When selecting a leader, be careful for what you wish.

Leadership is on my mind a lot these days, probably because I’ve missed the submission deadline for a chapter I’ve been asked to write on the topic. (Whew, I got the confession over and done.)

Then there’s my role on a presidential transition team on behalf of an organization with which I’m a board member. And the webinar I co-hosted earlier this week on orienting board members to their leadership role. And the online course I’m teaching in which are enrolled 15 higher education administrative leaders in the making. And my continued pondering of a pastoral appointment that blew up on my congregation. Etc. etc. etc.

I’m bumping into leadership at every turn – or so it seems. Not that all that bumping around makes me expert on the topic. But as I read, write, teach, and watch, I’ve become certain of this one thing. When selecting a leader, be careful for what you wish. You may just get it.

Then what?

catch_a_star_pc_1224WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR

You say you want a leader who will shake things up. Then don’t whine when the organizational ground shifts under your feet.  If the leader is successful in living into his or her mandate, expect old things (and people) to change in the wake of a lot that’s new.

You say you want a leader who empowers followers. Then prepare to take on added responsibility and expect to be held accountable for delivering the goods. To whom much (or even a little more) is entrusted, much is required.

You say you want a leader who’s collaborative. Then no fair complaining when decision-making slows as the leader listens, explains, and considers multiple perspectives. If your definition of collaboration is “ask me and then get moving,” this one could be jolt to your ego.

You say you want a leader who can make tough decisions. Then don’t get angry when a decision doesn’t go your way. If tough decisions are needed, the leader is likely to step on some toes, yours included.

You say you want a leader who’s a planner. Then expect that your BHAG may not make the cut. Planning oriented leaders are laser focused on the grand prize toward which they believe God is calling the organization. They don’t deviate from the course often or easily.

You say you want a servant leader. Then grab a towel. You’re going to be asked to wash some metaphoric feet.  As for special perks for special people, forget it. In a servant-leader led organization, the first are usually the last.

And if you are the star – the leader – here’s my advice to you. Don’t take as gospel what you read in the job description or heard from the search committee. Move too quickly and I guarantee you’ll wish you hadn’t.

For more on leadership, leaders, and selecting a leader, read:

New leader, you thought the board wanted what?

Tips on becoming, identifying, and/or evaluating a leader

Bagging a different kind of CEO


  1. I am in agreement! Yes, be careful what you wish for as it may change your life too. Great blog.

  2. Frequently search committees focus on the weaknesses of the incumbent or immediate past leader in shaping the priorities to be sought in the new/next leader.

    • Agreed, Bill, and why I believe the members doing the searching swing to the opposite end of the leadership pendulum, but without realizing what a jolt so extreme a change in leadership style will be to the organization.

  3. It would be great to have you come talk to us sometime. I’ll try to arrange it. Peace.

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