How bout I start with a little cold blooded honesty: Each one of these are mistakes I have made. And in some cases, still make. My goal with this blog is not to be negative or self-deprecating. Rather I just want to be helpful. Over the years, I’ve learned more about leadership from others honesty about their mistakes than just about anything. So here goes, in no particular order, 12 mistake I’ve made in leadership:
1) Judging your success by the size of your following – I think this is the most common mistake a leader makes. They imagine that their ministry is not successful, valuable or valid because it’s not a mega-ministry. In the kingdom, your success has nothing to do with your ministry sphere. It has everything to do with faithfulness in love. Realizing you are loved by God and are a lover of God is the foundation of success.
2) Taking it personally when people don’t follow – I’ve stepped in this hole many times by getting frustrated or blaming myself when people don’t follow. There is no way every person you have the honor of leading is going to flawlessly follow. Consider Jeremiah. He didn’t have one convert after 20 years of prophetic ministry. Don’t take it personally when someone veers off the path or leaves your ministry. Be kind, prayerful and open-handed. Always speak, pray and believe for their best, even if they don’t follow your lead.
3) Focusing on what could be over what God’s already done – Leaders tend to be visionaries, seeing ahead and believing God for great things. At times I’ve focused more on what could be over what God is currently doing. If you’re not careful you can become ungrateful, dissatisfied and discouraged about what God is presently doing because you’re too focused on what could be. Guilty as charged. Be grateful for everything He’s currently doing, even small victories, while continuing to believe for greater things in the days ahead. Gratitude will keep you out of discouragement.
4) Quitting prematurely because you don’t see the results you want – When the Lord gives you an assignment see it through to the end. Don’t quit because it gets hard or doesn’t grow. Too often our internal gauge by which we measure effectiveness isn’t calibrated by God’s measure of effectiveness. Be faithful and persevere allowing the Lord to direct you. If He’s called you to something, don’t stop until He makes it equally as clear that He wants you to move on.
5) Assessing before listening – I’m particularly talking about counseling individuals here. Too often I’ve sized up a situation, believing I understood everything, and offered input without really listening and understanding. At times, experiences with others have been my biggest challenge. I thought I understood because someone else’s situation was similar. Instead I’ve had to realize that each individual’s situation is different. Always listen thoroughly before you assess.
6) Isolating yourself – You will face challenges in ministry. Ministry can be very difficult. I’ve found that it’s essential to have several people around you that you can tell EVERYTHING. Otherwise when your tempted, attacked or challenged you’re a sitting duck for the enemy. Too many leaders do not have safe relationships around them to listen, encourage and pray. There was a time when I’d go all “Elijah Complex” if I was experiencing ministry difficulties. Isolating myself always compounded my problems. Share what you’re going through with a few trusted friends, it will help you A LOT.
7) Not being submitted yourself – A key requirement of anyone who is in authority is that he must be under authority himself. Leadership doesn’t mean you have less accountability, it requires you to have more. If you do not have those in your life that can tell you ‘No’, you are dangerous as a leader. Find someone you can trust, preferably someone whose older, who will speak into your life. This relationship should be in addition to those who are close by, whom you can ask for prayer and input through difficulties.
8) Not realizing you have blindspots – There was a time when I thought I knew all my weaknesses. And then I had an objective counselor tell me I am one of the most intense people He’s ever met. He went on to tell me that when I speak, I think it’s a level ‘3’ intensity, but it’s really a level ‘9’. I wouldn’t have believed him but my wife was sitting right there in complete agreement. BUSTED! It was unpleasant to hear in the moment, but it has been one of the most helpful pieces of input I’ve ever received. Everyone has blindspots. You need to ask your friends what yours are and don’t defend it. Allow the Lord to use this as a purifying exercise. It will be VERY HELPFUL for you.
9) Playing Holy Spirit for people – I have over-counseled and over-preached on many occasions. Not only have I told people what the bible says, I’ve shared my opinion, given multiple reasons why they should follow the Word, and then continued to follow up with them to make sure they were choosing the right path. Somewhere in there I moved beyond being helpful to playing Holy Spirit. Share the truth with people. Pray for them. Give input as they give you permission. There’s nothing wrong with following up but make sure you allow the Lord to work it out in their life. He’s way better at convicting and convincing people than you and I are.
10) Leading by legislation instead of revelation – Rules are written on paper. Revelation is written on hearts. I have failed miserably in getting people to follow when I’ve instituted too many rules to govern their behavior. But when I’ve given sound biblical revelation as to why and how we are to live, it’s produced incredible results. People aren’t constrained by my rules, they are compelled by revelation on their hearts. (Side Note: I’m not saying you shouldn’t have some guidelines, but in general don’t default to rule-making when you’re calling people to serve the Lord with abandon)
11) Valuing budgets, programs or initiatives over individuals – What’s the value of a person? I’ve gotten my eye off the ball often, esteeming the initiative or budget as more important than a person. A good way to tell if you aren’t valuing people properly is if you get upset at a person when their mistake messes up the program. What’s more important, the person or the program? Too often leaders mishandle individuals because they make mistakes. If the sound man causes high pitched feedback, don’t give him the evil eye or chew him out. He’s just as valuable as anyone in the congregation. Treat him with kindness, honor and value.
12) Misunderstanding your role as a leader – Contrary to some leadership teachings I’ve heard, leaders don’t exist to receive accolades, perks, privileges or honor. Leaders exist to serve Jesus’ bride and bring her into her destiny. The bride DOES NOT exist to serve the leader. The bride is for the Bridegroom. This has been upside down in the church for too long. I tremble for the day that Jesus sorts this out. Many leaders will be convicted and corrected, perhaps severely, by the Lord for having used the bride for their own glory.
There you have it, 12 mistakes I’ve made as a leader. I’m sure there are many many more. If you’ve made any of these mistakes or are currently making them, just know that making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. Hopefully my mistakes are helpful and instructive for you.
What are some mistakes you’ve made? Which mistakes in the list do you have questions about? Comment and I’ll do my best to reply.