3 Warning Signs of “Watch Me Swim” Leadership

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One of the tensions effective leaders must constantly manage is to recognize the difference between confidence and arrogance.

Effective leaders carry with them a quiet strength that comes from knowing that God has equipped them to mobilize people and resources to accomplish Kingdom goals.

These leaders also know, however, that it’s a short walk from here to a distasteful form of arrogance, and they constantly work to manage this tension.

But if you toss insecurity into the character mix, now you really have a dangerous cocktail.

Now you could have “Watch Me Swim” leadership.

Image via iStockPhoto.com

I first heard this apt description used by my good friend Jack McLaughlin. It’s a term that describes a leader who, like a child in the backyard swimming pool, is desperate for others to notice their accomplishments.

But in leadership it can quickly render you ineffective because:

  • It appears self-serving
  • It erodes trust in followers
  • It diminishes respect among other more secure leaders

Any leader is susceptible to “Watch Me Swim” leadership tendencies, but you can avoid it by watching out for these 3 warning signs:

1.   You embelish the significance of accomplishments
“Watch Me Swim” leaders are often quick to congratulate themselves. I heard of one pastor who sent an email to his board celebrating the fact that “4th quarter attendance was up significantly over 3rd quarter attendance.”

But 4th quarter attendance was always up significantly over 3rd quarter attendance in that church. It was merely part of a historical weekend trend.


2.   You imply credit for achievements you had little to do with
I knew one senior pastor who announced to his board that, on his watch, “baptisms had increased 20%”. What he didn’t mention was that virtually all of those baptisms had come out of youth ministry, and he really had had no part of this whatsoever.

3.   You “spin” lack of results
“Watch Me Swim” leaders have a way of attributing poor results to any factor other than their own leadership.

Among “Watch Me Swim” leaders, “spiritual warfare” is a favourite way to explain away poor results.

If you want to build your credibility as a leader, heed these warning signs, before “Watch Me Swim” turns into “Help- I’m Drowning”.

How do you manage the tension between leadership confidence, and leadership arrogance?

the author

Scott Cochrane

One comment

  1. “3 Warning Signs of “Watch Me Swim” Leadership” ended up being a good blog post and thus I actuallyended up being extremely joyful to locate the article.

    Thank you, Antje

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