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The Leader’s Pitfalls: What Disqualifies Leaders? (Part 1)

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Henry and Rochard Blackaby have been outstanding spokesmen for leadership and the Chrisitan faith for many years. Many have benefitted from Henry’s work on Experiencing God. That was a foundational workbook for my wife and I when we were “young” seminarians.

I have had the privilege of meeting and working with Richard Blackaby while I served with Cru in Western Europe. He addressed one of our emerging leader forums for Western European leaders during an intensive in Latvia. He is a humble servant leader who taught our participants well.

Several years ago they combined their efforts to write Spiritual Leadership, a landmark work for God’s servants. They revised and expanded this volume in 2011–and it is as relevant today as ever.

One chapter that a friend and colleague brought to my attention again was a chapter on “The Leader’s Pitfalls.” I will review all 10 pitfalls–in this post, we will cover the first five, with some brief commentary. My hope is that this will entice you to read this book for the first time–or again. I also prayerfully hope that this keeps you from one of the ten in your leadership life.

The Pitfall of Pride

“Pride may well be leaders’ worst enemy, and it has caused the downfall of many.”

Pride makes leaders unteachable.

“No matter how talented or how smart a leader may be, an unteachable spirit is the path to certain failure.”

Pride causes leaders to think they are self-sufficient. 

“Pride targets successful leaders, convincing them they have enough talent, wisdom, and charisma, to achieve whatever they set their minds to do.”

Pride leads to a loss of compassion.

“When leaders lose the passion to contribute to their organization and begin to focus instead on what they can receive from it, they are no longer authentic leaders.”

Pride makes leaders vulnerable.

“Pride is a sin, and pride will do what sin does. It destroys.”

The Pitfall of Sexual Sin

“If pride is the most insidious pitfall of leaders, sexual sin is the most notorious.”

Safeguard #1: Leaders make themselves accountable.

“Prudent leaders are proactive; they enlist at least two people as accountability partners and give them freedom to regularly question their moral purity.”

Safeguard #2: Leaders heed their own counsel.

“Spiritual leaders must understand that they are no more immune to moral failure than those they are leading.”

Safeguard #3: Leaders consider the consequences.

“Astute leaders cultivate the habit of regularly pondering the devastating effects of sexual sin.”

Safeguard #4: Leaders develop healthy habits.

“Careful leaders can take practical steps to protect themselves from sexual temptation.”

Safeguard #5: Leaders pray and ask others to pray for them.

“The most practical step leaders can take is to pray that God will help them keep their lives above reproach.”

The Pitfall of Cynicism

“Leadership is a people business, and people invariably let you down. Negative leaders spawn negative organizations. Cynical leaders cultivate cynical followers. True leaders focus on what is right and on what gives hope, not on what is wrong. Older leaders seem particularly susceptible to cynicism. It is crucial that leaders guard their attitudes.”

The Pitfall of Greed

“Like many things, money and possessions can be either good or bad in a leader’s life. The lure of material possessions has enticed many leaders to make foolish career decisions. As a result, some people will sacrifice almost anything in order to achieve material success. The hunger for wealth and possessions can destroy spiritual leaders. Wise leaders know that the measure of their success is not the size of their bank account but the quality of their lives.”

The Pitfall of Mental Laziness

“Problem solving is an essential function of leadership, so leaders cannot afford to become intellectually stagnant. Good leaders never stop learning. They seek the company of wise people. They read books and articles that stretch their thinking. They read the biographies of great leaders and thinkers. Great leaders are always learning how to become better leaders.One way Jesus helped his disciples grow as leaders was by teaching them how to make sense of their circumstances.”

There are the first 5 pitfalls. How do you stack up? Where do you need to consider more carefully? Where do you need to make course corrections? The next 5 will be posted soon!

Virtuous Leadership: Not a Lover of Money

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“Therefore an overseer must be . . . not a lover of money” 1 Timothy 3:3

We live in a celebrity culture.

Leaders lead in a celebrity culture.

Some leaders lead only out of their celebrity.

And celebrity usually translates into greed in some way.

The Apostle Paul encourages his younger protege not to be covetous.

Leaders often develop an insatiable desire for more.

But Hebrews 13:5 give us the antidote to greed.

“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have . . .”

Listen to Paul’s words later on in the letter to Timothy . . .

“A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough. But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”

1 Timothy 6:6-10

What do you love? As a leader, what do you hope for?

Contentment can be elusive. The love of money can be incredibly destructive.

Virtuous leadership has inherent power because it is contented leadership.

(photo credit)

Be Careful Of Your Alliances

UnknownI was recently reading the biblical account of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20). Jehoshaphat was like a few other kings depicted in the Bible, who started out well, and yet, finished poorly. The older I get, the more I am convinced that it is hard to finish well as a leader. There are many forces at work that attempt to counteract finishing well: pride, growing tired of learning, sexual sin, isolation, caring more about your legacy than His kingdom . . . and, bad alliances.

An alliance is any connection, bond, or treaty made between parties to mutually benefit one another. Often, among nations, alliances are formed for collective security. Jehoshaphat formed a commercial alliance by joining forces with Ahaziah, the King of Israel. Ahaziah was the son of Ahab, one of the most ungodly kings Israel ever had. There was a time when Jehoshaphat also made an alliance with Ahab, the father, as well. That was a political alliance for collective security. 1 Kings 22 states, “(Ahaziah) did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (as did his father) . . .he served Baal and worshipped him and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger.” Jehoshaphat was the King of Judah. The history of Jehoshaphat’s reign up to this point had been one of following the Lord closely and instituting great national and spiritual reforms. He reigned as king for 25 years and enjoyed great success, wealth, and fame. But ungodly alliances were his undoing.

We know that Jehoshaphat became careless near the end of his leadership life. He went against his own counsel in 2 Chronicles 18 when he told all the people of Judah “Now then, let the fear the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” God was and is always more concerned about our devotion to Him than our leadership security or success.

In 1 Kings 22 we learn that the purpose of this particular alliance with Ahaziah was wealth. Jehoshaphat had made an alliance with Ahaziah to build ships to sail to Ophir to obtain more gold. Jehoshaphat was already wealthy. This was an alliance out of greed. Jehoshaphat had now made alliances with the father and the son–and God would not honor those choices.

We form alliances too. We often call them partnerships. We may take risks to align ourselves and our organizations with those who are unscrupulous. Sometimes we take liberties to align ourselves with other organizations or leaders because we think it is expedient. We may cloak the decision in the guise of having a stronger reach or being able to help more people. Don’t get me wrong. There are good reasons to partner with others who lead their organizations with honor and integrity. There are good reasons to partner with others for the sake of the Kingdom of God. I am talking about the short cut alliances. Those are the ones that we have to avoid. Here are two reasons from the story of Jehoshaphat that we should weigh carefully and avoid.

1. Don’t form a bad alliance for security. If we are feeling insecure, afraid of what may come of our group, ministry, or leadership, we might be tempted to partner with other entities that are less than honorable or doctrinally shaky. In that instant we have moved our trust away from the Lord and placed in some other human entity. Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” The Lord desires our total trust.

2. Don’t form a bad alliance for wealth. Wealth can come in many forms. It can be in the form of money. It can exist in the form of status or prestige. It can be in the form of greater numbers, more people. We can be tempted to form alliances with less than credible people and organizations for the sake of “effectiveness.” Proverbs 28:25 says, “A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.”

Be wise. Seek out counsel. Don’t become expedient in your youth. Don’t become foolish in your old age. Watch the alliances you form-for they will form you.

What are our thoughts? Where have you seen bad alliances have devastating consequences?