3 Guidelines For More Open-Handed Leadership

The longer you lead in any one organization, the more difficult it is to let go.

That’s natural.

You’ve invested more, so there is more to protect. Or at least be tempted to protect.

It’s not unlike the difference between a young adult who is twenty-five and a middle-aged adult who is fifty-five.

If you are a young adult who is just moving out of your parent’s place for the first time with a modest bank account and all you own in the back of an SUV, you are probably more willing to risk big because there’s not as much to lose.  

If you are a middle-aged adult with decades of life invested, married with three kids, a mortgage, and your life savings set aside, you’re still willing to risk, but you think about things differently. You handle your money differently … you are more likely to hold onto it and for good reasons.

In leadership, however, it’s essential to be more open-handed with your authority, influence, and what you have built.

Partially because it doesn’t really “belong” to you, but ultimately because the future of your church matters more than control and comfort.

Continue to take risks and give away as much authority as possible if you want your church to remain healthy and grow.

If you hold on to all the influence, your church will get stuck.

Don’t misunderstand; it does matter who you hand off to, along with when and how, so keep developing leaders you trust and believe in.

It may seem like I’m writing only to leaders over forty or over fifty.

I’m not. This is for leaders of every age.

The sooner your whole team embraces this idea, the faster it gets in your culture.

If you are young you may be tempted to think, “I don’t have much influence to give away.”

Sure you do.

There’s an army of incredible volunteers just waiting for you to empower them.

3 guidelines to follow:

1) Stop Protecting

Protecting comes naturally to good leaders.

  • Good shepherds protect their flocks.
  • Good flight attendants protect their passengers.
  • Good parents protect their kids.

But these are examples of protection from harm, not protection from growth.

As a leader, it’s important not to allow this nature to spill over into the arenas of responsibility, authority, decision-making, and influence.

I’m not suggesting you give away the farm — but do open your hand.

There are things that only you can do. Of course, keep them and do them.

In leadership, however, we tend to protect out of insecurity and fear, and we give from strength and courage.

Churches always benefit from the latter of the two.

What are you holding onto that you may need to hand off to someone else?

It’s not always easy to hand someone the keys. They might wreck the car, right?!

But someone gave you the keys, or you could never start driving. We have to keep passing things along.

The hand-off is not always fast… and each age group defines speed differently. 

Young leaders tend to think it’s moving too slow. I did. And seasoned leaders often think it’s moving very fast. That, too, is natural.

It’s better to do it right for your church and your culture than “fast.” The most important thing you can do is talk about it in open and honest conversations.

2) Start Including

All authority is transferred.

No one holds the ultimate true power and authority, except God.

He transferred it to His Son, and Jesus transferred it to His Disciples.

God transfers authority to the Son:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”

John 17:1-2

Jesus transfers that authority to the disciples: 

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” 

Luke 9:1-2

Jesus transfers authority to the body of believers:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

As a leader you also transfer authority.

And these scriptures represent the foundational biblical model for this idea. (There are many more scriptures that add support to this way of thinking about leadership authority.)

The following are very practical ways to express a more “open-handed” leadership that involves more people and helps to raise-up new leaders:

Think inclusive
Whenever possible, invite more potential leaders into the process of ministry and leadership development, rather than fewer.

Include other leaders at the table.

Think movement for the many, not club for the few.

Share ideas
Be quick to pass on great ideas, helpful articles, and books, tricks of the trade, insights, new trends, and insider info.

The more you give away, (lift the lids of your leaders), the more you raise your own leadership lid and the potential of your church.

Give information
Communication is key. All churches struggle with communication to a degree, but we can’t give up and resign to “it’s just part of the territory.”  

Dig in and communicate clearly, quickly, and concisely. Do your best to keep your team in the know.

Grant responsibility
What can you hand-off to other leaders?

They might not do it as well as you, but you have other big picture things to do.

Focus any re-gained time from delegated responsibilities to thinking about the future, praying, developing leaders, solving problems, and innovation.

Note, innovation is not about merely making things different; it’s about making them better.

Transfer decision-making
Hand in hand with giving responsibility to others, transfer as much decision-making as reasonable and appropriate.

It’s important to train your leaders first and remain diligent in transferring the culture that makes your church unique.

3) Keep Investing

Once you hand off responsibility, don’t stop investing and developing the leaders you empower.

Remember, some of your leaders are still new and need your wisdom and experience. They are better with you, just like you are better with them. 

You don’t have to start and master all this at once, but continue to take steps to more “open-handed” leadership.

8 thoughts on “3 Guidelines For More Open-Handed Leadership”

  1. Very good and challenging! After restarting our church it is growing numerically and with staff. Because of my convictions and the size of the church, I used to protect a lot. Now I’m forced to let go and trust more.
    This quote, “Think movement for the many, not club for the few.” rattles me. I want to keep our doctrinal distinction true by being selective of our elders, staff, and board. However, the mission and vision compel me to think “movement.”
    Thanks for the relevant issues you address.

  2. Thank you for your honest comments Jim!

    I pray God’s continued favor on you and your leadership especially as you navigate these deeper waters.


  3. Thank you, Dan. I appreciate how you touched on the how age can have some influence on handing off authority. I was edified with the biblical examples of how the God the Father transferred authority to the Son, Jesus Christ, who transferred authority to the disciples and even us.

  4. Thank you Dan!
    It always encourages me when I read your articles! Such tried and true principles!
    I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to launch a new campus for our church here in Florida and the very first thing I did was take the Lead Team of 16 through “Amplified Leadership!” What a blessing to watch the team grab hold of the principles and concepts of team building!
    Now, at the end of the month, I am about to start our very first campus JMEN group with 7 of our solid young men!
    I am forever grateful for everything I’ve learned about life and leadership from you!
    Thanks a million Dan! I am doing my best to pass it on!

  5. Hey Scott!

    Thanks for the note! And so glad Amplified Leadership is helpful!!

    Cool stuff about J Men! We have our JMen retreat this weekend. 48 men going through this year in 6 groups. (We limit it to that number.) Very excited.

    Hey good news, as you know the entire Joshua’s Men curriculum is online at our Resources for Church Leaders site and all free of course. This year I’m updating the content again! Should be done by summer. Some may be there to help you this year, but 2021 for sure! This is 18th year for us at 12Stone, and 33rd year for me. Tens of thousands of guys have gone through in churches across the country.

    Keep passing it on, and by the way, my next book comes out in April. I think you will love it. Title: Confident Leader!

    1. And if I can help you at all with your JMen group, please let me know. We have lots of things we do that are not yet included in the curriculum online.

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