Daniel Darling dedicated an issue of his newsletter to 5 Common Mistakes Leaders Make, identifying the following leadership missteps:
- A Refusal to Deal with Personal Insecurities
- No Gray Hair in the Inner Circle
- Unwillingness to Build Relationships Across Key Constituencies
- Unwise Stewardship of Leadership Capital
- A Lack of Personal Humility
His exposition of each of these observations is worth reading, so visit the link.
I have a few thoughts on each of these corrective admonitions.
All five of these failings evidence of immaturity. All can be grown beyond. All five are potential pitfalls, especially for developing leaders.
Ministry leaders, like everyone else, have insecurities. The crucible of ministry service reveals what those insecurities are. The congregation is the forge for growth in holiness. It may not always be pleasant, but God often works through our relationships with those we serve to reveal the ways we have yet to stand confidently in the gospel, secure in faith. The people we serve often help us to see more clearly the way of repentance. Knowing oneself is a gift of God, but it often comes through intimacy with weakness, the very places where God’s grace can be displayed as strength.
While it is true that young leaders can mistakenly surround themselves exclusively with those of their age and stage, old leaders can commit the opposite, parallel error. Leaders need to know their congregation, from the oldest to the youngest, saying hello, learning names, shaking hands, being present, displaying curiosity, demonstrating care, and being open and vulnerable, sharing not only the gospel, but life.
I’ve seen leaders steward their “leadership capital” poorly, but knowing where and how and at what pace to lead is not easy. It’s easy to say “don’t spend it too quickly!” But the opposite error can be made, moving too slowly or doing nothing at all in order to play it safe. It’s more art than science, involving discernment, sensitivity, and skill. I don’t think anyone does this perfectly. Wisdom in this area comes from knowing that leaders gain trust in spoonfuls and lose it in buckets, so lead wisely.
The fifth is the key to lessening propensity to falling prey to the previous four. Humble leaders often become so by dealing with their insecurities in healthy ways, learning their limitations and the power of God in light of those limitations. They associate with all kinds of people. They are confident in making bold decisions, but they appreciate the weight of their decisions, are very aware of ways their decisions effect the people they lead, bear the criticism directed their way from those who disagree with them from a place of understanding and compassion, and share the credit when things go right. In fact, the most humble leaders give all the credit away to those who gave and sweat and prayed and bled and served and worked, and to God, who makes all things possible.
They know that, in the end, the objective is to glorify God. They know that in God’s kingdom the last are first and the first are last, that we are called not to lord over but to serve, that we are the unworthy who have been made worthy through so great a salvation. There is only one name to proclaim in ministry leadership, there is only one whose reputation and reign ultimately matter. The ministry leader knows that their being brought in, appointed, and anointed is a sheer miracle of grace. Having received so great a salvation, they cannot neglect it. They live in light of it. They invite others to do the same.