Why Your Policies are Killing Your Leadership

I’ve written before that policies are anti-leadership statements. Most people think that due to my role as an Executive Pastor at a large church I would be the guy who embraces and loves policies. Not so much. I’m actually policy adverse. And I’m policy adverse because policies naturally undermine leadership growth.

1. Policies Abdicate Responsibility

It’s never your fault if you’re implementing what a policy tells you to do. It’s safe. It’s safe because the policy is to blame, not you. Leaders take responsibility they don’t abdicate responsibility. By the way leaders don’t play it safe either.

2. Policies Drain Courage

It takes no courage to implement a policy (unless it’s an unpopular or stupid policy). Learning to win as a leader by leading through difficult circumstances builds healthy confidence and courage as a leader. Implementing policies not only robs you of the opportunity to build healthy courage as a leader but it actually drains you of courage at the same time; because you train yourself to rely on policy instead of developing your leadership instinct.

3. Policies Teach your Staff not to Think

Telling people what to do actually makes them stupid. When team members are taught to look in a manual for a policy to direct them how to act instead of learning how to think and act, they miss the opportunity to grow. Difficult moments in leadership are the proving grounds for young leaders to learn how to lead. You don’t become a great leader from executing policies. You become a great leader by leading.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. There are moments when everyone in the organization needs to know what to do and a policy needs to be put in place. Policies can be useful when they reflect and build the culture you’re trying to build and get you closer to your vision. If your policies don’t help you get pass that test then why do you have them?

Posted in Leadership

4 Responses to “Why Your Policies are Killing Your Leadership”

  1. Rich Knofsky July 20, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Paul, I guess I am a little confused. Policy Manuals should be the “broad strokes” (better yet, boundaries) that are proscribed or desired and Procedure Manuals should be where the specific steps are defined to be followed. A healthy policy is one that defines limits (again, boundaries) but does not dictate specific steps to be taken – we all know that there can be multiple ways to achieve the desired results. An analogy I use with my staff in the past as an EP when discussing this very topic is that it is leadership’s role to “point them to the goal posts” (define the win) and let them “kick the ball” for the score.

    • Paul Alexander July 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

      That’s a great analogy Rich! Unfortunately I find with a majority of churches procedures become policies.


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    […] I really am. I wish it weren’t true; it would be easier if it weren’t true. But it is. Your policies might help you mitigate some risk, they may help you institutionalize the culture you’re trying to build, but […]

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