10 Of My Biggest Leadership Mistakes

hiding mistakes

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in leadership. One of the primary purposes of this blog is to help others learn from my experience.  So, I want to share some of the mistakes I’ve made. I hope at least one of them encourages other leaders.

These are 10 of the biggest:

Playing salesman more than seeking wisdom. I have had times I was so convinced I was right that I used my skills as a communicator to get people on my side. In hindsight, I should’ve taken more time seeking other people’s insight and wisdom, because I wasn’t right after all.

Listening only to the yea-sayers. The fact is critics sometimes have valid points to make. I prefer they find kinder and gentler ways to share them — and be brave enough to attach their name — but it’s a mistake to only listen to people who agree with you.

Ignoring my gut because the crowd was excited. We were going to launch a capital campaign. We knew we needed to do it at some point. Everyone was excited. Or so they seemed. The momentum was high. But something inside of me said wait. When I went back to the excited crowd, and ask them to pray again, it was unanimous. We were moving forward in emotion — not God’s direction. I learned this one the hard way. Other times I’ve not been that sensitive to my gut or the Spirit’s leading.

Failing to remove the wrong people soon enough. They say hire slow and fire fast. They weren’t necessarily in the church world — were they? Seriously, I’ve waited too long too many times. It only delays the pain.

Rushing too fast to fix things. Some things need time to gel. I have learned that sometimes things get solved on their own. Conflicts are resolved and relationships saved — even strengthened — because I didn’t get involved.

Avoiding a brewing conflict. At the same time, when I know trouble is stirring, and it isn’t going away without my input, yet I refuse to deal with it because it is awkward or uncomfortable, it always comes back to haunt me. Unresolved conflict never just “goes away”. And, when left to brew long enough it can cause irreversible damage to a team.

Talking someone away from their heart. For example, I’ve talked a few people into staying in jobs they didn’t like just because I liked them. It never works. It isn’t fair. It always ends worse than if I’d let them follow their hearts.

Not challenging because I didn’t understand something. I lead areas of ministry I’m not an expert in. Worship. Students. Small groups. Children. Preschool. Technology. Missions. Okay — pretty much everything. I’ve by practice surrounded myself with people smarter than me. But, I have learned it is a mistake to believe that because I’m not the expert I can’t challenge them in their field. I may have to study more, but as a leader, my job is to challenge us to excellence. Therefore, I can — and should — challenge all areas that impact the overall vision. Which is pretty much every area.

Assuming people understand. I don’t need many details. Well, let me be a little clearer. I don’t want or retain many details. But, everyone is not me. Some people thrive on details. They can’t function without them. And, neither personality is wrong. We need both types on our team. I’ve had to learn to communicate in different ways and let others assist me in communicating. And, I welcome questions.

Ignoring the real problems. I’ve been tempting to band-aid the problem because it was too messy to address the real problem. Real problems often involve people. It’s easier to add a rule than get someone upset. But problems never go away until the real problem is addressed.

I’ve been honest with some of my leadership mistakes. Some of them at least.

What are some of yours?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “10 Of My Biggest Leadership Mistakes

  1. Funny how all of these things are learned from experience. Leadership is one of those areas where there needs to be a lot of study, but the practice is where the lessons are cemented and the “aha” moment takes place. The list was great and serves as a great reminder. Many of the items on the list have personal memories both good and poor. Thanks for the reminder and appreciate the transparency.

  2. A great list. Even if one had made them previously, and now realizes why they were mistakes, it’s worth keeping the list to remind oneself the next time. After all, mistakes of these sorts often are the result of habits of mind and patterns of functioning. Great post, thanks.

  3. Leadership is not easy and I have my mountain of mistakes also. We all do. I especially like the 8th point on your list about not challenging. That was a hard one for me to realize as I had always believed I must be the "expert" before I can lead in that area. I now understand that leaders give people a chance to win by stretching them out of their comfort zone. Doing so leads forward and towards the prize.