The Isolated Leader: Three Motivations for Peer Community

One of the greatest threats to leadership is isolation.

The threat only grows as a leader rises in his or her status and scope of responsibility. Isolation leaves a leader without necessary data points. These necessary data points keep a leader grounded, humble, and self-aware. Without these points of reference, a leader is exposed to many temptations—the greatest of these temptations is self-sufficiency.

The antidote to isolation is peer community.

Every leader needs multiple sources of community. Peer community is a very critical source. Leaders must be in periodic connection with those of similar leadership responsibility. Only those who have experienced the weight, pressure, and stress of a like-kind of leadership responsibility can offer understanding and perspective.

Peer community typically does not exist within a leader’s normal daily environment.

True peer community cannot take place with those who answer to the leader. Followers will always be challenged to stay completely honest—and every leader needs abject honesty as a regular mirror for his or her soul. Leaders must intentionally seek out peer community. Quality peer community may be close at hand or it may exist a great distance away. But with today’s technology distance cannot remain an excuse to not connect.

There are three primary motivations for developing peer community:

Calling—your invitation to lead.

Calling in the Bible is always an invitation. It is an invitation from God to step into something significant and supernatural. Some callings in Scripture are dramatic and legendary. Some callings are quiet and less well-known. All of these invitations to lead are significant because they have their source in God and they are intended to move God’s agenda forward. I don’t know of a single leadership calling in the Bible that is easy and without struggle. Therefore, callings must be nurtured and maintained. The leader who desires to lead long must have their calling refreshed and renewed by others in community. Leaders must be reminded about why they lead and for whom they lead.

Calling is God’s permission for the leader to have influence over others.


Accountability—your integrity to lead.

Accountability means a leader is known to someone and committed to being transparent about his or her responsibilities. The leader who ignores or refuses a community of accountability will eventually live a duplicitous life. Accountability must be holistic because leadership is an integrated proposition. Often, that which is unknown to the leader, or to others, will be the very thing that destroys one’s platform for leading. Disqualification is often the sad and public result of a leader without accountability.

Accountability is God’s protection for a leader’s sustainability.


Covenant—your promise to lead.

A covenant of any kind is a binding promise between two parties. Leaders are expected to lead. Leaders must lead. And leadership is always a leveraged activity—meaning that a leader’s efforts, and all of his or her decisions, have a multiplied impact far beyond themselves. Because of this principle of leverage a leader can have an impact for great good or great harm. But when willing followers grant you the authority to lead them they expect you to lead them toward meaningful change and to do so with integrity and care. The leader-follower relationship is built around this stated or unstated promise. The leader may carry titled authority but followers will give their best efforts when the leader fulfills his promise to lead well—this leads to what is truly desired by the leader—granted authority.

Covenant is God’s purpose for a leader to fulfill his calling.


King David in the Bible illustrates the liability of isolation and the necessity of connection in 2 Samuel 11. There are three markers within this narrative that show the potential destruction of a leader in isolation.

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. (verse 1)

David was not where he was supposed to be and David was alone. This king was not leading his troops into battle, he was at home. He was not in the company of those who could give personal context for him, he was among only those who served him.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. (verse 2)

David was not living a disciplined existence and he was looking beyond God’s provision for satisfaction. Left to himself, without a presence of any purposeful voice of correction, David was self-absorbed and open to temptation.

David sent …

David abused his titled authority to get what he wanted and to cover up his sin. Beginning in verse one and continuing through the next several verses we find the word “sent” five times. Repeatedly, David used his authority to send others to do his bidding … whether they wanted to go or not and whether it was morally right or not. David “sent” for Bathsheba so that he could commit adultery. David “sent” for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to try to cover up the illegitimate pregnancy. David “sent” Uriah back to the battle lines that he might have Uriah killed. Finally, David “sent” for Bathsheba, Uriah’s widow, to become his wife.

When a leader is isolated and without honest community, he or she is on borrowed time. But with a community of peers who can feed and strengthen a sense of calling, accountability, and covenant, a leader can be used of God for great impact and His glory.

The Leader’s Pitfalls: What Disqualifies Leaders? (Part 1)


Henry and Rochard Blackaby have been outstanding spokesmen for leadership and the Chrisitan faith for many years. Many have benefitted from Henry’s work on Experiencing God. That was a foundational workbook for my wife and I when we were “young” seminarians.

I have had the privilege of meeting and working with Richard Blackaby while I served with Cru in Western Europe. He addressed one of our emerging leader forums for Western European leaders during an intensive in Latvia. He is a humble servant leader who taught our participants well.

