Leadership Speedbumps: Letting Go

passing the torch

Ronnie James Dio on the TENACIOUS D song “Dio” and the latter’s bizarre request for the diminutive frontman to “pass the torch” to the group as part of a publicity stunt:

“Somebody called me and said, ‘You know, this band TENACIOUS D did this song about you, and they want you to retire,”

That may not make much sense to you unless you partake in a little Tenacious D every once in a while. But seriously, I’ve been thinking about this for the past week or so. What is it that causes great leaders to be only good leaders?

One area that I have witnessed in church leadership and business, is that leaders always talk about delegating, replication, multiplication, passing the torch if you will. But rarely have I ever experienced someone who actually follows through with it. What we end up with a quasi-version of it; leaders who can’t let go. For whatever reason, they talk the big talk, but when it comes down to it, they just can’t pass on the responsibility of leading. Here are my thoughts on why and how it affects both the leader and the growth of the ministry or organization:

[disclaimer: I’m sure there are already a plethora of books, seminars, webinars, blogs, articles, and DVD’s on this subject]

Why can’t the leader let go?

  • insecurity – that someone else will do a better job and will get the recognition
  • pride – they don’t have a realistic view of their own effectiveness (they really think they have to have their hands in everything for the ministry to succeed)
  • fear of failure – that the team member will fail and the leader will have to pick up the pieces
  • fear of change – changes in structure, organization, “this is how we do things”, “I’ve learned that this is how it works”
  • lack of skills – they just simply can’t or won’t see the value of letting go, they have what I like to call a “low leadership capacity”
  • past failures – they’ve tried before with the wrong people and seen disastrous effefts
  • no one to hand it off to – they’ve ignored the call to raise up leaders and have no resources
  • no vision – they are content where they are and do not want to grow personally or organizationally (which I think negates the great commission to go out and make disciples)

How does it effect growth?

  • a leader who won’t let go causes the ministry to only grow up to what they can manage personally
  • a leader who won’t let go causes the ministry to only be as creative as they are personally
  • a leader who won’t let go creates a ministry that is only as effective as they are personally
  • a leader who won’t let go teaches others that they are not teachable
  • a leader who won’t let go shows a lack of faith in God
  • a leader who won’t let go shows a lack of trust in his/her team
  • a leader who won’t let go will not attract other leaders
  • a leader who won’t let go will not leave a legacy of success because when he/she is gone, so is the ministry

As I close this up, I think about Jesus Christ. Now of course he is the son of God, so he’s got one up on us, but… He spent a majority of his life preparing for ministry, then he poured his life into a team of 12, and he really discipled 3. Then after only 3 years, when it was least expected, he left the entire ministry in the hands of 11. He didn’t keep them on a short leash, he didn’t come back and re-organize, he allowed them to grow, learn, fail, and ultimately build a ministry that has continued to grow and flourish for the past 2000 years. What he didn’t have is the root sin of pride, so there you go.

How are you passing the torch?

3 thoughts on “Leadership Speedbumps: Letting Go

  1. Billy Chia

    Alex,
    Nice thoughts. I got a comment yesterday on my myspace from a guy I’ve passed the torch to. I could still do it better. Love Tenacious D.

  2. Pingback:Doer or Leader? « UC Worship Blog

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