3 Leadership Fashion Tips That Never Go Out of Style

Fashion is fickle.  What’s “hot” this season is “so yesterday” within a few months, so good luck trying to keep up!  We can fall into a similar trap when it comes to leadership principles.  Management is bad one day, and then it’s the strategic execution of leadership vision the next and so on.  While continuing to challenge our assumptions and strive for improvement is vital, there are a few principles that should never go out of style.

 Elegant couple with umbrella outdoors on rainy evening

Leadership Fashion Tip #1: Always deliver bad news in-person

A team member messed up and you have to confront him.

A volunteer in your kids’ ministry doesn’t seem to like kids.

Donations are down and you need everyone on the team to tighten their expenditures.

Bad news is never fun to deliver and in our electronic age it’s tempting to just shoot off an email instead of having a face-to-face conversation.  There’s no sad face to see, no emotions to deal with, or immediate pushback.

Sounds great, right? 

Maybe for a moment, but your lack of empathy and respect for the person on the other end of that email will likely come back to haunt you.  They’ll misinterpret something you wrote, be hurt and angry that you didn’t tell them in person, and may forward the email to gain sympathy.  Save yourself and the person you’re dealing with from additional pain and deliver the news in-person.

 Leadership Fashion Tip #2: Keep “Please” and “Thank-you” in your repertoire

I know this sounds like I’m taking you back to kindergarten, but I’m amazed at how often these simple words are left out of a leader’s vocabulary.

Yes, you’re in-charge.  Yes, you can bark orders…but should you?  

When delegating tasks, ask how long your staff member thinks it will take to complete the assignment and allow him to have some input in the deadline.  Then, hold him accountable.

When your assistant saves you from disaster before you even realized disaster was impending, say thank you.

Everyone needs encouragement and a little recognition on occasion.   Don’t deny your team the gift of your expressed appreciation.  Also, the way you treat your staff impacts how they’ll treat your volunteers.  Think about it.

Leadership Fashion Tip #3: Investing in your team pays great dividends.

Hopefully you took your time in the hiring process and have an incredible team.  So now that they’re hired, they should know everything and don’t need any additional help from you, right?


Even if you have the most qualified and passionate team members imaginable they still need your leadership and investment.

    • Meet with your direct reports to hear how each ministry area is doing; ask what challenges or obstacles are in their way, and how they’re doing as individuals.
    • Ask if there’s any task or project where it seems like there’s got to be an easier way to do things and look into getting them some training or outside help.
    • Send your leadership team to a conference or two each year where they can learn from other leaders.
    • Read a book with your team each quarter and discuss what you’re learning in a staff meeting.

Most of these don’t require a ton of time or money on your part, but can pay off in happier, more productive teams.

Leadership isn’t easy and our approach to leadership needs to be adaptable as our ministries and teams change.  However, these three principles are like those classic wardrobe pieces that never really go out of style.

So, what are your leadership fashion tips?