Several years ago they combined their efforts to write Spiritual Leadership, a landmark work for God’s servants. They revised and expanded this volume in 2011–and it is as relevant today as ever.

One chapter that a friend and colleague brought to my attention again was a chapter on “The Leader’s Pitfalls.” I will review all 10 pitfalls–in this post, we will cover the first five, with some brief commentary. My hope is that this will entice you to read this book for the first time–or again. I also prayerfully hope that this keeps you from one of the ten in your leadership life.

The Pitfall of Pride

“Pride may well be leaders’ worst enemy, and it has caused the downfall of many.”

Pride makes leaders unteachable.

“No matter how talented or how smart a leader may be, an unteachable spirit is the path to certain failure.”

Pride causes leaders to think they are self-sufficient. 

“Pride targets successful leaders, convincing them they have enough talent, wisdom, and charisma, to achieve whatever they set their minds to do.”

Pride leads to a loss of compassion.

“When leaders lose the passion to contribute to their organization and begin to focus instead on what they can receive from it, they are no longer authentic leaders.”

Pride makes leaders vulnerable.

“Pride is a sin, and pride will do what sin does. It destroys.”

The Pitfall of Sexual Sin

“If pride is the most insidious pitfall of leaders, sexual sin is the most notorious.”

Safeguard #1: Leaders make themselves accountable.

“Prudent leaders are proactive; they enlist at least two people as accountability partners and give them freedom to regularly question their moral purity.”

Safeguard #2: Leaders heed their own counsel.

“Spiritual leaders must understand that they are no more immune to moral failure than those they are leading.”

Safeguard #3: Leaders consider the consequences.

“Astute leaders cultivate the habit of regularly pondering the devastating effects of sexual sin.”

Safeguard #4: Leaders develop healthy habits.

“Careful leaders can take practical steps to protect themselves from sexual temptation.”

Safeguard #5: Leaders pray and ask others to pray for them.

“The most practical step leaders can take is to pray that God will help them keep their lives above reproach.”

The Pitfall of Cynicism

“Leadership is a people business, and people invariably let you down. Negative leaders spawn negative organizations. Cynical leaders cultivate cynical followers. True leaders focus on what is right and on what gives hope, not on what is wrong. Older leaders seem particularly susceptible to cynicism. It is crucial that leaders guard their attitudes.”

The Pitfall of Greed

“Like many things, money and possessions can be either good or bad in a leader’s life. The lure of material possessions has enticed many leaders to make foolish career decisions. As a result, some people will sacrifice almost anything in order to achieve material success. The hunger for wealth and possessions can destroy spiritual leaders. Wise leaders know that the measure of their success is not the size of their bank account but the quality of their lives.”

The Pitfall of Mental Laziness

“Problem solving is an essential function of leadership, so leaders cannot afford to become intellectually stagnant. Good leaders never stop learning. They seek the company of wise people. They read books and articles that stretch their thinking. They read the biographies of great leaders and thinkers. Great leaders are always learning how to become better leaders.One way Jesus helped his disciples grow as leaders was by teaching them how to make sense of their circumstances.”

There are the first 5 pitfalls. How do you stack up? Where do you need to consider more carefully? Where do you need to make course corrections? The next 5 will be posted soon!

5 for Leadership-March 19th


Sandy Horvath-Dori on Flickr

Here is a new 5 for Leadership for the end of Spring Break in Texas. There is something here for you that will enhance your leadership.

Confessions of a Middle-Aged White Woman: 5 Leadership Lessons on the Way to Diversity

My friend Cas Monaco has written an excellent piece on this important and timely topic. This is a must read for any majority culture leader.

The Importance of Care in Leadership

“There’s an old line about every journey, even the ones of thousands of miles, beginning with a single step. Leadership, as a concept, really isn’t any different. It all begins from a single place — but oftentimes, getting to that initial step can be hard for many leaders.” This is a quality post from Marc Smith Sacks.

Out of Africa (And Four Lessons I Learned)

Kurt Bubna shares four great principles from his cross-cultural experience. There are principles here beyond Africa and another culture–there are some valuable principles for leadership and life.

100 Ways You Can Express Love as a Leader

“Many people believe that love doesn’t belong in business or leadership. But I have found that when leaders love their people, their people love them back. They remain loyal, they respect each other, they trust each other. It is the kindness you show and the appreciation you express that lets people know you value them.” This comes from Lolly Daskal.

