How Not To Lead: 5 Principles For Failure

August 7, 2012 — 6 Comments

No leader plans to fail in their leadership. Yet, leaders do fail regularly and sometimes in such a way that they even forfeit their leadership position. I am not talking about leaders who make noble efforts and fail in the pursuit of a worthy vision. I am talking about errors of judgment and character that go unaddressed and lead to total leadership failure. These types of errors are most often revealed in times of trial. The consequences are not simply personal. Leadership is always a leveraged proposition and affects many others. Here are five ways to self destruct in a leadership role.

1. Act presumptuously when faced with a difficult situation.  To act with presumption is to overstep your bounds or take undue liberties. This most often takes place when leaders feel great pressure to perform. Presumption often flows from a sense of entitlement or self-preservation.

2. Take control and usurp the role that was not meant for you.  When a leader is faced with a difficult situation, the temptation is to double down on control and wrongly step into the role entrusted to another. It comes from the belief that you can do it better than the other person-and you must. Failure is not an option so presumption moves toward over control to the point of over reaching.

3. Blame others and your circumstances when things go wrong.  You know a leader is on the path of self-destruction when a pattern of blaming becomes apparent. When leaders fail and blame everyone and everything but themselves you can be certain that you have a leader who is insecure and inauthentic.

4. Sanitize your wrong actions when they have been discovered.  When leaders are ultimately caught in wrong doing and they attempt to explain away their sins, you have a leadership platform in super erosion. Followers can smell this and will follow grudgingly at best. This is where a leader’s character is clearly revealed. A leader must always take responsibility personally and corporately.

5. Do not take seriously the authority over you.  Every leader is ultimately a person under authority. How you treat or respect that authority will in some measure determine the longevity of your leadership life. When you work around authority, disregard authority, or simply defy authority-you do so at your own leadership peril.

What would you add to my list?

By the way, all of the above principles come directly from the Bible.  You can look at them yourself and make some other observations by going to 1 Samuel 13 to read about King Saul.

Gary Runn

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6 responses to How Not To Lead: 5 Principles For Failure

  1. When I was on Crusade staff in New England I had an Area Director who would have made a case study for everything you’re NOT supposed to do and be as a leader. He was one of the most impersonal people I have ever met, Christian or non-Christian. The people who were implementing the “ministry” were the last item on his priority list.

    • Mike-thanks for your comments-sorry to hear about such a negative experience with your AD. I think sometimes in Cru we over promote based on the wrong qualifiers-maybe that was the case in what you experienced.

  2. Joseph Okpanachi November 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Quite an enlightening article Gary. Every leader must know his/her strengths and weaknesses. A leader must also be secured enough not be threatened by the strengths of his/her followers. It is always wise to defer to the strengths of followers in certain situations. The key here is humility! Often times the root cause of over reaching is pride. I like the entire article. Points 1 and 2 loudly speaks to me. It is true that crisis is a revealer of character. A leader not only “act presumptuously when faced with a difficult situation.” Without proper judgment a leader can also presume on the needs of people or followers, even in the absence of “difficult situations.”

    • Thanks Joseph for your comments-I fully agree with your thought that a leader cannot be threatened by the strengths of others. Humility of the key. Thanks for adding to the learning.

  3. Great article that pointedly address the dilemma of leadership failures. Thanks for sharing!

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