Bold Moves and Why Incrementalism Seldom Works

If you’ve led for any length of time, you know how rocky things can get when you start making changes. That unsettled, even chaotic, process drives many leaders to take the slow, methodical, baby-step road.  They argue, “If you change too fast, you just might destroy the organization and drive people away.” While there’s a nugget of truth in that statement, there’s also a bucketful of danger: Incrementalism seldom works.


In his book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, Bill Hybels promotes “Bold Move” as an essential leadership axiom.  He says:

You will never take big hills without making bold moves. The alternative is incrementalism, which is dangerous and often deadly to organizations. Incrementalism says, “Hey, let’s increase the effectiveness of our current efforts by 2 percent a year but then expect a huge increase in effectiveness to occur sometime in the future!”  That seldom works. Incrementalism and innovation make terrible bedfellows.  Make a few bold moves, or you’ll breathe your last leadership breath far too soon.

Leadership pace isn’t always easy to figure out.  Here’s a few questions to ask yourself before making a bold move:

  • Communication: Have I clearly explained the problem our bold move will solve?
  • Buy-In: Are our key leaders bought-in to the bold move?
  • Alignment: Is the bold move driving us toward our vision?
  • Wisdom: Have I sought counsel from a wise and seasoned leader?
  • Timing: Is the timing right for the move?
  • Benefit: How will the organization/church and its people benefit from the bold move?
  • Finances: What’s our plan to fund the bold move?
  • Execution: Who is responsible for the bold move’s implementation?
  • Reality: What facts am I ignoring?
  • Motives: Do I have a personal, self-serving agenda?

Question: What bold move do you need to take?