The Secrets of Compassion for Leaders

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” Lao Tzu

“Today’s challenge: Be passionate about compassionate leadership. Compassion doesn’t ignore problems. It isn’t neglecting results or sacrificing forward movement. But leadership without compassion is tyranny.” The final post is by Dan Rockwell.




5 for Leadership-January 16th


Maëlick on Flickr

This week we take a closer look at spiritual leadership for both men and women. There are topics related to the all important task of leading teams, dealing with fear, worrisome leadership profiles, and leadership discouragement. And you will be introduced to some new leadership blogs . . . take a strong look.

7 Questions That Measure Team Culture

“Do you know whether or not your team culture is healthy? Many churches don’t, and this eventually always comes at a great price. It’s pretty common for organizations to make plans for a new year without first gaining clarity and insight about the team that will actually be executing the vision. Churches can’t reach their full potential until they can positively answer the following questions . . .” See what else Jason Vernon has to say on the Tony Morgan Live web site.

5 Ways To Build Diverse, Inclusive Leadership Teams

“There is an increasing body of evidence that diverse teams of varying racial and ethnic makeup produce better results. They perform better financially, gain a competitive edge when recruiting top talent, experience less employee turnover, and offer greater benefits for those they serve. This is true in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, but is particularly important for nonprofits that serve communities of color, which is overwhelmingly the case in the education sector.” Molly Brennan gives us five practical ways to build diverse teams . . . and why it matters.

Stepping Out Of Your Fear Into Calling

“The non-denominational church I started wasn’t even a year old when a successful church-planter declared: ‘Your church will never make it!’ ‘Why do you say that?’ I asked, feeling instantly wounded.’Because you’re way too insecure!’ He thoughtlessly replied. Ouch. All these years later, I still feel the sting from his words.” Linda Wurzbacher describes a critical element of leadership through the lens of her own experience.

8 Questions Discouraged Leaders Need To Ask

“As leaders, we all face times when things are not going as well as we would like.  In those seasons, it’s important to remember that before we can ever re-energize the church we lead, we have to first be energized ourselves. ” Brandon Conner addresses this common leadership malaise head on.

15 Leaders Who Worry Me

“None of us is a perfect leader. I’m certainly not. For that reason, I’m always hesitant to critique leaders. Nevertheless, leadership is so important that I want to list fifteen types of leaders who worry me.” Chuck Lawless hits 15 leadership profiles to be aware of . . . may none of them be you.

There are the 5 for this week. Take some time to read more than one.


5 for Leadership-January 2nd

Time flies-Leadership

Alan Cleaver-Time Flies-on Flickr

Here is the first 5 for Leadership of 2016! I always appreciate this time of the year to reflect and evaluate . . . and make changes. I hope these recent posts aid you in your preparatin time for leading in 2016.

The Power of Vision, Part 5

“As you look out the future, what is the picture of a preferred future both for you and your organization?” Justin Irving provides some very practical principles and steps to help insure you stay on track in 2016.

3 Box Thinking–Structuring Your Church for Innovation

“As you enter 2016 it is helpful to put everything you do in your church into one of three boxes.” This is a great post from Eric Swanson . . . and will help you immensely in getting off to a great start in 2016 . . . whether you are part of a church staff or not.

How Not To Make New Year’s Resolutions

About 150 million Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. That’s a lot of disappointed people. A quarter of those people will abandon their resolutions in just a week. Fewer than half will still be on track by summer. Ultimately, only 8 percent will be successful.” See what Michael Hyatt has to say to help you not be part of the 92%.

Personal Disruption–The Force That Will Shape 2016

“Disruption has the power to transform organizations, communities, and well, the world — but it doesn’t start on that macro level. It starts with individuals. Companies and organizations can’t disrupt, if their people don’t.” Whitney Johnson does a great job at disclosing the truth of this concept and helping us understand its benefits.

20 Encouraging Bible Verses For Young Leaders

Leading is never an easy proposition. Add being young to leadership and you can easily feel overwhelmed. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I know I can turn to the word of God for a bit of encouragement. The good book is full of encouragement for young leaders (and people in general). If you’re not a believer, I strongly believe you can still find the words of the Bible encouraging. Let’s take a look at the 20 verses I believe can encourage young leaders.” Joseph Lalonde points to some thought provoking and practical parts of the Bible that will benefit any leader.

There are the 5 for this week–are you ready for 2016?

5 for Leadership-November 14th


5 for Leadership always provides a great collection of posts on the topic of leadership. This week there are topics covering a Veterans Day reminder, creativity and leadership, how to recover from being thrown under the bus, being a leader worthy of being followed, and the flourishing of our cities. There is a lot of variety this week–read more than one post.

