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Preventing Leadership DerailmentMalcolm Webber
Leadership derailment occurs when a leader, who had the ability and opportunity to accomplish more, ends up fired or demoted or simply fails to succeed at the level for which he was called and gifted. In our last two Letters, we examined the characteristics of leaders who derailed.
Leadership derailment is very costly – in spiritual, human and organizational terms. But, how can we prevent it?
1. We must learn how to build prayer support mechanisms into our organizations. We give all kinds of other support to our leaders. We ensure they have sufficient budgets and technological resources for their tasks. We give them training and support staff. But we neglect their prayer support! It is becoming widespread for church leaders to have their own prayer teams. Furthermore, many churches use “prayer chains” for serious needs. Why shouldn’t Christian leaders in “non-church” organizations have deliberate and systematic prayer support as well, and why shouldn’t organizations use prayer chains consistently? Doesn’t Zechariah 4:6 apply to any organization a believer is involved in?
2. We must enable balance in our leaders’ lives. We send our leaders to seminars that promote a balance between the spiritual, personal, family and recreational dimensions of their lives, but our organizational structures and goals often prohibit them from actually achieving this balance.
3. We must enable integrity in our leader’s lives. Again, we preach integrity to our leaders, but then frequently require them to “bend the rules just a little.” If we really believe that “leadership is character,” our organizational purposes and processes should mirror this belief by making it actually possible for our leaders to succeed with integrity.
4. Since ultimately-successful leaders have a history of more diverse experiences (see Leadership Letter #2), we need to deliberately expose our leaders to varied leadership challenges early in their careers, before the stakes get too high.
5. The organization is the leader’s classroom, and as in a classroom, the proper learning environment should be intentionally developed. Whether through feedback, formal training and coursework, coaching, or mentoring, we must enable our leaders to continuously learn and grow. They especially need help when making critical mental transitions to higher levels of leadership. We must also keep in mind that our leaders not only need on-going training; as human beings they also need on-going “pastoring.”
6. We must help our leaders to take their flaws seriously. No one leader “has it all.” Our leaders must know their strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, they need people around them – spouses, friends, colleagues, and outside experts – who will not be afraid to tell them the truth.
7. We would have less leadership derailment if we would spend more time getting the right leaders in the first place. People should not be promoted beyond their true calling and ability. It is a lot less painful not to put someone in a leadership position initially, than to remove him or her after we realize we made a mistake.
8. We must ensure our leaders know whom they actually are serving.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col. 3:24, NIV)
Our ultimate goal is not profit, respect, career advancement, plaques on the wall, or any other kind of success measured in human terms. Our ultimate goal is only to hear His words on the Last Day:
Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matt. 25:21, KJV)