Okay, I’m joining the crowd. The majority of Americans are tired and angry about political leaders who put off major decisions, often called “kicking the can.”

I’m mad at President Obama. I’m mad at Congress—both the Republicans and Democrats. My anger is an equal opportunity anger.

And please stop pointing your finger at the other party. We elected you to work out major decisions, not to see who could win the contest of creating the best scapegoat. Real leaders find ways to work with others. Real leaders accept responsibility instead of blaming others.

I’m guessing that I can’t take the same approach with the Internal Revenue Service. You know: “Let the IRS know that since I am uncertain of my expenditures for the year, I choose not to pay taxes for a while. I’ll get back to them when I make a decision.”

Nope. I can’t do that and remain a free man. It’s called breaking the law when I kick the can. It’s called politics when they do it in Washington. And they kick the can with billions and billions of dollars at stake.

We who lead families, businesses, and churches have to make decisions in a timely manner. We do not have the luxury of spending other people’s money while we try to figure things out.

Kicking the can leadership is bad for our country. It’s bad for any organization: family, business, school, church, and others. Allow me to share just five reasons why it can lead to disaster. I’m sure there are many more.

  1. The situation inevitably gets worse by putting off decisions. I have known people in leadership positions who have difficulty making decisions on major issues. They kick the can and the issue worsens each week they delay.
  2. Those who serve under “kicking the can” leaders lose confidence in them. This style of leadership not only destroys effectiveness in an organization; it really hurts morale. People can no longer trust the leader to get the job done.
  3. Other decisions get put on hold. When a leader kicks the can on a singular decision, there is usually a domino effect. Many other decisions were dependent on that one decision being made. Kicking the can on one issue means kicking the can on several issues.
  4. Fearful leadership becomes normative. You know what we need in Washington. We need courageous leaders. The fearful leadership of our current so-called leaders in D. C. is epidemic. It reminds me of a bunch of second graders fighting on the playground. They soon start crying and running to the teacher to let her know it was someone else’s fault.  Kicking the can leadership is contagious.
  5. Factions grow. Kicking the can leadership is really not leadership at all. And when there is no clear leadership, factions form to fill the void. These factions typically have an adversarial relationship with each other because each is trying to be the de facto leader. This reality exacerbates a situation that is already bad.

We have plenty of kicking the can leaders in D. C. We need courageous leaders in Washington. We likewise need courageous leaders in our families, businesses, schools, and churches.

What do you think about kicking the can leaders? How do you think this style of weak leadership plays out in other organizations? What is the solution?


  1. JonathonG says

    In my experience, the attitude of kicking the can down the road is caused by just a handful of reasons. This is not an exhaustive list, but generally the top three are; 1)Self Preservation 2)Ignorance 3)Laziness

    We half joke and complain about the “Do nothing Congress” and other political leaders, however, we can only force positive action by politicians with our collective vote. What if we viewed Church leadership through the critical same lens? Regardless the size or type of organization, basic leadership principals are universal.

    In our churches, the hesitation in making difficult decisions by the Pastor is often one that is borne out of self preservation. Many, even a few who have posted on this very Blog, are afraid to rock the boat or break with “status quo” for fear of losing support from key leaders or ultimately, their position. The result of course, is frustration and nothing changes. Then again, some simply do not know what to do and some are lazy.

    With leadership boards, delay is often due to ignorance. They simply do not know what to do because they have not been trained or they bring no true leadership ability to the table. Rather than seek guidance, listen to their Pastor or search the scriptures for themselves, they will allow a problem to fester and grow. In the end, they often blame the Pastor and show him the door. Rewind and repeat with the next Pastor.

    Laziness is the worst of the three reasons I note above because it can’t be solved with truth. This is a generally a lifelong heart condition that makes a person unfit to lead at any level. This type of leader is best invited to make a hasty exit so the mission can go forward.

    In Church leadership, delayed action is delayed mission. Jesus didn’t say in Matt 28:19 to “Therefore go and watch” or “therefore go and blame the other guy”. He said “Therefore go and make…”. Jesus went on to say that He “will be with us always”, so there’s nothing to fear.

    It’s time to get back to basics. Pastors must pour into their leadership teams. Your are the “first among equals” for a reason. This happens through authentic “one on one” personal relationships with the individuals currently in leadership, and with those you have identified for future leadership.

    Leadership groups and boards must set the expectations up front and follow up in writing. Create a method for setting goals, measuring results and other performance coaching systems. Most importantly, never hold others to a standard that you cannot possibly meet yourself.

    This is getting quite long, and only scratches the surface of simple solutions to a serious problem within the Body of Christ.

    Friend, if you are in this situation; I assure you that it can be changed and that you can cause God to smile and bless the work of your hands. Because of God’s abundant grace and limitless mercy, It’s never too late. Remember that Jesus risked it all and that He will be with you. He promised!