My Secret Book Project (And The Amazing Family Behind It)

If you read any of the five posts highlighted this week you must read this one. Leadership comes in many forms. Anne Riley is a young adult fiction writer–and a leader. She has discovered a need and she has stepped in to make a meaningful contribution. That is what leaders do.

Veterans Day-Solemnly Remember

“I submit to you that we are surrounded, in your community, with opportunities to support our troops and veterans. In small towns across America, you’ll find veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Panama, Corsica, Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan. You may not have noticed them, but you can easily find them in various places–walking down the street, drinking a cup of coffee at work, at your kitchen table, in the cemetery…in your family.” This is a great, practical piece from the General Leadership blog.

12 Ways To Rise After Being Thrown Under The Bus

“Every leader has a few tread marks on their back. How deep they go depends on you. Being thrown under the bus means someone elevated their status and lowered yours in front of others.” Dan Rockwell addresses this common experience with some very practical and life-saving advice.

Be A Leader People Choose To Follow

“People follow leaders by choice. You can get compliance through imposing your authority, by coercion or manipulation, but you won’t be trusted and respected.” I always appreciate Jesse Lyn Stoner. This post reflects a lot of my beliefs on leadership character and followership. Be sure to take a look!

The Difference Christianity Could Make In The City

This final post comes by way of Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. My vocation focuses on city flourishing. Many of Tim’s thoughts have resonated with me as a leader. All of us long to live in cities that are flourishing–in every way a city should flourish. Take a look at his perspective on this timely topic.

There are the 5 for this week–take a few minutes and read more than one of these helpful posts.

5 for Leadership-October 24th


Totororo.roro on Flickr

This week in 5 for Leadership there are posts on servant leadership, how to deal with anxiety, the difference between careerism and leadership, leadership lessons learned, and important leadership trends. Take a few minutes during this fall day and stretch your leadership.

Top 12 Trends in Leadership Today

This is a great, quick read from Brad Lomenick that will keep you thinking. These are trends that merit your attention.

Are You A Serving Leader? A 5-Point Checklist

“Ken Blanchard believes there is one fundamental question all leaders need to ask themselves:  Is the purpose of my leadership to serve—or is it my expectation to be served?  A leader’s answer is important because it leads to two fundamentally different approaches to leadership.” This comes from Terry Watkins on the Blanchard Leadership blog.

The Surprising Difference Between Careerism and Leadership

“Are you leading with purpose or just trying to get ahead? Do you actually believe in something larger than your compensation, your career trajectory or your next success? I often tell young leaders, if their work has no meaning or satisfaction, they are better off quitting and sitting on the beach until they decide what they want to do.” This comes from Bill George on Linkedin Pulse.

What My Boss Taught Me About Leadership

“Let me set the scene. My career was plateauing. I had done well, but things had started to get a bit stale. Then, I had a meeting/interview with Neil Hobbs. Neil would have the biggest impact on my professional life.” Colin Shaw shares some poignant principles on leadership lessons learned–on Linkedin Pulse.

Anxiety & Prayer

Finally, I offer this brief, 2:43 video on anxiety and prayer by Crawford Loritts. All leaders face anxieties on a daily basis. What is your solution to dealing with them? Dr. Loritts provides the secret.

5 for Leadership-August 15th


Here is a new 5 for Leadership and here are the topics: 17 marriage lessons (the greatest leadership challenge?), listening mistakes that leaders make, pragmatic leader or idealist leader, presenting to senior leadership, and what does it look like to truly take charge as a leader? Choose more than one post and grow your leadership.

Leaders Lead-Take Charge and Move Out

“For leadership to be authentic, we have to make decisions and take risks. The reason we’re hired into a position of leadership is to do just that; and if we’re too timid to use the authority our boss gives us then we’re not doing our jobs.” This post comes from the General Leadership blog.

Are You an Idealist or Pragmatic Leader?

“In general, business leaders can be split into two distinct groups based on their strategic thinking patterns. Most leaders are either pragmatics or idealists. Yes, they might walk a fine line between the two, but ultimately, one will always be more dominant than the other.” This post was penned by Susan Gunelius on the Women in Business blog.

5 Listening Mistakes Leaders Make  

“Though many leaders put much of their focus into their communication skills, listening can be one of your most influential skills. But to influence others, you need to avoid sparking their resistance. When practicing authentic listening, here are five actions to avoid.” This post comes from Jesse Lahey on the Engaging Leader blog.

