Have you ever seen the TV show, Hoarders?

It’s not a show for the faint of heart. The reality of these people’s homes is somewhere between gross and gut-wrenching. As you watch the show, you learn the people facing these issues with hoarding are dealing with stuff far deeper than their piles of garbage. They are battling mental illness and psychological hurdles.

My friend lived next door to a real-life hoarder. He was relationally isolated and rarely left his home. In fact, he died – and no one figured out he was dead for three weeks. If you’re eating, skip the next sentence and pick up in the next paragraph. The complex had central air, and the air-conditioning wasn’t on yet. Did I mention this guy lived in Phoenix? When they found him, his body had melted into the floor.

Welcome back if you’re eating your lunch. The complex didn’t have any resources to deal with the mess the police discovered when they did a well check on this man. It took two days for a professional hazmat crew to deal with the mess. This man had over 1000 used needles in his home (he was diabetic). There were tons of dead bugs. The stories my friend told me were unreal!

You may be wondering about the reason for starting with a story like this. As I think about this series on simplicity, I thought of the opposite quality. The opposite of simplicity is complexity. Many of our problems come from navigating unnecessary complexity. While the story of my friend’s neighbor is terrible and a sign of deeper problems than too much garbage, I think leaders face the same problem. We hoard things. And the things we hoard complicate and worsen the quality of our lives. When we hoard good things, they are transformed from good to bad things. Like a gallon of milk, they sour. Abandoned on the shelf, milk goes bad. In the same way, not making a decision is actually a decision.

When Leaders Hoard

I sat down and listed five things leaders tend to hoard. These are things I’ve hoarded and they’ve added needless complexity to my life. If we can let go of these things or make some shifts, we can find the kind of simplicity which brings freedom.

1. We hoard decisions.

I once served under a leader who could not pull the trigger on a decision. We deferred and deferred until after the opportunity was lost. If you’ve ever watched an Olympic relay race, you’ve seen this happen. In a relay race, there is a short window where the baton can be exchanged. If the baton isn’t exchanged in that zone, the team is disqualified.

Instead of hoarding decisions, ask this question. “What is your decision threshold?” Attach a percentage to your certainty level. Determine the most certain you ever become about a decision. Get there and pull the trigger. Once you know your certainty threshold, you empower yourself to make faster decisions. Making decisions means there’s less clutter in your mind.

2. We hoard drama.

I’m not sure who said it first, but I believe the life we want is on the other side of a decision we refuse to make. Jack Canfield wrote, “Everything you want is on the other side of your fear.” We’re afraid of addressing something, and that drama is costing us the life we want.

Leadership guru Andy Stanley once asked a really important question, “If you were fired, what is the first thing your replacement would do?” Do you know what they would do? If so, then what’s holding you back? When I think about past challenges in my leadership, I find many occasions when I was simply too afraid to do what needed to be done. Someone who wasn’t so close or so afraid would have pulled the trigger and found new momentum.

In that same talk, Stanley continued, “Fire yourself. Walk out the door, walk back in and do that thing your replacement would do.” Dealing with drama means there’s less clutter on your team. When we address our fear head on, we stop hoarding and we start simplifying.

3. We hoard authority.

One of the hardest parts about being a leader is we’re rarely ready for the responsibility. We know how to do the work, but we don’t know how to lead others to do the work. So we end up telling other people what to do, instead of equipping and empowering them to do what we used to do. Craig Groeschel, the pastor of the largest church in the United States, shared this key idea in a leadership talk. “Delegating responsibility creates followers. Delegating authority creates leaders.” In my own leadership journey, I have regularly hoarded authority, which meant I hoarded followers. Everyone was dependent on me and I became overwhelmed. I was the limit on growth and development.

What would it mean to stop hoarding authority and start empowering followers to become leaders? What would it mean to not only give someone responsibility but authority too? As we release leaders, they’re more empowered people to accomplish the vision. And we’re free to focus on the few things only we can do to move things forward.

4. We hoard bitterness.

If you’re a leader, you will be wounded. You’ll be hurt and betrayed by the people you lead. Someone once said, “leaders get too much attention, affection, and attack.” If you’re out in front, you get shot first. And in the presence of a wound, we often struggle to forgive and we become bitter.

If we do not forgive, we hoard bitterness. In the same way that the hoarding ruined the home of that neighbor, hoarding bitterness ruins the inside of us. Contrary to popular thinking, forgiveness doesn’t let the other person off the hook; it sets us free. Dealing with bitterness means there’s more room in our hearts for love. (If you need help finding forgiveness, check out my ebook, Forgiveness: From Myth to Reality.

5. We hoard the credit.

One of the tragedies of leadership is leaders get too much blame and too much credit. We all love affirmation and encouragement. These are good things. But when we hoard them, they destroy us as they over-inflate our egos and make us believe we are more than we actually are. Unhealthy leaders hoard the credit and destroy the team we are supposed to serve. No one wants to follow a leader with a big ego who hogs all the credit.

Healthy leaders accept blame when things go wrong and share the credit when the team wins. Super-Bowl winning quarterback Peyton Manning is the prime example of this kind of leadership. If you watch any of the post-game interviews Manning did, they’re all the same. It’s as if he was a robot. After a loss, he focused on his mistakes. After a win, he focused on his teammates’ success. He accepted the blame and deflected the credit to others.

Dealing with ego means there’s room for more success. Jim Collins, best-selling author, wrote a book entitled, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Never Give In. The book explores how once great companies fell from their high point. In each company Collins studied, the number one reason the mighty fell was hubris born of success. Ego. When we share the credit, we find there are more people who want to serve and help us accomplish the task in front of us.

Like those who hoard in their homes, we must deal with the deeper issues to find the freedom. As we go deeper and begin to let go, we find a freedom which is contagious for others. People want to follow a leader who leads them to freedom.