When 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…