DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Failure Factor

Written by: on October 29, 2014

box 12.1When picking a leader God says to Samuel, “you know what Samuel, people look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.” I wonder if at the end of the day, the heart matters more than we would realize. It’s the heart that gives birth to motives, ideas, understanding, and ultimately, it’s the heart that directs our steps. Doesn’t it?

The heart’s allegiance determines the path of any leader. Most leaders don’t plan to fail, but failure happens when the leaders heart doesn’t fit with those that she might be leading.

I wonder if we also need to define failure. What is failure? What is failure in an organization or in a church? How do we know if a leader is failing? I think it depends on your perception. Difficulty is not failure. Change is not failure. Moving on is not failure. Disagreements are not failure. Arguments are not failure. Anger is not failure. What’s failure? Is it when feelings get hurt? I don’t know, in a hypersensitive culture like ours, feelings get hurt with the blink of an eye.

In his book, The Leadership Mystique, Kets de Vries says that “the acid test of effective leadership is the extent to which people in the organization trust their leadership.” (p72) He goes on to say that two things contribute to failed leadership: mistrust and malaise. I wonder if in our culture we run away at the first sign of discomfort and we fail not because trust has been broken, but because we don’t like discomfort. I love pills. I take a pill at the first sign of a headache. I rarely think, “oh, I should drink some water” I just want to pain to be gone as soon as possible. Drinking water doesn’t take my headache away as quickly as a Tylenol does… so I take a pill to escape the pain. I walk away to escape the discomfort of leadership. Right or wrong is what we do.

The thing I appreciated the most about Kets de Vries’ book is that it focuses on the internal condition of the leader more than the outward actions. It causes you to reflect and think through who you are and what you’re putting out there for the world to see. Sooner or later your actions will give away your heart and that’s what will cause you to fail or succeed as a leader. The internal package will determine outward success. You can only fool people for a few seasons…

 

 

About the Author

mm

Stefania Tarasut

2 responses to “The Failure Factor”

  1. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Thanks, Stef…
    You really present some provocative thoughts…and questions.

    It is true that it is “the heart that gives birth to motives, ideas, understanding, and ultimately, it’s the heart that directs our steps.” Unfortunately, the heart is often motivated in ways that create or give birth to ideas that can result in failure and go against God’s design for one’s life. Our consumerist desires often lead us to “have” rather than give or share. Our motives can be misleading; we might do something considered to be be a good thing while in the heart we do it for the wrong reason. Perhaps for this reason, it really is difficult to define failure. Can we ever do the “best” possible good? Therefore, are there degrees of failure? Like you, I don’t know.

    Your metaphor of taking a pill grammatically illustrates how we often ” walk away to escape the discomfort of leadership.” I know you don’t intend it, but self-reflection at this point brings pain!

  2. Stefania,

    I love this post — and all your posts for that matter. Why? Because they are so real, so honest, so human. This reading is no exception. Yes, when it is all said and done, it is about heart, the heart of the leaders — and the hearts of the followers for that matter.

    I especially love your words, “How do we know if a leader is failing? I think it depends on your perception. Difficulty is not failure. Change is not failure. Moving on is not failure. Disagreements are not failure. Arguments are not failure. Anger is not failure. What’s failure? Is it when feelings get hurt?” These are important questions that do not have easy answers. I like your grace and mercy when you tell us what failure is not. Perhaps we need to be more gracious to our leaders, especially our church leaders. Perhaps in reality most of them flat out don’t know what they are doing. Frankly, I think this is true for most leaders. Perhaps the answer is to help them rather than to judge them. But this is no easy task.

    Thanks for giving me some real food for thought.

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