Small Leaders, Cause BIG Trouble…


I recently received an e-mail from a friend of mine and it seems as though his church has been struggling for some time with issues of leadership…

Not with the ministry team, mind you, but with several powerful “lay leaders”.

As he described them, these are a handful of very influential members that have agreed to serve in one or more various unpaid capacities.

To be sure, such “lay leaders” are found in every organization… and they are often critically important to the group’s attitude and the overall performance of the team.

In a small business, these may be respected, non-management-level employees to whom the others look for approval, advice, or recognition.

On a sports team, they are the individuals who can make it okay (or NOT okay) for the rest of the players to accept a new coach, game plan, or strategy.

In the local youth orchestra, they might be a set of plugged-in parents (often the highest donors) who insist on events going their way.

And in a family, it’s the go-to member whose “blessing” is required before the rest can buy into a new idea.

Yes, they’re everywhere. And they can be very helpful… or very hurtful… to the overall mission of the group.


The challenge, of course, with these informal leaders is that very often… they ARE NOT leaders.

No slam on them… they’re just not there.

Yes, they may be perfectly willing… and they may be quite available… but that does not mean that they possess the ability to lead when circumstances get difficult.

And therein lies the problem.

As you have likely experienced, at various points in life or business, things can get really, really difficult. And that is when the ability to lead is most needed… and when the lack of that ability is most evident and destructive.

In every area of our lives… in our homes, churches, and businesses… a lack of leadership hurts others.

And the bigger the stakes… the more important it is to know who is in that role.


Twenty years ago a mentor of mine told me, “Steve, the size of a leader can best be measured… by the size of the things that make them mad. Small things… bother small people.”

I’ve never forgotten that.

Small people make lousy leaders. They tend to have poor self-images and to get offended and hurt easily and quickly. And this becomes a problem that is magnified because people who are hurting… often reach out and hurt others.

Not a winning combination for any organization… great or small.



Think about an instance when your leadership was seriously tested recently.

How did you handle it this time?
How would you have dealt with it in the past?
How will you handle it next time?

I look forward to hearing from you.


Photo Credit:

Gaetan Lee