Why Micromanaging is Ungodly

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Nobody likes a micromanager, except maybe the one doing the managing. Even people who need close oversight hate it. Why? It’s annoying. It’s overbearing. We generally chalk it up to a “poor leadership style” or “ineffective management.” It’s more than that, though. Micromanagement among Christian leaders reflects poorly on our faith and the gospel. It doesn’t work, and that’s mainly because it’s not the way God designed things to work.

Here are five reasons why.

1) Micromanagement is a failure to lead.

In fact, it is not just a failure to lead; it is the opposite of leadership. Leaders, whether in business or ministry or any other context should be empowerers of others, setting them up to succeed. Micromanagement bears all the burden and actually undermines those it oversees. It takes away their opportunities to shine and never shows them a way forward. Instead of raising up new talent and new leaders it suppresses both and limits everyone’s effectiveness.

2) Micromanagement is a failure to self-evaluate.

To be fair, every shortcoming is a failure to self-evaluate. But for someone responsible for others’ success, refusing to self-evaluate is a recipe for disaster. Micromanagers don’t realize they are actually making life harder for others. They don’t see the damage they are causing. They also don’t see the damage they are causing to themselves. By taking on all the burden of work instead of empowering others to do it well, a micromanager is stockpiling stress and burden. More than that, though, they aren’t evaluating their own gifts. The question every micromanager must ask themselves is this: should I really be in a position of leadership? If the inclination is to do all the work instead of helping others do it then maybe being in a position of leadership is the wrong fit.

3) Micromanagement is a failure to recognize the gifts of others.

God has uniquely gifted every person. Leaders are tasked with seeing those gifts, feeding them, and giving people room to use them to the fullest extent. Micromanagers either cannot or will not do this. They see people as tools to be wielded or foolish sheep to be shepherded. They cannot recognize that the people under them may be better at certain tasks and responsibilities and that this is a good thing! Those serving under a micromanager cannot reach the potential God has imbued them with until they are free to use their gifts. Micromanagers stand in their way.

4) Micromanagement is a failure to trust others.

A lack of trust fits hand-in-glove with failure to recognize people’s gifts. If you cannot be confident in another person’s ability to do the job well you cannot trust them. When a person cannot trust others, though, it isn’t just about their view of people. It is about their view of God. Micromanagement reflects a lack of grace, a lack of connection to God’s immense mercy and kindness. People think of grace in terms of forgiving sins and failures. For a leader forgiveness like that is a tough balance because doing so too much means allowing flaws in your business or ministry too often. Yes, forgiveness is good, but a line must be drawn somewhere. But grace is also about giving responsibility and space to those who are flawed and might fail. When a leader can’t give any leeway to try new things or take some risks it is a lack of grace. However, when leaders show that aspect of grace, people under them feel both safe and free to pursue great things. Grace allows bigger things to be accomplished where micromanagement crushes them.

5) Micromanagement is a failure to trust God.

If a leader professes to believe that God gifted people uniquely, in His image, and believes in the grace of God and has experienced it, then why would he set that aside in leadership? Does he know better than God? Is he a better leader than God? He put that leader in a position to make others’ lives better, but by acting on his own, in his own wisdom, the micromanaging leader is harming them. He is harming himself by his lack of trust, too, by taking on burdens God didn’t intend for him to have. Leaders must remember who gave them their position, who gifted them to do it, and who gave the people around them their abilities. If God can do all that, He doesn’t need a leader to micromanage all the work too.

Can Everyone Be A Leader?

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“Each of you is a leader!”

Recently this has become a theme, practically a mantra, whether it is in businesses, schools, or churches. Entrepreneurial efforts have become popularized as people seek to lead their own business or ministry. Hundreds and thousands of books have been written on the subject, seminars are held, and tests are given. Leadership is the thing.

But as the old adage goes, you can’t lead if nobody is following.

Obviously, not everyone is a leader. In fact, not even most people would qualify as leaders. But the mindset of “I am a leader” prevails, which has a striking effect. Numerous people are leading nobody in spite of their desire to lead, and they are following nobody precisely because of their desire to lead.

Leadership, as defined by all realities, is limited. Only a few can lead in any given circumstance. It can be positional or it can organic, but it is always a small number of people. Do the math. It rules out most of us in most circumstances. Constantly aspiring to leadership can lead to conflict, egotism, and frustration as we all try to cram ourselves through a bottleneck and into a leadership role. Simply put, not everyone is a leader nor should everyone be a leader.

