The Painful Reason Leaders Get Stuck And Stop Growing

Watching a grown man fight back tears is painful.

When a local pastor asked me to grab coffee after I spoke at an event for pastors and church leaders, I had an idea where the conversation might go.

Growing church. Hard working leader. Just heard me say that nothing is more critical to someone's success than their personal management.

Focusing on what matters most in life and work.

The reason I talk about this so often with church leaders is that I have personally experienced the pain that momentarily overwhelmed my new friend.

Like you, I work hard. But sometimes hard work doesn't always yield the results that we want. And you know what happens when you're busy being busy?

You end up crying in coffee houses with relative strangers.

It wasn't hard to empathize with my friend. Here was a hard-working, ambitious leader who had used everything he knew to be successful, and nothing seemed to work.

'What do I do?' The question was asked with broken desperation. It's a question that leaders don't ask until they come to the end of themselves - their intelligence, their experience, their hustle.

And it's the one question they need to ask if they're going to get where they want to go.

Why Do Leaders Stop Growing?

During a Q&A session at a conference I was speaking at, someone asked me why leaders fail. Why do leaders make progress and then get stuck? Why do leaders stop growing and evolving? 

Why do dreams of church plants only stay inside of someone's head?

Why does a new church stop growing too soon?

Why does a growing church never become a stable church?

Why does a multiplying church collapse right as it appears to be hitting its stride?

My experience in working with hundreds of churches over the past few years leads me to one conclusion.

The #1 reason churches and church leaders get stuck and stop growing is because they refuse to change.

Why Leaders Refuse To Change

When faced with a major change in their personal or professional lives, studies have shown that each and every one of us follows a very predictable series of reactions called the human change curve. 

The typical change curve starts with DENIAL. A person will typically avoid a topic, appear unconcerned with it, refuse to believe something is happening, focus on details, ask nit-picky questions and challenge a decision.

When leaders get stuck, they usually act like there isn't a problem. They keep doing the same thing the same way, even if it's obvious what worked then doesn't work now. And if that sounds like someone you know, that's because all of us do this at some point in some area of life and leadership.

After denial, a leader moves on to RESISTANCE. A leader will typically become angry, aggressive, use sarcasm, feel overwhelmed or depressed and complain and ask, 'Why me?' They don't take responsibility for the situation and avoid accountability to anyone around them. 

Why? Because reality has set in.

Now the bad news is that far too many leaders set stuck bouncing back and forth between DENIAL and RESISTANCE. Personally and professionally, it becomes easier to create an alternative narrative or to fight against what appears to be glaringly obvious.

But there is good news.

A leader who is willing to change doesn't stay stuck.

When a leader refuses to choose DENIAL or RESISTANCE, good things can happen. Leaders continue to grow by moving on to EXPLORATION. In this phase of the change curve, leaders seek to understand and embrace new ways of doing things. They start to unleash their creativity and begin to look forward. Their motivation begins to increase as they see new possibilities down the road and just over the horizon.

That leads to the final stage of COMMITMENT. When a leader begins to feel they might actually realize some of those new possibilities, they become confident and take control as they focus on consistent improvement.  This stage is where results actually happen.

Will You Get Stuck Or Will You Keep Growing?

These four stages - DENIAL, RESISTANCE, EXPLORATION, COMMITMENT - help us understand why some leaders consistently grow and why other leaders get stuck and stop growing.

The difference between growing leaders and stuck leaders is more basic than you might think. Growing leaders understand that change is constant so they skip the first two stages of DENIAL and RESISTANCE and jump straight to EXPLORATION. They quickly attempt to figure out what's going on and map out possible changes that yield better results. 

Stuck leaders sit back and wait for someone to prove it to them. They are cynical towards those who change course and create solutions that seem unreasonable. Church leaders reinforce their positions by only listening to other leaders who share their skepticism. Sounds like RESISTANCE, right?  

Do The Next Right Thing

If you've read this far, I'm assuming that you want to continue to grow as a leader. There's too much at stake in your life and in your church for you to get stuck and stop growing.

Do you know how exceptionally rare you are? Maybe 10% of the world around you is willing to EXPLORE and COMMIT to new possibilities. That might be why people think you're weird, investing so much time and resources into learning and imagining a different future for yourself, your family or your church.

One of the things I have discovered as I work with church leaders is that you're often surrounded by others who have stopped growing and encourage you to stop growing, too. 'We like things the way they used to be, pastor.' 'This place sure was better when it was smaller and more simple. It felt like a real family.' 

Sound familiar?

I've created something for you if you're looking for a proven strategy that keeps you focused on the habits of EXPLORATION and COMMITMENT. And if you schedule a FREE breakthrough call with me, I'll show you the exact process that I use and have used with dozens of church leaders like you.

If you can't afford to live in DENIAL and RESISTANCE, take two minutes and schedule your breakthrough call today!

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