To coincide with the release of my brand-new book: “Ministry Stinks: One Leaders’ Journey from Despair to Joy”, I thought I would give a preview of the kinds of topics you can expect to read about.
In this blog series I will look at six common leadership statements that we often believe without question…and hopefully shed new light on them. At the very least, I hope to call them into question instead of the absolute authority we have given them.
#1 – Leaders have all the answers
If there was going to be someone in the room who you’d assume to have the answer to life’s problems…It’s probably going to be the leader. That’s why we leaders rate ourselves on how well we can fix issues. And surely a leader’s success is influenced by their ability to create solutions. Or at least engage people and resources that can find solutions.
Even though we logically can deduce that leaders are human and fall short of perfection and they aren’t going to get it right some of the time, the fact is that we often expect leaders to have all the answers, all the time. You can see this by how harshly we judge leaders when they say something we don’t like or agree with. Leaders are painfully aware of how saying the unpalatable response can turn out. We’ve all had those moments where we wished we could take back what we’d said. But can you imagine how hard it is to have to provide the right answers all the time, for every person? Not even Superman could do that. Actually, not even Jesus did that. Frequently the things He said did not satisfy the listener. It doesn’t mean what he said wasn’t right, it just wasn’t received that way. Take the example of Jesus and the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27. The young man wanted to have eternal life. He was doing everything according to the law. So, Jesus makes another suggestion: Sell all you have and give it to the poor. Well, he walked away not very satisfied at all.
The downside for us imperfect leaders is that we actually do say imperfect things. So, if Jesus could disappoint someone even though He was perfectly truthful, I think it’s safe to say that we aren’t going to have the right answers or the answers people want to hear all the time. But God knows we still try. So, do we really need to beat ourselves up so much when we don’t say the ‘right’ thing? All leaders are guilty of the post-conversation internal beat up. Sometimes we can carry that shame for months or even years. We can live in fear. We can even disqualify ourselves. What if we were a bit quicker to show grace and forgiveness to ourselves and say sorry to others when we have wronged them? Surely that’s a healthier expectation to put on ourselves than the expectation that we will have all the answers, all the time! Instead, we could start a chain reaction of leadership modelling, where people have permission to forgive themselves when they have said something wrong too. And they may even become better at saying sorry! Now that’s a safer environment to live and work in.
Well I hope that was helpful.