Leadership Synchroblog: Good Leaders Say No

This week I am taking part in Evangelical Seminary’s Leadership Synchroblog event that is being conducted in support of their Master of Arts in Christian Leadership program. Contributors were asked to answer the question “what makes a good leader?

The word no has gotten a bum rap.

Over the course of our lives we have learned that no is a bad thing. We think that it means we don’t like people, that we are mean, or that we are anti-progress. We have learned to associate the word no with all the bad things in life: not getting the cookies you wanted, being shot down when asking for a date, or asking if wrestling is real… and this has affected our ability to lead.

No is a tool that, when used effectively, will help you craft your ministry to pursue the specific vision that you have been called to. Wielding this tool may feel awkward at first, but with use it becomes more comfortable. Here are three great uses for the word no:

  • Maintaining Focus: Let’s face it, there are approximately 4.341 million good programs out there for churches to take part in. While we all would love to solve all the worlds problems by doing every one of those programs at the same time, the truth is that we just can’t (seriously, you can’t… trust me on this). Saying no to some good programs will allow you to fully focus on the great work that only your church can do (this is why it is important to know your why).
  • Protecting Culture: In the movie The Patriot the pastor has one of my all-time favorite movie lines: A shepherd must tend his flock. And at times… fight off the wolves. Every leader’s first priority must be establishing and maintaining a healthy culture within the teams that they lead. This means that there are times that we say no to people who are not a good fit, regardless of talent level. This also means that we say no to trends, fads, or programs that just don’t fit our organizational culture. As protector of the organizational culture, saying no is your secret weapon.
  • Creating Rhythm: There are times when opportunities arise that fit your culture and are within your focus area, but the timing isn’t right. These are the toughest times to say no, but also some of the most important. As leaders, we need to be developing a sustainable rhythm within our teams. Part of developing that rhythm is knowing when is the right, and wrong, time to add more to the collective plate. It takes a great deal of discipline to say no to a great opportunity during a time when your team doesn’t have the capacity to handle it… but this is why you are leading.

What have YOU recently said no to?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.