But everyone is an influencer. The fewest number of people in the tiniest of roles in the smallest of moments can influence. It can be had without words and without a position of authority. It can be had on those in authority over us or in positions reporting to us. Influence is what every person should emphasize.

Leadership is a gift, a set of abilities given by God and developed through circumstances brought about by God to make a person uniquely prepared to, well, lead. Influence is simply faithfulness at work. It is the work of the Holy Spirit through a person on others. It can be subtle or bold, spoken or acted.

One of the main reasons people aspire to leadership is to make a difference, so they scramble and grapple and hustle and rush in order to get to the top. This pursuit often starts for a good reason-to make positive change-but usually ends in a pitched battle or political sniping. But influence is not a competition; it is faithfulness at work. And influence can occasionally end up as leadership, but the best influencer doesn’t set out to do so.

So seek to influence by faithfully working. Influence up and influence down, and influence our fellow followers. The influence we have can be one the main tools God uses to do His work, and to make a difference.

This column originally appeared at WORLD News Group’s website (wng.org). Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2012 WORLD News Group. All rights reserved.

The Laziness of Againstness

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Some time back I wrote this article for WorldMag.com about defining yourself or your organization by what you are for rather than what you are against.  After considering being against (or “againstness” as I’ll call it) here are some further thoughts.

Againstness is lazy. It’s the easiest way to give a label to yourself or to your organization.  It’s the easiest way to position yourself. Except that it isn’t truly positioning yourself at all. It’s just floating off the shore of whatever you are against.  It doesn’t land anywhere it just avoids certain people/causes/attitudes/etc.  It is a pretend label that reveals very little and gives no direction as to what you are trying to be.

It is lazy because it doesn’t require work, just a little observation. All you need to do to be against something is keep an eye out for it and separate yourself from it while declaiming it as loudly as you please. This is true unless, of course, you are the more militant type of againster, in which case you follow the object of your ire around and attack whenever possible. This is no less lazy because you aren’t deciding what to do or where to go, you’re just being an unwitting follower of something or someone you reject.

It is much harder to pursue something, to set a goal and go after it. It requires serious thought to define the goal. It requires constant vigilance and judgment to determine if you are on the right course in the pursuit. It requires regular status checks to see what kind of progress is being made. It is constant motion, constant consideration, constant vigilance to be sure that nothing which you are against is deflecting you off course.

In my own life this is a constant effort. I find it so easy to just try not to be something – not be a legalist, not be a blowhard, not to be too conservative, not to be too liberal, not to be sectarian, and so on. But what am I after all that not being stuff? I need an aim to figure that out, a standard to which I can hold myself. Am I honoring Jesus? Do I love others? Am I doing good and not harm? Am I producing quality work that benefits others?

Pursuing a goal necessitates being against certain things, or at least having no part in them. But being against something does not need to be antagonistic or combative unless these things they threaten your pursuit of your goal. Even then to stand against doesn’t have to mean to tear down as much as it does to stand firm. And we must always remember that  these things which we are against are not what primarily defines us.

Lastly, againstness is equally as lazy and unhelpful in a work place as it is in a home or a relationship or a church or a school.  If I define my parenting by what I do not want to be I will be so much less of a father than if I aim at raising my children to be something great. It is easy to think “I will not make the same mistakes my parents did”, but if we don’t aim at something we will simply drift as parents. If I seek out a church primarily because of what it’s not I have settled lazily into the same parasitic pattern of againstness. Instead of being part of building God’s kingdom up we will be party to tearing it down.

Againstness is an easy place to land, and an easy thing to rationalize because there is much in this fallen world to be against. But it aims at nothing, takes us nowhere, and gains us little.  So aim at what is good, and don’t fall into the trap of just being against againstness

The Fickle Pursuit of Fame

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Fame is a fickle thing. It comes to many who do not seek it and is an unwelcome guest. It avoids many who do seek it leaving them in vain pursuit. When it is found by those who seek it is unsatisfactory and often destructive. After being destructive for period it often abandons them, leaving them in a worse state than they were before it arrived.

And the oddest thing about fame is that the people who manage it best are those who act is if they don’t have it.

Fame creates a riddle that is unsolvable. When one doesn’t have any he wants some, but as soon as he has some he needs more. Once more is found he wants none, but neither can he bear the thought of giving up what he has.

It all makes one wonder why anyone would seek fame?

