Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

September 1998
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Preventing Leadership Derailment

Malcolm WebberMalcolm 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)

Comments 3
  • David Onyango Ochola Theologian and Philosopher

    lLeadership is an interactive conversation that pulls people towards becoming comfortable with the language of personal responsibility and commitment.

    Sincerely speaking, this letter is worth read by the scholars aiming to become leaders of today and in future.

    I do hereby wish to reccomend this letter for all leadership institutions and students for well understanding of day to day life. Remember, the world does not being made by those who think alone neither act alone, while it is made by those who think and act at the same time. Therefore, act quickly to read this letter for the reconstruction of leadership world

    David O Ochola

  • Caswell Ntseno
    Posted on

    Caswell Ntseno Caswell Ntseno

    Reply Author

    Senior Pastor/ Lecturer (MA-Leadership)

    To both the born-leaders and developed leaders, Leadership derailment can happen.
    It is therefore my recommendation that every leader out there, especially he who intends to lead and leave a legacy to ponder upon this series…
    Because he who think is standing, must check, lest he stands on no-stand..

    Yours in Christ
    C Ntseno

  • Michael
    Posted on

    Michael Michael

    Reply Author

    Altough I like these letters and are excellent in how a leader is to relate to the people, act or lead, but I feel they fail at one very LARGE area and that is leaders qualities to relate to one another. I could not find any referrences to internal conflicts of leadership. For instance when a fellow leader or elder has a personal agenda to direct a fellowship in a direction he believes it should go then proceeds to undermine the rest to achieve his goal. A leaders failures is mentioned and his own issues but what of the leader innocent of personal issues and is attacked for the purposes of another succeeding in their vision etc. What of when a leader in good standing is attacked, slandered and gossiped about? I would like to see this area address in some future letters.