Have you ever been disappointed by people? Has anyone ever let you down? Have you ever delegated responsibility to someone, only to discover that it was ignored or only partially completed? Have you ever thought, “I was sure he could do better. What happened?” Did you ever place trust in someone who did not honor your expectations?
Now to the harder question: Do you as a leader own the
blame? In other words, are other people’s mistakes catalysts
for you to improve your leadership? Sure, it’s easy to
complain about the lack of performance by our team members.
What is more difficult is to ask how much of the disappointment
was caused by a lack of our own capacity to lead.
Here are some of the ways our leadership (or lack of it)
contributes to other people’s failures:
1. Poor communication. Leaders often think that what is
clear to them is also clear to those they lead. As leaders we
often “wrestle” for a considerable period of time with issues,
ideas, and opportunities. Sometimes we share those ideas
and issues with close colleagues—and then we announce
a direction with no proper communication or consultation
process with our teams. Thus, these individuals have had no
part in our journey—and yet they are expected to appreciate
the proposed course of action.
Lesson: When announcing new strategies, fresh approaches,
and significant changes, involve as many as possible and seek their input and opinions. Communicate
(which is a two-way process!) clearly, extensively, and consistently.
2. Inadequate resources. It is the leader’s responsibility
to make sure team members have the necessary tools to
accomplish what is being asked of them. One of the critical
leadership roles is to resource for success. If individuals are
asked to do something with no tools provided, we are setting
them up for failure.
Lesson: As you delegate responsibility, you must ensure
that all the resources are in place for successful completion.
Alternatively, you must make provision (policy, budget, time,
etc.) for such tools to be identified and sourced.
3. Improper accountability. Once projects and plans
have been delegated to a team of individuals, it is very
tempting to let go. But unless there are regular and adequate
accountability measures in place, human nature will eventually
produce failure. Many leaders (particularly in church
environments) avoid structured and regular accountability.
Checking up on people just isn’t part of our organizational
culture. It is even more challenging to set up accountability
relationships that are seen and perceived as positive, proactive
initiatives to help individuals grow and give their best.
Lesson: Avoiding accountability has a very high price
tag. Be accountable and hold others accountable in a positive
atmosphere of growth and development.
4. Lack of team-building. Ask yourself: Are those I lead
a bunch of highly skilled individuals or are they a cohesive
team? The leader’s job is to create, build, and develop
teams, not just assign tasks to individuals. Team-building is
an intentional process that requires time and energy but has
high long-term dividends.
Lesson: Build teams, don’t just assign tasks. Don’t just
recruit the best-skilled individuals but build and upskill those
with potential to grow.
5. Poor matches. The leader’s job is to assign individuals
to positions that match their strengths. People excel only
in environments where they are positively challenged. Leaders
create that optimum space by wisely matching people
Lesson: There are no wrong people, just wrong positions.
Match individuals to areas of responsibility that are
best suited to their talents, gifts, skills, and passions.
6. Inadequate training. Anyone can fail without adequate
training. It is tempting to take a shortcut and pursue results
without first investing in training and equipping those deployed
to various tasks and assignments within the organization. Often
places of significant responsibility are filled with individuals
who had no training at all (directors, administrators, etc.),
yet they are expected to perform at the highest level.
Lesson: Leaders ensure that adequate training is an integral
part of the organizational culture.
7. Poor articulation and modeling of values/mission/vision. When core organizational values are not properly
understood and practiced and when mission/vision is assumed
and strategies are not owned, people will be “busy”
but ultimately unproductive. Focus will be on output rather
Lesson: Leaders have the ultimate responsibility for the
organization’s values, mission, and vision. Nobody else can
be held accountable for lack of understanding of core organizational
goals and objectives. Leaders must own this responsibility
and put significant resources into ensuring that
the vision is clear, the mission is energizing, and the values
are practiced and visible.
Reflecting on these seven areas should prevent futile finger-pointing
and unproductive complaining. Mature leaders
are not afraid to ask tough questions of themselves. When
people fail you, chances are you have failed them as their
leader. Ask “What can I do to help my people succeed?”
Reflect: In each of the seven areas, rate yourself on a
scale of 1 (very poor) to 10 (excellent). Out of a total possible
score of 70, where do you realistically find yourself at
this point in time? How can you move your leadership to the
Branimir Schubert (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the
Ministerial Secretary of the South Pacific Division.