10 Leadership Lessons I Have Learned from my Failures

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1. Prayerless leadership leads to confusion, selfish ambition, mistakes, and discouragement.

It is too easy to stop praying. You slowly marginalize it in your schedule. You move prayer down the priority list of pressing things you need to accomplish. This is especially true the busier you get with leading a church or ministry. Everything demands on your time and attention, everything, that is, but prayer. Prayer is demanding and is all the more difficult when you approach it unfocused and exhausted.

The irony is that prayer is the one activity that should always be your priority. You should give prayer your best energy. Make it the first, and most important part of every task or strategy. Jesus was very busy, but never too busy to pray, never so hurried that he couldn’t take time to talk to his Father. He would pray no matter how demanding his schedule or much the people pressed in on him. The great men and women of God throughout history prayed first and foremost. Prayer kept them connected to the Father and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The power of genuine ministry comes from prayer.

The long effect of prayerlessness is that you lose your spiritual connection, the source of vision dries up, and you begin to function in your own wisdom. Spiritual discernment will be compromised so you begin to lead in your own strength and start leaning on man’s knowledge rather than God’s wisdom and understanding.

The only remedy to prayerlessness it to begin praying. You recognize the evidence of your prayer-neglect and repent of it. Make prayer your first priority again. It may be hard to get back in the habit of praying and intercession but it will be worth the struggle.

2. God will bless me with big visions and great ideas but it takes hard work on my part to make those vision and ideas a reality

God inspires us with visions of what can be, ideas of how we can make a difference, ways we can effect change in the world. He drops the seeds of ideas into our hearts and mind, but we have to diligently work to bring those ideas to life. Visions and great ideas don’t usually grow into something special on their own. You have to intentionally clarify the vision and set a course of action and work hard on your plan if you want to see the vision become a reality.

We are God’s farmers who faithfully cultivate his ideas and inspirations into fruitfulness. God is always a part of that process, but he requires that we partner with him in nurturing a great idea into a vibrant functioning expression of his grace. The idea is the easy part, the hard work is in turning the idea into reality. Just because it is a god-inspired vision doesn’t mean it will be easy or that there won’t be challenges along the way. The joy comes when you see the fruit his inspiration after you cultivated the idea into a functioning ministry or movement.

3. Leadership is essential to the success of any venture or endeavor. Your success will be limited by your capacity or willingness to lead others well.

We should always be growing in our ability and capacity to lead others. Leadership weaknesses will become a limiting factor to the fruitfulness and success of whatever we do. The better we become at serving people through our leadership influence the greater the challenges that we can take on and succeed at. Leadership is a responsibility that God entrusts to us therefore we must become the best leader that we can be. A few people may be gifted with some natural leadership characteristics, but everyone can learn to be a better leader. Whatever God puts into your hands to do give yourself diligently to the challenge and lead well; good leadership will make for greater success and effectiveness in everything you do.

4. Measure people’s perceived potential against their proven effectiveness and fruitfulness.

Selecting the team that will work with you to accomplish the vision God has called you to is one of the most important decisions you will make for your organization. One of the most common mistakes made in identifying and recruiting new team members is the failure to weigh your perception of their potential for success against past evidence of their fruitfulness in the area of ministry or work that you are recruiting them for. True potential should have verifiable fruit in a person’s life and work. Effectiveness and aptitude should be identified and confirmed as part of the recruitment process, before appointing them to your team. If you are recruiting someone purely based on their potential, then you are recruiting a trainee and not a leader. Leaders must have fruit that verifies the confidence and responsibilities you will give them.

5. People flourish to the degree that their gifts and abilities align with their assignments.

God, by his Spirit, graces people with unique motivations, aptitudes, and abilities to serve him by serving others. When team members are most effective when they work and minister out of their unique giftings. It is important to match the assignment to the gifts and abilities of your team for the greatest fruitfulness.

6. Staff and team members must always be managed and led.

Your team is crucial if you are going to extend and multiply your ministry fruitfulness. A skilled team will add their energy and abilities to help you accomplish your goals. Every team must be managed well or they will begin to lose purpose and momentum. A poorly led team will decrease productivity and get the ministry off focus, which can lead to ultimate failure as an organization.

Your team cannot accomplish your vision without you. They need to be regularly reminded of the mission and purpose of your ministry. They need clear assignments, regular accountability, and genuine relational stewardship. Teams that are left to themselves must inevitably begin to redefine your mission and begin to set their own strategies and goals. If you neglect your team for too long it can ultimately lead to the breakdown of your organization and the failure of your ministry.

7. Plan well and execute better. Not even a good plan will succeed without consistent follow-through.

It is important to plan well, to layout strategic steps to achieve your goals. But good plans do not implement themselves, you have to work at the plan every day if you expect to see your plan succeed. A simple leadership maxim is, “Plan your work and work your plan”. Proverbs explains that both good planning and hard work are necessary for a plan to work while warning that shortcutting the process leads to failure. “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (NLT). When you develop your business and ministry plans you also need to layout your implementation process for achieving the goals that will make your plan a success. Diligently and thoughtfully define the work you will need to do for your plans to succeed. Inconsistent follow through on the implementation work is one of the most common reasons good ideas never become a reality. A good plan needs even better execution.

8. No one is responsible for your personal life (family, character, and attitudes) but you.

God has given you the ultimate responsibility for the stewardship of your life. Think of your life as a garden that God has given you. God expects you to care and cultivate every area of your life that same way a gardener tends to his or her garden. You cannot abdicate the stewardship of your life and family to anyone else, because no one else is responsible for the condition of your life. This is both a privilege and a burden God has entrusted you with. We are sometimes tempted to think that if I just focus on my work and on serving God, that He will take care of my life for me. Or I may rely on my leaders and mentors to care for my future and my well-being. And while God does care about our lives he still expects you to care for yourself and your family by diligently nurturing health and guarding your future. No leader, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, can provide the care and oversight that your life, your family, and your spiritual growth need. You are to watch over your own life and those God has entrusted to you diligently and prayerfully. God will give you the grace to make wise choices and will help correct the mistakes you will make along the way. But joyfully tend the garden of your life and to give that privilege away.

9. God does not measure success the way we do.

God sees success differently than I do. it is all a matter of perspective, God’s perspective versus my perspective. When I look at my life from God’s point of view some successes are not successes and some failures are not failures.  My judgment of success will depend on the measurables I use to define it. God measures according to his eternal values; I measure based on secular success values. He measures godly influence while I will measure the size and scope of my organization or ministry. I measure my happiness; God measures my spiritual maturity. I measure the impact I may have at any moment; God measures the legacy I will leave behind. I simple picture that helps me see the difference between how I measure success it this: I feel good about how many trees I have planted; God looks for the fruit on my trees. Don’t yield to the temptation to measure your success without God’s help or you will likely get it wrong. Ask him to help you use his measurements when you evaluate your success.

10. Forgiveness allows you to not only survive in ministry but to grow and mature past your failures.

You will not survive the journey of life and ministry if you do not learn to forgive. Forgiveness gives you the power to periodically wash the slate clean and move past your failures as well as the hurts and disappointments others have inflicted on you. Unforgiveness will breed anger, bitterness, and cynicism that will ruin your life and ministry. God gives you the grace to forgive and to move past failure and pain. But you have to choose to forgive and let go. You can finish the race of life with a loving heart and a joyful attitude. But you must regularly extend the same kind of forgiveness to others that Jesus extended to you. Forgiveness washes your mind and emotions so that you can love God and others well. Get good at forgiving and will reap the fruit of spiritual growth and maturity