My Top 3 Leadership Mistakes

If you are a leader, you surely have made mistakes.  And chances are, you have made the same mistakes more than once. Why?  Because we all have leadership blindspots, areas where we tend to make repeated miscues because we don’t see things within ourselves or those people or systems we lead clearly.

Over my ministry, I have made three general mistakes several times. The good news is that for so long I didn’t even see it, but only the pain these mistakes caused, but now I do.  A great prayer leaders should pray is, “God help me to see the blindspots in my leadership”

Mistake #1  Raising Up Leaders too Quickly

I am a guy who likes to say “yes” and who likes to believe in the best, especially in people.  I want to be a builder of people and groups so much that at times, I rushed ahead. So, when a person comes with an idea, or a position is needed, instead of taking the time to discern and delegate gradually overtime, I would quickly commission, send them up the mountain, and wish for the best.  I didn’t delegate, I abdicated. On so many occasions, my instincts would tell me, “this person isn’t the right fit” or “this person isn’t quite ready” or “we need to take this one step at a time.” However, I would ignore my instincts in an effort to move ahead. Big mistake. As the saying goes, “It’s a lot easier getting married than getting divorced”  Most of the greatest challenges I have faced in ministry have been because I raised someone up too quickly, and knew I was doing it in my spirit.

Can you believe it? I knew in my gutt I was doing the wrong thing, but I pushed ahead anyways.  As Alex McManus once told me in a coaching session, “The moment you stop following your gutt is the moment you stop leading” Ouch.

No one is perfect, nor perfectly ready for any task or appointment, that’s a given. But, in the name of blazing ahead of God and wanting to say “yes” I rejected the model Jesus displayed of taking time upfront to discern, train, develop, and delegate over time. I ignored passages like, “Be careful in the laying on of hands” and “He who is faithful with little will be faithful in much”  And every time, I payed dearly on the back side when that person got in over their heads, couldn’t handle the power, moved too slowly or quickly, spun out of control, or flat out became a renegade. In moving ahead prematurely, I failed them, God, and the ministry as a whole. All in the name of saying “yes” and a trying to be an overnight builder of people and groups.

Mistake #2  Believing I Could Fit where I Didn’t Fit and Change what Really Didn’t Want to Be Changed

No where in ministry has my ego caused me more pain then in thinking I could do what is really impossible, and that is, to change people and circumstances that were set up and bent on resisting change.

On at least two occasions, I have signed on to ministry challenges that in my spirit I knew were set up to fail, but my ego told me, “You are a great leader, you can do the impossible, you can love them on board, pray them on board, and cast enough vision that everything is going to work out all dreamy!” Not. Wise, spirit-filled people even told me ahead of time, “don’t go there” but my ego said, “I can handle it.”  The common sense check/warning in my spirit God gave me ahead of time, I ignored again. How stupid is that? Very.

It doesn’t work well to try to take a square object and jam it into a round hole. Both the object and the whole end up loosing in the end. Yet, I have thought in ministry that I could find a way to fit in or change the shape where there was an obvious misfit.  Do I believe in change? Absolutely. Do I believe people and groups can be transformed, absolutely. But not apart from a comprehensive move of God and the comprehensive openness of the person or group. Furthermore, some organizational systems and strongholds within a group are change killers, and to think one is going to go in and turn it around a part from the spiritual surgery of God and the openness of the patient, is not wise. Even Jesus couldn’t accomplish this among so many groups and individuals. So, why did I think I would be any different? Pride.

The scriptures are true, “Pride comes before a fall” and to be sure my pride has led me down ministry paths I never should have never traveled. I love a challenge, I love to believe in the impossible, I love going where the chance of failure is greater than the chance of success, I love facing the odds and rising above.  But, what you can lead in your own life cannot always be led in the lives of others and groups of people. Discernment and listening to the Spirit of God to only face the challenges He assigns is key.  I will no longer try to lead that which God has warned me not to lead.

Mistake #3  Internalizing Conflict

Conflict is a part of all ministry. So a leader must learn to deal with it without internalizing it. For me, this has been much easier said than done.  I love people, and honestly, like to be loved. Who doesn’t?

For most accomplished leaders, they have those tough conversations, they make the tough decisions, they face the floggings and the oppositions. Does it hurt them? Yes. Does it break their heart? Yes.  Do they consider their own brokenness and shortcomings? Yes.  But do they internalize it and let it all eat them alive? No. Somewhere they have learned to “turn it off” and “let it go.” They have become skilled at resisting second guessing themselves to death and emotionally nose diving into a tail spin.

I don’t like the idea of getting thick skin. I like the idea of coming into the secret place of God. I’ll take His skin over any thickening of mine.

I am learning how to come into the presence and strength of God in such a way that enables me to be secure and safe while still being as direct, decisive, and assertive as good leadership requires.

May God bless you and your leadership!