The mistake of granting veto power

Early in my very first ministry assignment, I learned a key leadership principle by observing a ministry peer make a simple mistake repeatedly--a mistake that crippled the organization he was leading, making forward progress impossible on any significant level. Simply, my friend was granting what could be called veto power to an old sore head in his congregation. By veto power, I mean my ministry peer allowed this one person, regardless of the majority’s direction, to control or dictate if a new initiative was pursued.

The peer allowed this both formally and informally. He routinely allowed the man to sit back and wait for discussion to conclude on a given topic during church business meetings only to be given the floor to announce his disapproval and, thereby, ceasing any further consideration of the topic on the floor. Sometimes, my friend even decided to not move forward on an idea, because he merely suspected this man would be against it anyway. Veto power!

I determined then and there this was a mistake of leadership. It’s fine to give a person like that a fair opportunity to raise objection to an idea, any idea, but not to grant him any more power than any other individual in the congregation, and certainly not more than the congregation as a whole. No one individual should have such veto power.

Soon thereafter, I discovered a statement made by the late Dallas business giant, Fred Smith, that I took to heart on this matter. Smith’s statement went something like this: “Sometimes leadership is little more than making sure those accustomed to getting their way by yelling don’t get their way by yelling ever again.”

Related articles: Pastoral transitions: Times to thrive / The In-Between Vision / What If You Just Ask?!