10 Tips For Presenting To Senior Leaders

“Presenting to senior leaders can be nerve-racking at best. You’ve got a short window of time to articulate your passionate point of view or showcase the outcome of your team’s good work.” Karin Hurt wrote this post for the Lead Change Group blog.

17 Lessons from 17 Years of Marriage (lessons 13-17)

“Tasha and I recently celebrated 17 Years of Marriage! Part of this year’s anniversary celebration included some time for Tasha and I to reflect on lessons from our first 17 years of marriage.” This post is from Justin Irving on the Purpose in Leadership blog.

There are the 5 for this week in the middle of a hot August in Austin, Texas. I hope you are staying cool and refreshing your leadership.

(photo credit)

5 for Leadership-August 8th


Here is a fresh 5 for Leadership with some fascinating topics, including the value of reading for leadership, why coffee drinkers succeed, ethnic diversity in leadership, walking meetings, and the real work of leaders. This is worth your time.

10 Reasons Why People Who Read A Lot Are More Likely To Be Good Leaders

“Reading is currently on a global decline. The statistics and polls behind this pattern are frightening because the shortage of readers means there will be a shortage of leaders. There is no disputing it: reading offers you the platform to become a leader. Famous leaders from Steve Jobs to Elon Musk engage in a lot of intellect-building by reading books. This is what reading offers when it comes to leadership.”

8 Reasons Why Coffee Drinkers Are More Likely To Succeed

“Most times what you need to get plugged into a project is that shot of caffeine. Coffee does it for me, from the smell to the flow into the cup and that intense swallow. It gets me on the drive. While others are worried about the intensity, for me it’s perfect. I get energy only coffee can provide. I can’t help but remind the worriers of the wonders coffee does to their chances for success. Read this article if you’re hesitant about coffee, and consider all the benefits you stand to gain.”

Dear White Leaders: Ethnic Minorities Excel at More Than Just Minority Ministry

“As a white male in ministry who has had the privilege of getting to know many of my ethnic minority colleagues over the years, I’d like to dispel a notion that has crept into the psyche of many of us white leaders. A number of us have come to live as if ethnic minorities are only good at reaching their own people.” This is an excellent post from missioeric and posted on The Future of College Ministry site.

How To Do Walking Meetings Right

“A walking meeting is simply that: a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of in an office, boardroom, or coffee shop where meetings are commonly held. Nilofer Merchant wrote in HBR about her own transition to walking meetings after realizing that, like many Americans, she was sitting way too much while working.” This come by way of the HBR Review.

The Real Work Of Leaders

“Leading begins when the performance of others becomes a top priority.” This quality post is by the Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell.

There are the 5 for this week. Take another look.

5 for Leadership-June 27th


This week in 5 for Leadership we have two posts on leading teams, one on the importance of leadership development, one on the importance of leading yourself, and one on the top complaints followers have about their leaders. There is a good lineup this week–take advantage.

Leadership Development Investments  “A new U.S. study of nearly 400 organizations by Lee Hecht Harrison has identified that 54% of employers plan to increase investments in leadership development in 2015. Only 5% of employers plan to decrease investments, and a further 41% reported leadership development investments will stay the same.” This is a very insightful post that includes the top 10 leadership competencies to focus on.

Why a Leaders Must Lead Himself First  “Culture tells us that one does not need to lead himself before he can lead others.” Joseph Lalonde provides three great reasons to lead yourself first.

The Top Complaints from Employees About Their Leaders  “If you’re the kind of boss who fails to make genuine connections with your direct reports, take heed: 91% of employees say communication issues can drag executives down, according to results from our new Interact/Harris Poll, which was conducted online with roughly 1,000 U.S. workers.” This is a great post from the HBR that highlights both followers desires and seven steps to take to gain their confidence.

How To Develop A Great Ministry Team  “I first began to understand the importance of teams as a seminary student. I did a study of the 100 largest churches in the United States, and I asked them a series of questions related to staff and ministry. This may come as no surprise, but the study showed strong churches have a strong team spirit. They do this by combining two things: a common goal with good communication.” Rick Warren provides some very practical insights for success in leading teams.

5 Signs Your Leadership Team Is In Trouble  “I once heard John Maxwell say that “team work makes the dream work.” However, as I survey the leadership landscape, I believe the reason a lot of dreams are not working is because a lot of teams are way more dysfunctional than dedicated.” This is from Perry Noble back in March. This post serves as a great compliment to the one above it. Read both for a full perspective.

There is 5 for Leadership for this final weekend in June.

(photo credit)