April 28, 2015 Tony Morgan

Do You Set Up Leaders to Fail?

Without a doubt, one of the greatest ways to ensure that your leaders fail is to put them in positions of leadership before they are ready. The Bible teaches us that we should be very intentional about who we place into leadership roles.

“Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader.” 1 Timothy 5:22

The Bible teaches us this principle, but there always seems to be an “urgent” position to fill. Because we limit our leadership development efforts, our leadership pipelines are dry. Instead of relying on fully trained, top-notch volunteer leaders to fill in the gap, we rush to hire the first seemingly qualified leader we can find.

When a leader is given a position before he or she is ready, several things start happening.

  1. High quality leaders start leaving.
    John Maxwell calls it “The Law of the Lid.” Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. High capacity leaders will eventually leave if they are further along the leadership pathway than the appointed leader. They want to place themselves in environments where they can flourish.
  2. Character flaws shine through.
    You set up leaders to fail if you assign them a vital position because they completed a program while they have yet to develop in character. We have already talked about what happens when the leadership pathway is ignored. There are specific competencies needed to lead at different levels. The stress of trying to do a job without having mastered the necessary competencies will put any leader’s character flaws on display.
  3. The church will not function at its highest capacity.
    It’s a fact: A church will not function on a level higher than its leader. Instead of pioneering the vision forward, a person who was not ready to lead will continually pull back until things feel manageable.
  4. You’ll create tension on your staff teams.
    Strong leaders will immediately recognize the problem. They’ll then have to wrestle with how to handle it.
  5. The leader will ultimately fail.
    Very few people who have been given a position before they were ready are able to tread water long enough to learn what they need to know. In most cases, they will fail at what you’ve asked them to do and will take on the pain and frustration that comes with failing at something to which they felt called. It won’t necessarily have been their fault. After all, they weren’t ready, and their leaders should have recognized that.

These are just a few of the results of appointing leaders before they are ready. Churches do it all the time. It’s one of the reasons we decided to do this series on leadership development: Helping leaders succeed is vitally important to the health of our churches.

One final thought:

If your leadership development culture is lacking, going multisite will only exacerbate your condition.

We regularly see Campus Pastors who have been set up to fail; they were given a job without the right tools. If multisite is a goal for your church, take a step back to truly evaluate how you’re doing at developing leaders. You’re going to try to multiply your culture with every new campus. Is that a good thing?

Other Surefire Ways to Fail in Developing Leaders…

Part 1: Ignore the Leadership Pathway
Part 2: Program Instead of Personalize
Part 3: Limit Leadership Development Efforts to Specific Roles

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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