    -In His Grip

  2. Laurence McKeon says

    I feel like we have some leaders in Washington, who ran for office with solid intentions on helping make a change, but when we mix, and I emphasize “we”, these leaders along with the old gaurd leaders who have been elected so many times this has become a career for them, it stalls this change we all hope will happen. In order to experience progress and avoid “kicking the can,” I feel the political culture in Washington needs a complete culture overhaul. Howeve, rIts not really fair to blame these leaders for stalling the process when we continue to elect them into office every 4 to 6 years, but thats also what makes this country so great, is we have this freedom to even elect these leaders. We might be upset with President Obama, Congress, Republican and Democrat, but we, (collectively) put them there.

    I like your 5 reasons why it can lead to disaster, and these same reasons can be applied to life in general, not just politics. We all experience some form or level of procrastination, both secularly and spiritually, and sometimes I wonder whether the seperation of church and state contributed to alot of what we experience today within the political realm. I’m not advocating that each session of Congress begin with the Our Father, though that would be nice, but politics needs common sense and everyday commonality mixed in to it. If political leaders could hold some of the same Characteristics as Jesus did when he walked this earth, like alittle humility and passion for life, we might witness the begginings of progress in a stalled political process.

    Thanks for stimulating my brain cells here.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Great thoughts Laurence. Thank you. And you’re right. We voters are to blame as well; we put them there.

  3. Bennett Willis says

    One more item that Jonathon did not mention is that both sides have to be willing to be reasonably flexible. If either says that we cannot give any on the topic, then compromise and a solution that works well enough is beyond reach.

    • Jack Johnson says

      When two sides are so far apart in ideology then there can be no compromise. I’m afraid that our great nation is at this point. A Constitutional Republic and Socialism cannot co-exist!

  4. Darrell says

    Sadly, I think this type of leadership is far too common in churches, which rely too heavily on committee systems. I once had a professor in college that said committee slow the decision-making process and they lead to a lack of accountability.

  5. Brandi Vogel says

    I believe we need to kick out these men and women who play kick the can. To do this , do not vote for them when reelection comes up. In other organizations the kick the can leaders are found out and they are usually given an ultimatum, get this ball rolling or you can pack your bags and leave. This works because it not only starts a fire under the kick the can leader but the men and women working under him see what will happen to them if they continue to kick the can. If they continue to kick the can they are handed their last pay check and let go. By doing this everyone working in the organization realizes their are consequences for their actions or lack of . The solution is to reintroduce political leaders to the consequences of kicking the can. Force them to resign, do not vote for them in elections, bring the law back and make them accountable for their breaking the law(treason etc. ) , go through with impeachment process and throw them out of the White House. Only then will leaders begin to see that they do their jobs lawfully and timely and well or they will be removed!

  6. Randall Cofield says

    We need men like those of Issachar, and that type of leader is forged in familial and ecclesiastical fires of uncompromising conviction. God help of conceive them, raise them, train them, commission them, and send them.

    They will understand the times and know what to do.

  7. Steve Pryor says

    Great article, as always. To address the issue, we have to ask ourselves “why do I kick the can?” I.e. what is the root cause for cankicking? Off the top of my head: complacency, timidness, leary of alienating one faction, afraid to make a decision, its the easy way out,,,,,

  8. John W Carlton says

    The five statements that you have laid down are so true. As a young minister I had to learn the hard way to face problems head on. Later on as a manager with an insurance company a real truth was taught to us, “What you face you control; what you fail to face controls you.

    We need competent leaders who will take a stand no matter if it is politically correct or popular and “Drive down a stake.”

    Thank you for your comments. I only hope and pray that those who are in authority over us will read and heed.

  9. says

    I’ve been a pastor all my adult life and most of my adolescence. My Grandfather and Dad and two brothers and a son are pastors. I’ve read pastors and listened to pastors and spent time with pastors for years. I have a pretty good sense of what many expect from pastors. Pastors are often considered professional “nice guys” who are skilled at keeping people happy, talking in holy abstractions, and staying out of the way when people are grappling with the raw realities of living. We are pressured to confine our role to conducting ceremonies, dispensing platitudes, delivering harmless homilies and then stepping out of the way while people wrestle with the blood, sweat, tears, toil, grief, guilt and shame of life. We are often shouldered to the margins of life. We’re not always sure where to stand, what to say, and what to do with our hands. We are pressured to contribute valiantly to the general inertia of the church. To protect our modest livelihoods we are expected to see to it that people get what they expect. …

  10. says

    Kicking The Can….Wow! I think of Moses….imagine you we’re the one that had to lead all of God people, millions have just been freed from years of bondage and now as a leader your face with the Red Sea with Pharaohs army gaining fast. God doesn’t chose leaders who are gods or who already have all the answers, that are perfect in every way, but leaders who totally trust in the leading of Gods voice “Moses what’s in your hand stretch it out” millions were saved and Pharaohs army lost. Kicking The Can …. CHURCHES “we’ve always done it this way” or “God would never do something so out of the box” 2013 millions stand at a Red Sea not knowing the way with satins army gaining fast…..As leaders and believers we can’t afford to “Kick The Can” hearing Gods voice and taking action can be the difference of millions being won to Christ with a retirement package that’s “out of this world” or millions opening their eyes and realizing they did not get the fire insurance. Washington DC will go on kicking the can……..but as believers and leaders in the Kingdom we must be about the Father business winning the lost to Christ.


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