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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

19 Aug '14

I feel like a failure as a leader

Posted by T.J. Addington
In my role as an organizational leader or consultant with other organizations it is not unusual to tell leaders that they are not in their ideal lane or playing to their skill set. This may be a pastor who cannot and does not manage staff, organizational leaders that are ineffective in determining how to accomplish their vision or leaders who have no idea how the shadow side of their strengths disempowers others. Often, the conversation about "lanes" and sweet spots is a result of being asked to help solve issues within the organization that are a result of a leader being out of their lane.

Here is the common but totally wrong response: "I have failed as a leader." Why wrong? Because all of us will generally be substandard at those things God did not wire us to do. We were wired on purpose by God to do the "good works" he designed specifically for us and gifted for that purpose (Ephesians 2:10). Of course we will be successful if we apply ourselves at those things He designed us for and conversely we will be poor at those things He did not design us for.

When we are not in our lane, and don't do well, the solution is not to work harder, longer or try to learn a new set of wiring. Rather it is to acknowledge how God created and designed us and get into a role that is inside the lane He designed us to play. When we work in the wrong lane we frustrate ourselves and those around us. When we run in the lane He designed us for we flourish and do well. 

Getting in our lane requires us to understand first what we are not good at and accept it. Some years ago I interviewed many members of an organizations staff and then shared with the leader what he was really good at and what he was really bad at. One of his first concerns was that his staff not know the weaknesses he had! The humor in it was that I knew about those weaknesses because his staff shared them with me. Yet he was not comfortable admitting that he had weaknesses. This is not only insecurity but bad theology because God gave us a gift or gifts but not more than a few. My staff will readily tell me what I don't do well and they work hard to keep me out of those lanes so their lives are easier!

It also means that we focus on those things we are good at and allow others to do what we are not good at. Usually, when leaders get into things that they are not gifted for they create chaos and disempowerment by doing so. Staff want to say, "Don't do that! You just put your nose into things that I can do very well and which you don't. Stay in your lane!" If you are a secure leader, simply ask your staff for examples where you operate out of your lane of giftedness and create problems for them. Pastors are often guilty of disempowering staff by getting into things that others are tasked with and which others also do much better than they.

If you are out of your lane, don't feel like you have failed as a leader. Rather, work to get into a place where you are playing to your strengths and don't assume you should be great at everything. You are not. No one is. Often our failure is simply in not understanding or accepting the lane God made us for. 

Reminder. My new book, Deep Influence: Unseen Practices That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.