The Top Five Reasons Why Leaders Fail

Last week I asked a question, “Why do leaders fail?” (see it here)

After hearing from a number of you and doing some reflection of my own I suggest that the top five reasons why leaders fail are as follows…

  • They disconnect from the people they are leading. The reality is that sometimes leaders can get so consumed in “leadership stuff” that they forget what leadership is all about… people! If the people you’re leading don’t like you, understand you, trust you, etc. … you ain’t leading! A great illustration of this is the ex-CEO of Home Depot… I blogged about it last week (read it here). Effective leaders make every effort to enage in “Management by Wandering Around” (for more on this idea click here).
  • They become proud and refuse to be questioned. When a leader refuses to be held accountable to someone or some standard… trouble’s on the way! I think people will tolerate a bit of ego, but when it becomes the driving force of the organization… the leader is destined to fail! Effective leaders embrace accountability and do not walk away from instruction! Effective leaders are continually learning and changing… implicitly recognizing that who they are today is not enough for tomorrow!
  • They are not authentic. One of my first mistakes at Northgate was trying to be someone I was not. I followed two godly, competent pastors and was totally unsure about how to pastor a large church… still am for that matter! I was well read in church growth and leadership literature and therefore tried to become someone that I thought the large church needed. MISTAKE! This bad decision cost me and our church. At the end of the day, through the grace of God and Northgate, I am realizing that the best thing I can do is be who God made me… not someone else! The best thing I have done, as a pastor/leader, is to identify my strengths and weaknesses, focus on my strengths, and staff to my weaknesses! Leaders who try to be someone else will fail… and hurt a lot of people!
  • They are authentic. OK, I know this is in direct contradiction to what I just said, but follow me on this… Sometimes “Being real” is not all it’s cracked up to be! Sometimes it is incumbent upon a leader to be contextually wise! In other words, discernment is critical for a leader! Sometimes, “Just being me” is stupid… so don’t do it! I think that “maturity” is knowing when to do/say what… effective leaders are mature and thus not always “Authentic” (i.e. “Just being me”).
  • They do to much. Jim Collins suggests that every leader should develop a “Stop-doing” list (read more here). Here’s the scoop… on a scale of 1-10 if I were to rank your “talent level”, most leaders would be between a 5-10 (this is not super analytical you know…). If each number represents the “things you can do well” then here’s the problem – If you can do five things well then chances are you are going to get frustrated when a “Two” or a “Three” tries to do any of those things that you are talented in… so you’ll take over, ’cause you can do it better (and probably you can too). The problem is that you, because you are multi-talented, can do more than one thing well… and because you care so much… you will do them! Unfortunately after time you will get burned out by doing so much “so well.” The struggle for talented people is that they have to say “NO” to some things that they could do a good job at! Just because you can do it, and even do it good, does not mean that you should do it! Effective leaders realize that their effectiveness lies not in doing everything that they can do, but in doing those things that only they can do. For instance, on the week I am scheduled to preach, there are a lot of things I can do, but only one person that can preach… so I should choose to let some things go (delegate them, procrastinate, ignore, etc.) and focus on the one thing that only I can do. Don’t fail because you do too much! Create a “Stop-Doing” list! (For more on this idea see Craig Groeschel’s five part post “Don’t Do It All” (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

OK, there’s what I’m thinking… what do you think?

5 thoughts on “The Top Five Reasons Why Leaders Fail

  1. Paul, Visited your blog for first time after recieving the CD. Just read your post concerning leadership; thanks for the insights.I will give these points some thought as I become frustrated in my role as MOPS Mentor. Sometimes I think my vision for the mentoring role is way bigger than what it can actually become and my usefulness diminishes w/ my frustration.point #5 hit me right between the eyes! I will read on….

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