Watching leaders fall from grace is nothing new. It happens every day. But why?
In the last several months, we’ve witnessed the fall of Carl Lentz (the former pastor of Hillsong NY) and Ravi Zacharias (the now-deceased leader of RZIM). We are also watching the accusations of government leaders such as Mario Cuomo (the Governor of New York) and Matt Gaetz (U.S. Congressman from Florida) play out. And those are just a few. What’s going on? To be fair, prominent leaders probably don’t fall more than less well-known leaders; we just don’t read their stories in the headlines.
I don’t claim to know all the reasons why leaders fall, I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not trying to capitalize on another leader’s downfall. I have compassion – first and foremost for the people who get hurt when a leader falls, and second on the leaders themselves because I realize we are all broken in one way or another.
At times, I’ve gotten too close to the edge of the cliff myself and learned the hard way, but through the crucible of leadership, I’ve also learned to stay the course with my integrity intact. If I can contribute to helping even one leader keep from falling, it’s worth it.
Leading for the Long Haul
Leadership is Hard. It comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way if you want to lead for the long haul. It’s more than just staying in the game. It’s leading yourself, your people (your loved ones), and your team or organization in such a way so that everybody wins. You could call it legacy.
1) Go micro. Start small and take baby steps. That’s what I mean by going micro. Many leaders have great ambitions and visions. You wouldn’t be a leader if you didn’t, but just because you can see it doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. As my friend Josh Finley says, “Look ahead but don’t live ahead.”
Bigger isn’t always better. You have to know your capacity. If something starts to grow beyond your capacity to lead, maybe it’s time to take a step back. You may need to secure further education or training, seek out a mentor, or hire someone who has the right mix of gifts and character to take it to the next level while you move into a different role within the organization.
2) “Who Before Do.” Is it possible to prepare yourself for leadership? Of course! Competency is one part of the equation (talent, ability, education, training), but character is another. Focusing on who you want to be as a leader before what you want to do or accomplish will help you with this. Author and speaker Craig Groeschel calls it “Who before do.”
Author James Clear calls these “Identity-Based Habits.” Identity-Based Habits start from the inside out. Rather than starting with the goal or outcome, Identity Based Habits focus on who you want to be and ask the question, What does that type of person do? Once you define what that type of person does, you have your process for becoming that type of person. The goal is becoming that type of person.
Say you want to be an honest leader (that’s an identity-based habit). Ask yourself, What do honest leaders do? Maybe you say, Honest leaders are honest with themselves and others, have proper accountability in place, seek to do everything above board, and they have a group of people they meet with regularly who will tell them the unvarnished truth. The end goal is not simply to gather a group of 3-5 people that you can be gut-level honest with once a month. The goal is to be or become an honest person!
“A goal is not about what you accomplish. It’s about what you become.” (Michael Hyatt)
Leadership expert Andy Stanley calls these “Be goals.” To take it a step further, he suggests asking two questions once you define a “Be” goal. First, why is this important? Second, what’s at stake if I don’t do this? In doing so, you’ve defined your personal definition of success, and to fall short of this is failure.
Why not take some time to define your “Be goals” today?
Here’s one way to do it. Write your own obituary by asking three questions:
- What would the most important people in your life say about you if you died today?
- What do you want them to say?
- Why is this important and what’s at stake if I don’t?
The first question is realistic; the second question is aspirational. Who do you need to become in order to move from aspiration to reality?
3) Pursue wholeness. As influence and notoriety increase, so often do temptations. If your platform grows faster than your character, it’s easy to crumble under the weight of it. In other words,
“Don’t let your gifts take you where your character can’t keep you.” (Author unknown)
In his book, Integrity, Dr. Henry Cloud gives a new definition for character. He says, “Character is the ability to meet the demands of reality.” He goes on to share six aspects of character. Though I won’t go into all of them now, he argues character is more than truth, honesty, or moral integrity. It is a combination of things that have to work together in an integrated way. Integrity refers to being whole and complete.
When your gifting outpaces your character, it’s called immaturity. It’s easy for an immature person to get a big head, think they are further along than they actually are, and fall prey to the common temptations of leadership.
Leadership has a way of going to your head. If you don’t have the maturity to handle it, haven’t taken time to develop your character and integrity (wholeness), and don’t have the right people around you who aren’t enamored with you and aren’t afraid to tell you the unvarnished truth (and you are open to hearing it), it’s easy to become deceived about yourself and your leadership.
Next time I will share the other four ways to lead for the long haul!
Other Posts In the Series