, to get attention.

We lose sight of our driving motivation and we lose our way.

When I sense that I’ve lost my way as a leader, here are some things I do to reconnect with the motive that matters:

1) Repent.  Pray for forgiveness for misdirected desires and ask God to reconnect my heart to the reason why I wanted to lead.  What is the cause that I believe mattered enough to give my best to?

2) Rest.  Poor motives usually follow poor rhythms of rest, sabbath and rejuvenation.

3) Regroup.  Connect with friends and mentors who can remind me of my calling and purpose.

4) Reengage.  Get back in the game with fresh perspective and renewed energy.


Consider the Lilies


“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”  Luke 12:27

I’m prone to toiling – defined as “hard and continuous work; exhausting labor or effort”.

I do this of my own accord.  It’s a drive to achieve, a desire to win favor, a pursuit of perfection.

Two lines before that Jesus asks, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

And ultimately he reminds us that God provides.

All our worry, toiling, spinning is for naught.

What are you toiling over today?

Consider the lilies…


For All My Artist Friends

Sorry.  This giveaway has ended. :(



Douglas Mann has recently released his new book The Art of Helping Others: How Artists Can Serve God and Love the World.  Here’s a fun fact: Doug was one of the executives at the record label I worked for years ago.  He’s a passionate driven leader that as Ben Arment says, “has the hands of an artist and the heart of a pastor.”

Doug’s book is a beautiful confession of sorts – an authentic, heart-moving memoir of joy, pain, sacrifice and hope.  He beckons all of us to find the artist within and live it out for the glory of God.

Best of all I have a copy to giveaway!

Just leave a comment telling us about the artist in you.  I’ll choose a winner on Friday, February 21st.

Why Are Church Leaders Such Poor Managers?

You would think that we as church leaders would be exceptional at managing people… we’re in the people business of sorts.  Our entire jobs revolve around creating worship experiences in which people can connect to God.  It’s a relationally charged environment. An extroverts heaven – lots of people all the time.  The majority of our work as ministry leaders is done by working with and through others.

And yet, ministry environments are where I’ve observed some of the worst people management.

Time and time again I’ve coached ministry leaders through management maladies.  For whatever reason we flounder when it comes to effectively leading employees.

Here are some reasons why I believe ministry leaders are prone to be poor managers:

  1. Seminary doesn’t focus on teaching us to be managers.  While our training equips us to be good pastors, it rarely teaches us the principles for people management.
  2. We’re less comfortable with conversations that require accountability.  As pastors we find ourselves coaching and spurring others on to Christ-likeness. As managers we must hold people accountable to expectations as well as deliver consequences for unmet objectives.  This feels like it runs in opposition to the grace message we communicate.  (It doesn’t by the way… remember the truth side of the equation.)
  3. Ministry teams are lean.  Human resources staff are a luxury, if you’re able to hire them at all.  As a result, training and development for managers is non-existent.

As leaders we’re responsible for the people under our care.  Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that we as leaders will have to “give an account” for how we lead.

We can not be content with disgruntled employees, under-performing employees, unmet expectations, poor communication, sideways employee/employer relationships.  We can not avoid these conversations.

We can not allow our ignorance or fear to keep us from leading well.

No employee should be the casualty of our poor leadership.

If an employee is not meeting expectations, it’s your responsibility as the leader to lean in and address it.

Have you found yourself in some difficult management moments?  What training do you wish you would have had to better equip you?