Nobody craves failure. Especially not leaders. But why don’t leaders achieve the kind of success they desire? More significantly, why do leaders fail? Whether you lead a small church, a massive organization, or a family, here are six reasons why ministry leadership fails.
6 Reasons Why Ministry Leadership Fails
- Not planning. You’ve probably heard the expression, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time” (attributed to Zig Ziglar and others). It’s true. If you fail to plan, you’ve failed before you even started! Life requires a plan. Leadership requires a plan. Time taken to plan is time invested in future success. Plan early, plan often, and plan well. You won’t regret it.
- Being stubborn about the wrong things. Leaders are sometimes seen as strong-willed people. Sure, you’ve got to have a bit of grit and resolve if you expect to make decisions and lead other people. But if you have the leadership style of a pit bull with a T-bone steak, you’re headed for failure. You should be stubborn about the right things, but not about the wrong things. Leaders know how to compromise well. Good leaders know how to demur. Good leaders know when the decision they’ve made just plain stinks. There is no value in wrongheaded stubbornness. In fact, according to Jesus, leadership should be characterized by servanthood (Mark 10:42-45).
- Cutting corners. Leaders must have integrity. There’s no question about it. Any leader who expects to slip in some not-so-honest deals, not-so-truthful tales, and not-so-kind words is headed for failure. You will always be tempted to cut corners. When you let a few little slip-ups go by, you’ll eventually let bigger ones slip by. You’re headed directly towards failure. Strive for integrity.
- Trying to please everyone. Stubbornness is one (bad) thing, but trying to pander to everyone’s preferences is another thing. They’re both bad for leadership. It could be argued that you cannot lead if you are trying to please everyone. But you can’t please everyone anyway, so why even try? When you are paranoid about what your coworkers, clients, colleagues, wife, pastor, neighbor, and pet dog think about you, you’re doomed. Focus on pleasing God alone, and let the sparks fly.
- Lacking big vision. Many leaders are simply titular placeholders. They hold a job, make some decisions, but they don’t advance their organizations. Why not? Simply put, they lack vision. You serve a big God. In fact, he’s bigger than you can possibly imagine. So go ahead and dream. Cast your vision, and live it out. If you don’t have a vision, you can still be a leader, but you’re not going to go anywhere.
- Being conceited and prideful. This is the bullseye of leadership failure: pride. That nebulous, biting, nagging, persistent pet sin of millions of leaders can attack you, too. Chances are, it already has. You’re not going to root out pride in a day. It’s going to take a lifetime of patient, prayerful dependence upon God to defeat the dragon of pride and practice humble leadership. Only God can help you do this.
Every leader will face disappointments and even some failure along the way. That’s part of leading — gaining the experience that thickens your skin, and increases your skill. However, someone who is consistently failing is not qualified to be a leader. Watch for these telltale signs of ministry leadership fails, and ask God for the grace to be a leader who succeeds for His glory.
And as you think through this topic, you may also find it helpful to review these 50 Bible passages about leadership.