The Worst Thing A Leader Has to Do

There are some things in leadership that are great.

  • Investing yourself in another leader.
  • Dreaming about the future and envisioning what could be.
  • Seeing progress happen.
  • Watching the lights come on for someone.
  • Achieving goals you didn’t think we’re possible.
  • Watching people succeed.
  • The soul-deep satisfaction of making a difference.

As a Christian leader, that list gets even longer.

  • Seeing people’s hearts open to God.
  • Watching someone surrender themselves to Jesus.
  • Watching people see how grand, glorious and practical the Gospel is.
  • Seeing the Holy Spirit work when I thought there was no way.
  • Being aware that Jesus is on the move.
  • Seeing Jesus’ character and competence replicated in someone else’s life.

Those moments are all exhilarating. And I don’t know how you can know what it feels like unless you lead something. Maybe that’s not fair to say, but it feels a little like what people told me before I had kids: “Well, you’ll understand when you have kids.” I hated that. They were right.

But then there’s another list; things a leader does that fall on the other end of the spectrum.

  • Picking up the pieces when something or someone fails.
  • Being responsible for all outcomes—especially the bad ones.
  • Moving someone off the bus or onto another seat on the bus.
  • Giving bad news.
  • Trying to fix a problem that seemingly resists solutions.
  • Seeing no progress.
  • Maintaining rather than moving forward.

All of the above, the good and the bad, are always part of the responsibility of leadership. They come with the territory. Want all the good and none of the bad? Don’t be a leader.

And then there was last week.

We had to make the gut-wrenching decision to eliminate two positions on our pastoral staff because of a lack of funds. On a Really-Hard-Things-Leaders-Do Scale, this easily pegs the meter at “Beyond Awful.” Not because “ain’t it awful for me”, but because these are men I like, respect and love. They have families and kids still in school (who are amazing in their own right) and future hopes about what could happen here through their leadership. Not only that, they have a deep longing to see our mission as a Church go forward. They have been giving their best energies. And things have been looking incredibly bright in the last few months in terms of all we’re seeing God do in people’s lives and in our community. That all ended for them out of the blue last Thursday when I walked into their office.  What makes it worse is that it’s not because I don’t want them, it’s because I don’t have the resources to keep them. Leadership is about people and when the people you love, lead, are investing in and believe in have to stop being on your team because the resources are lacking, it kills. It’s the worst thing a leader has to do. Pray for these good men and their families.