7 Good Reasons for a Leader to Say NO

Growth, Leadership
family, leaders, work

It’s tough disappointing people. Every time the word “No” is said, someone isn’t happy with the answer. Yet, the reality is there are good reasons for a leader to use the word. It is not the dirty word many leaders have made it to be.

There are so many requests on a leader’s time. Here are examples of ones heard frequently.

“Can you officiate a wedding – this weekend?”
“Will you write a guest post for my blog?”
“Can we have lunch/dinner this week?”
“Will you mentor me?”
“Can I have an hour of your time – today?”

And many more similar questions.

They are all legitimate questions. Usually there is nothing wrong with any of them as questions. And many times, it’s OK say yes to questions such as these. Many times.

But sometimes you can’t say yes. You must say no. And for so many it’s a key path to success in ministry and leadership.

This post is to explain why. We hope for those who know they can’t seem to say no to be inspired, encouraged, and challenged to use the word more. In leadership, even though it is an unpopular word, it may be one of the most valuable words we use.

Most leaders get far more requests for their time than they could ever accommodate. There’s only one of them. One is not enough for the number of requests they receive.

So, they’ve had no choice but to learn the power of saying no. It’s a learning process. Many times they do better than others. It requires discipline.

Learning the power of the word “no” also means taking the heat at times from the ones who disagree with the word.

Here are 7 Really Good Reasons for a Leader to say NO


A Faith Teams church was once had their then 87-year-old Pastor Emeritus talk to their staff. He has since passed away but served at the church 25 years before he retired. While there he admitted the way ministry is done has changed over the years, but one thing he wish he had known then and would encourages all of the staff still in ministry to do is to “protect the family”. He also said, looking back, it might have been more important than anything else he did in ministry. Golden wisdom!


You can’t do everything and do everything well. You may think you can – and others may think you should, but you can’t. Expectations, whether personal or placed upon us, do not dictate ability. Your efficiency depends on your ability to prioritize.

In fact, you’ll likely burnout if you try. Great leaders learn to specialize in what only they can do. That’s not always possible, and there are exceptions which arise every week that we didn’t see coming, but as much as possible, this should be our goal. When you say yes to everything, you’re causing your team to sacrifice your best energies where it’s needed most.


How effective are you from a hospital bed? Think this is being overly dramatic? Research the impact of stress on the body. Talk to your doctor about it. Developing a discipline of being able to say no when needed protects your personal health and well-being. It’s not just organizationally critical. It’s often life critical.

Saying no to another appointment, so you can say yes to an hour in the gym, may actually give you a few more productive years to add value to the world.


You’ll flame out if you try to do too much. Leadership is a marathon. Sometimes we have to sprint, but until we learn to balance our pace, we will never really accomplish all we could. The power of no provides fuel for longevity and continuance.

It’s a vision critical word. If you don’t start saying no to some things there may come a day when you crash hard enough that you have to say no to everything – and it may not be by choice.


When you always say yes, you eventually put yourself in a position of being necessary for everything to succeed – if nothing more than in the expectations in people’s minds. The organization becomes built around you. “Yes, I’ll be there.” “Yes, I can do that.” In time, you become the center – the necessary ingredient in all things that matter.

That is a dangerous place for most of us to handle. Talk about a power position. If not careful, we can become prideful, arrogant, and boastful – thinking that the organization can’t exist without us. (Think about that when the organization is the church.) Here’s reality: it can.


People will follow the leader. If you never say no your team will begin to think it’s not a culturally approved answer. They’ll suffer from all the things you’ll suffer from for always saying yes.

And a leader who learns and practices the power of no becomes a huge blessing to the people they lead – and their families.


This really is the bottom line. Leader, you have our hearts. We love leaders. And we know if you try to do everything – if you never say no – eventually you’ll injure your soul. You can’t do it all.

Someone reading this right now knows they are overwhelmed. You are in over your head. You’ve allowed people to hold you to very unrealistic expectations – or you did it to yourself – and it’s injured your soul. You need a break. It all started because you couldn’t say no. You never valued the power of the word. The Proverb is profound (and true) “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Do it! Protect your soul!

Now, please understand, this post is not an excuse for doing what we need to do as pastors and leaders. Sometimes the answer has to be yes. We should let our yes be yes and our no be no. Therefore, knowing how to choose the right word, at the right time, is part of maturing. Yet, it may be one of the most valuable things we can do to protect the integrity and longevity of our leadership is to learn the power of the word no.

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