It could be assumed that a guy who writes a leadership blog has never made any leadership mistakes. And that assumption would be wrong. I am a student of leadership by learning from others, as well as from my own mistakes. Here are a few notable ones:
- Jumping to a conclusion before waiting for all the information.
- Not following my gut until it was way too late and I had a big problem on my hands.
- Skipping the “meeting before the meeting” to help rally the stakeholders.
- Spent too much time trying to convince people of a direction, and losing the window of opportunity to move forward.
- Letting other concerns divert my focus from my ministry.
- Letting ministry become my mistress for a season.
- Firing too slowly, convincing myself attitudes will improve or capacity and competence will increase.
- Hiring too quickly. This happens when I’m desperate for a solution and so settle for any person rather than the right person.
- Allowing misalignment to go unaddressed, or assuming it will get better on its’ own.
- Releasing someone for misalignment before giving them an opportunity to improve.
- Not speaking truth to power when I might have been the only person who could.
- Speaking truth to power at the wrong time or in the wrong way.
- Putting progress or projects in front of people.
- Putting my relationship with someone in front of what God was calling us to do.
- Becoming impatient with my leader rather than waiting on God’s timing.
- Not leveraging my influence with a leader who needed my encouragement and leadership to pull the trigger on a decision.
- Convincing myself that every single decision is a deal-breaker if it doesn’t go my way.
- Going through seasons of apathy where I fought for nothing and no one.
- Not saying enough encouraging words to someone.
- Saying only encouraging words when some correction was needed.
- Keeping a dying ministry or program alive longer than I should have.
- Killing a successful program that was providing more life and health in the church than I previously thought.
- Not noticing small ethical lapses in someone that ultimately piled up to a huge character problem.
- Blaming myself for being blind to an individual who was living a double life.
- Talking someone into staying on the team when his or her heart was no longer in it.
- Not using my influence to close the sale with someone who God was calling to the team.
- Too quickly pursuing a vision without considering the facts.
- Dwelling on the facts so long that it kills the vision.
- Putting a correction in an email rather than talking face-to-face.
- Failing to follow-up a corrective conversation in writing, and then didn’t have the documentation needed later.
I hope you can tell by this list two things: First, I’m not a perfect leader. In 27 years of leading as an adult, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. If you are afraid of making mistakes, you should not be a leader. If you fear the day you have to stand in front of others and tell them you were wrong, you should pump gas or sell Cutco. Innate within leadership is the probability that you will make mistakes.
Secondly, leadership is not an exact science. If you do the same thing twice—it can be exactly right in one instance and the absolute wrong action in the next situation. Leadership requires prayer, discernment, collaboration, intuition, research, experience, confidence, self-control and the guts to take risks.
Above all, leadership requires humility. People will follow a humble leader anywhere. But a proud leader will fall soon and hard. Because of your gifting, your ability to cast vision and compel a crowd—people will say nice things about you and the danger is you might begin to believe what people say. Pride is a dangerous trap in anyone’s life, but more so in the life of a leader.
For a church leader who can rally people to a cause, the stakes are much higher. Your fall will not just mess up you and your family—but it will mess up the lives of scores, perhaps hundreds, of people around you.
Remember, “Pride lands you flat on your face; humility prepares you for honors.” (Proverbs 29:23)