Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Smithing My Shortcomings as a Leader

Written by: on November 3, 2021

For Eve Poole, ‘leadership’ is a somewhat problematic term, as it is often associated with titles or status. [1] Opting for the term ‘leardersmithing,’ the author lays out the critical ways that a person can craft and practice leadership through four areas of meta-learning: leadership muscle memory, self-regulation, reflective judgment and learning to learn. [2]

When focusing on her 17 critical incidents that a leader needs to excel in, I identified the areas where I had a sense of “mastery.” Reflecting on all the decisions I, along with our staff, had to make at the beginning and throughout the pandemic, I am affirmed in my ability to cope with increasing change, manage ambiguity, take a risk, and listen to staff. However, to garner the most significant opportunity for improvement as a leader, I zeroed in on two main areas I struggle the most.

First, “delegating to and empowering staff” tends to be an area of struggle for me in some regards. I used to struggle with taking on too much because I had in my mind what something should look like and would much rather do it myself than have to “fix” what someone else has done. At the same time, as the sole full-time staff member of a church start for eight years, I leaned too much into independent working. To strengthen my ability to delegate and empower staff, over the years, I have developed a deeper trust in others’ abilities and honed in a better approach to coaching my team around the vision for a project. In addition, I have intentionally taken steps to develop a highly collaborative staff culture. We work ahead to give voice to all sides and possibilities of a project, equipping each staff member to take on a critical portion of the project and providing ample space for candidly creative conversations.

Second, “dealing with poor performance” is an iffy area of leadership. On the one hand, I am more than willing to course-correct with our ancillary staff, such as childcare workers, facility managers, and communication staff. On the other hand, however, I can struggle to give direct course correction with the full-time pastoral staff. Finally, in reflecting on why I struggle in this area, I do not think I want to be well-liked. After all, I have spent most of my life not caring what other people think about me as the source of my self-worth.

I have drawn two conclusions as to why I struggle in this area. First, as a person who has unrealistically high expectations of myself, I often feel like I project my expectations onto others, fearing I might be a bit too unfair of them. Second, I am a highly relational leader who worries about what honest feedback might do to my relationship with my staff. At the same time, I realize that not speaking the truth and giving helpful correction prevents greater thriving for the staff members’ performance and our working relationship.

For the context of the book, I leaned into the chapter on “Spades” for growth in this challenging area. In particular, the portion on difficult conversation was beneficial. The author challenged me to learn the skills necessary to step into this critical leadership incident.

[1] Poole, Eve. Leadersmithing. (London: Bloomsbury Business, 2017), p3.
[2] Ibid, 12.

About the Author


Andy Hale

CBF Podcast Creator and Host, Senior Pastor of University Baptist Church (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), & Professional Coach

7 responses to “Smithing My Shortcomings as a Leader”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Andy, thanks for your transparency in your role as lead pastor. I have never planted a church and I can only imagine how difficult the changing role proves as the church grows. I have great respect for church planters. I also identify with you struggle about honest conversations with staff. I’ve withheld critique in the past and it has only made the situations worse. As an Enneagram 5, I believe I don’t want to deal with the emotions of others the way I should at times. I’ve benefited in this area when we added an Exec Pastor who leads the staff’s ministry plans and performance on a day-to-day basis. That shift allows me to focus on leading the Board, vision, and church leadership. Your post made me reflect a lot and I appreciate that!

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Andy: Thanks for a thoughtful and transparent post about your leadership today. It’s interesting the two areas you pointed out as being a struggle as I would imagine most have or currently do too (me!). In my experience, I found that not addressing poor performance only fueled my need to do it all which resulted in the opposite of what I longed for in developing a team. Somewhere along the road, I got very comfortable with hard conversations and have found that to be a massive transformation in my ability to empower and release control for others to do the work in a way that only they can, even if it’s different than how I would.

  3. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Andy I appreciate your self-reflection on your strengths and your growing edges. In the past I have been guilty of “just doing it because I know how best to do it and I don’t want to have to redo something someone else has done ‘wrong'” I was overfunctioning! It is a relief to not live in that space anymore!
    I understand the challenges when you have to deal with poor performances. But who evaluates your work? I must admit it’s not an easy thing for me to be evaluated…especially when many do not understand what I do.

  4. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Andy: Thank you for your thoughts about your struggles with delegating. I too struggle in that area. I catch myself thinking, “Oh, I’ll just do it myself in half the time.” It takes so long to explain things sometimes, I get impatient. Regarding dealing with poor performers, I no longer struggle with that. Being a small business owner for 12 years, I fired 6 people during that time. The pressure to get the job done correctly and quickly trumped any initial fears of being the big bad boss. Ultimately, it’s the best thing for everyone involved. I liked this book.

  5. mm Eric Basye says:

    Thanks for your vulnerability, Andy. I am hopeful you are on the right track as I believe it is when we can name and identify something (such as you have) that we bring it to the Light, thus, deliverance.

    I will be curious to see how this awareness will impact your leadership going forward.

    Just my thoughts… God has uniquely made and wired you as you are. You are incredibly driven and talented. I believe your leadership will be even more impactful when you engage relationships in a transparent way, as you have done with us. Good job.

  6. Elmarie Parker says:

    Thank you, Andy, for your vulnerable engagement with Poole’s book. I’m looking forward to hearing how your next steps in leadersmithing unfold, especially what you learn along the way. I resonate with being a relational leader and wondering how hard conversations will impact the working relationship. I have found 360 reviews one helpful piece in that journey, where those I supervise have the opportunity to also provide feedback on my leadership. It has deepened the trust dynamic and the presence of courage so that we are all able to better navigate difficult conversations and further develop our respective capacities.

  7. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Andy, I totally understand your struggle in delegating. It can be so complex in the church environment with some paid staff, or partially paid, and a whole lot of fickle volunteers. For me, heading into these studies I have been wrestling with the possibility that maybe the goals of leadership may need to be adjusted. That as a leader maybe my goals ought to be more about the development of those under me and the purposes that God has put on their heart then my vision. If that is the case, then the projects, tasks, etc. could possibly be the tools to assist in their development. I just throw those out as the questions I ask myself as I move forward. Maybe they can provide some fodder for thought and discussion for you as well.

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