And yet we do. The desire to be famous burns hot. And if we can’t be famous we want to know famous. That’s why People Magazine  and E! TV are so popular (it’s certainly not because of the creative and artistic value). We brag about seeing actress X at the airport or athlete Y at the grocery store. It’s as if the knowledge of fame or proximity to it rubs a little magic fairy famous dust off onto us so we can feel famousy for a moment.

But what is about Fame that so captivates and nearly stupefies society? Once upon a time it was because of what athletes, actors, musicians, politicians, or authors accomplished, their actions. But now? The aim isn’t to do what they do. Fame is the goal itself. If you need proof just take a gander at so called “reality TV stars” on shows like or the Jackass movies. (As an aside, what does it mean to be a reality” star? You’re more real? You live a realer life?)

People want fame because people want to matter even what makes them famous matters nothing at all. The thought goes like this: “If someone knows who I am I gain significance, so the more people that know me the more significant I am.” Even if you’re known for a 72 day marriage, public drunkenness, stupid stunts, or a sex tape.

Even Christians fall into this trap, and in Christianity the fame bug bites with an even weirder kind of venom. People seek fame through doing good – preaching, writing, giving, serving. But when the fame becomes the motive and not the good that points to God, we know our Christianity is upside down.

Fame, at its best, is a bi-product of doing things that truly matter. It is something that is received, not sought after. We are not wise or good enough to rightly handle fame, and that’s why the best famous people are those who spurn it. For those of us who are not famous we should simply focus on the good and let God get the fame. And by all means, avoid all reality TV.

Sauron, Satan, and Evil’s Inability to Understand Good

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In his wonderful book, On the Shoulders of Hobbits, Lou Markos has some profound and beautiful things to say about the nature of good and evil. On portion that particularly stands out in my mind is in chapter 15, “Blinded by the Light” in which he exposes the inability of evil to stand before the light of good, or even to understand it. Markos masterfully unwraps the layers of this reality. First he quotes from Tolkien’s Return of the King in which Gandalf explains to Aragorn why Frodo and Sam have a hope of making it through Mordor to destroy the ring of power.

“That we would wish to cast him down and have no ne in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.” (Hobbits, 168)

Markos goes to write on the profoundest truths of all of Tolkien’s works:13587295

“The reason Sauron has not guessed the true purpose of the Fellowship is not that he is a fool or even that he is prideful, but that he simply cannot conceive that someone would willingly forsake power. He is completely blind to the ways and motivations of goodness; such Light is too bright for his darkened eyes to fathom.” (Hobbits, 168)

Think on that for a moment, on the insight into the limitations of evil and the evil one. Sauron’s inability to recognize a good, noble, humble, and sacrificial motive was his undoing. He could not fathom anyone willingly giving up power or being willing to risk life and limb to do so, yet someone did, actually an entire fellowship did. In the end it was Sauron’s inability to recognize good that led to the undoing of evil in Middle Earth

When I read this all my readings of the gospels stood on their head. For so long I have read of Jesus life, death, and resurrection as one of victory. But I had read of it as a victory in battle, as if at the cross Satan was screaming in his best villain voice “NOOOOOOoooooooo!” as he wilted. I had seen it as mano a mano combat between Jesus and Satan with Jesus ultimately overthrowing him. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious mental depiction, but it was the sense I had. How wrong I was.

What Markos wrote showed me so clearly that the smartest thing Satan could have done to condemn the world to destruction was to keep Jesus alive. But, like Sauron, Satan is incapable of understanding humility, servanthood, and sacrifice. Humanity needed a perfect sacrifice to pay our debt to God, and, rather than keep that sacrifice off the cross, Satan was more than willing to put Him there. Satan’s currency and language are those of power and dominion; that’s why he sought to get Jesus to bow to him in the wilderness. He only understands pursuit of self-fulfillment and the conquest of self-glorification. Satan was so hell bent on destroying good that he didn’t realize that he was playing into God’s hands. By setting out to gain victory over Jesus by killing Him, Satan condemned himself.

God’s victory over Satan was one, not of epic struggle, but of the omniscient One putting a plan of salvation into place into which Satan fit as the perfect stooge because of his own incapacity for good. Satan, with his every effort to further defeat Jesus, ensured his own ruin – all as part of God’s plan. My own wonder at the wisdom of God is increased because of the places Lou Markos took me in these pages (and the rest of the book is equally as good).