3 Ways to Evaluate Advice …

“If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then, to make sure it’s still there.”

Will Rogers

I love Will Rogers … now let’s talk leadership.

The leader out in front with their faithful dog trotting next to them, while the masses stumble along behind … Nice image.

Now let’s talk about that dog.

All leaders need counselors, others who can advise them and help them with the burdens of leadership.  This is a very good thing, which many have to learn the hard way.  You cannot do it all yourself.

However, some leaders fall under the sway of those who profess to help them, but who give poor counsel.  Think Grima Wormtongue advising King Theoden in LOTR: The Two Towers.  You cannot always count on a real obvious name to tell who the bad advisors are.

Well, would YOU listen to someone named Wormtongue?

So how do you know when you are receiving good advice from your faithful advisor?   Here’s some thoughts on that:

When they are so right in what they say that you have to admit it.

You know, when you have that feeling inside as they talk – “I know, I know … sigh”   If you hate hearing what they have to say, that is especially telling, since good advisors do not specialize in good news, but hard news.

When they recommend courses that offer no value to them, while benefiting others.

While some are awfully good at hiding their true agenda, my experience is that most people’s motives, whether altruistic or self-serving, are not all that difficult to discern.  Just stop and think about all the consequences of doing or not doing something … which you should do anyway.

When they are consistent and do not let the changing details of a situation change their advice on how to reach a goal.  

Speaking carefully here … I am NOT advocating sticking to your guns, regardless of reality.  Changing details which demand change in tactics are part of life.  An advisor will acknowledge that and suggest changes that still move us toward our goal.

That’s assuming the goal is a valid one in the first place.

The great danger for a leader is that their relationship with an advisor is that the relationship may start to affect your evaluation of the advice.  When someone else is with you for a long time, when you have worked together and accomplished great things, when you become used to asking their counsel, …. well, be careful.

As the leader, you still bear the greatest responsibility

Now, about that “checking behind you” think Rogers points out ~ we often think that if we just take off, others will follow.    They might, it’s just not a sure thing.

People follow when they trust you …

People follow if they know where you are leading them …

People follow  when they understand why you picked that direction  …

Just be sure your faithful and ever-present “servant” is truly serving you and your cause as you amble off into the storm.

Off on a tangent about leading and following in the Heartland …



2 thoughts on “3 Ways to Evaluate Advice …

  1. Great article, great thoughts..,and advice. I’m a first time reader here, having made my way through the Intersection’s website, where your blog is linked.

    This seems to me to be a timely read for thoughts rolling through my own head – a testament to this might be the fact that I’m actually commenting, as that’s not something I generally do when I read through the various blogs and sites on my daily travels.

    I’ve been attending a Disciples congregation now for about three years (I live in Canada and attend All People’s Church in Prince Edward Island), and have been moving through a Discernment toward Commissioned Ministry for most of that time. Matter of fact, I’m going to have my commissioning on the 20th of this month.

    Since I’ve started down this road, “Leadership” is something that has been occupying my mind quite a lot, especially where it applies to church and denominational leadership: my paradigm for understanding “good leadership” is a little different than what I see reflected as the underpinnings of this posting, but what I mostly tend to see (since I’ve started becoming involved in the “leadership” end of church) is a frozen wasteland of inaction, indecision, and a staunch dedication to methods based solely in realities that haven’t been such since about the 1960s. It isn’t so much that the leaders in the churches I’ve known are moving ahead of the herd in a well-planned direction so much as simply wandering off.

    And please don’t take this as an indictment against them – I have come to know some of the people in these leadership directions quite well, and I have absolutely no doubt where their hearts are concerned: these are good people…just not necessarily the most effective leaders, able to respond to the changing of the times, and provide an effective lead where new challenges are concerned. The tone, sad to say, of most of the church leaders I’ve met has been one of quiet despair – as though the decline of church in our society is a foregone conclusion and the downfall imminent. If I could point to a single thing in the churches I’ve seen and the leaders I’ve met, and have the power to change that one single thing, it would be the culture of fear and inaction that seems to be driving many of our churches. Where the church should be moving itself out in the world and trying as many new things as possible to bring Christ to people where they are, I see leadership stuck in the mentality of closing their church doors to “save what’s left”, or steadfastly holding to those ways and means of “doing church” that simply fail to resonate as meaningful with anyone but those who are already part of the existing membership. I’ve seen new attempts to engage people outside our doors meet with derision and the emergent leaders driven away by an established leadership that really doesn’t want change.

    I’m not the established Leadership in the church – borrowing from your analogy, I’m the dog. I suspect that the Man on the Horse is leading us toward a great ravine, but how do I communicate this to The Man, given that I don’t even speak his language (the language of church polity, high theology, and pre-defined ecclesiology)?

    Your article speaks to me of the need for leadership to listen to those dogs worth listening to – but I wonder if the problem isn’t more to do with leadership holding a course they know will lead to a dead end? It seems to me to be the great problem facing our church today. Vision is a wonderful thing, and necessary – but I wonder whether or not they’re dangerous as well, when they become fixed and beyond revision to accommodate reality.

    My apologies if this seems rambling and fails to come to any specific point – as I said, your post seemed to strike just the right note with a lot of the thoughts occupying my mind lately, and so this is probably more stream-of-thought than it should be.

    At times, I find myself at a loss where “being a good dog” is concerned, but so often what I see doesn’t make much sense to me. Being a dog, the world seems to me to be a lot simpler and more straightforward than a lot of those people on horses seem insistent on making it.


    • Hi, Shaun – thanks for your thoughtful and interesting response.

      I can relate to much of what you describe and it unfortunately is indicative of many mainline Protestant churches in these times.

      I’ll be back with a more detailed response later – I have a major project to complete right now:)

      Appreciate your reading – hang in there.



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