The Right Questions
Many leaders fail because they focus on having the right answers. What they do not understand is that they will be successful only when they discover how to ask the right questions. Questions are important. They are valuable in our pursuit of wisdom. The right questions will lead us to the right answers; and the right answers will lead us to that ancient relic called “truth”. Illusive to many, truth is often buried beneath the discord and disharmony of life. It is up to us then to unearth this treasure by asking the questions that will challenge and empower us to face the things we have been avoiding.
‘Why Leaders Fail’ was written to assist you in asking the hard questions. We often read materials only to arrive at the conclusion of the writer. This book will help you arrive at your own conclusions. However, that can only happen when you are willing to ask yourself the questions poignantly plotted in the course of this reading. Only then will you find the place of self-discovery that will aid you as a leader and help you secure your success.
I have had the distinct privilege of shepherding, mentoring and developing many leaders. Unfortunately, I have also watched with great anguish and pain as prodigious leaders experienced private failures in very public ways. I have been a front-seat witness to the flawed finality of many of our famed leaders. I have beheld their rise to great levels of success, only to end up wasting it all over a reckless incident. I have observed families fall and empires crumble; while great people go from common to king and back to common again. I have retrospectively and introspectively regarded the lives of fallen leaders; and been haunted by their history, wondering about their possibilities: “what-if” they had done this, or “what-if” they had not done that?
Through this, I started seeing a parallel between the leaders of today and those of the biblical writings. I also began to discover strategies in the scriptures that would secure leaders in their reign if they simply took the time to understand them. After all, the scriptures remain not only for our inspiration, information and importation; but as an admonition against what should not be done as well. There is a hidden treasure in the Bible that shows us how to avoid repeating the poor performance of our past predecessors; and as we audit the men of God and discover the “don’ts” of leadership, I think you will be amazed by what we uncover.
The Don’ts of Leadership
There are a number of materials that teach us how to lead but there is very little that sheds light on what we should not do as leaders. Why do great leaders continue to have great failures? It cannot be that they are shortsighted or foolish; and it certainly cannot be that they are not intelligent. They have mastered “the moment” utilizing their intellect, skill sets and competency. Yet it always seems they fail in the simplest and most idiotic ways. If you are like me, your first response to most leaders’ failures is “what in the world were they thinking?” It is almost as if these great minds took a leave of absence and alleviated themselves of any sense; “like they were having a buy-one-get-one free sale on stupidity and they were the first in line.” This is a sarcastic, simple answer but the truth is far more complex. One would hope that it were just a temporary moment where they abandoned all logic and reason, but for many leaders what appears to be an impermanent moment of insanity is really a result of a lifetime of unaddressed issues.
I want to help you uncover the things lying dormant in you that you have yet to confront. I want to assist you in conquering them, so you do not become a part of the “what were they thinking?” crew. The has-beens of life are people who at one point were right where you are now. No one took the time to help them discover the things we are going to find in here; but as you read this book, my hope is that you feel we are partnering to pursue what could be a destiny moment for you.
To help us on this journey, we are going to focus on historical figures and their failures: David, Samson, Elijah and Elisha, and Noah. If we are willing to realistically analyze their tenure as great leaders, we will discover where they made their greatest mistakes. The lessons we will extract from their lives are not messages of condemnation but messages of conviction; and as we look at the lives of these great leaders, my prayer is that you are convicted by the things that challenged their leadership.
Because I am a pastor, we are going to expose and scrutinize them in a way they have rarely been viewed. Please do not think I am desecrating any of the great icons of our faith or am in any way disrespecting them – I am a benefactor of the benevolence of God’s sacred texts. I am who I am because of his scriptures and those we have come to admire from the hallmark of faith. But I believe God gave us his written record so we could see that the icons of our faith experienced failures and frailties; and so that we could imitate their successes rather than their failures.
To accomplish this, the things covered by romantic language must be unveiled so that we can take a realistic look at their struggles, challenges and difficulties. We must see beyond the leader’s genius, strategy and triumph; and discover the chink in their armor. We must analyze not just what “makes” a man but what “breaks” him as well. The election of a leader is a sovereign thing; this means God’s hand is the one that develops us. But if this statement is true, then this means our hand is the one that destroys us. We do not have as much to do with our making but we do have everything to do with the breaking. So it is in our best interest to study the things we can control and leave to God the things he controls.
It is been pointed out many times before and I think it is worth restating: a leader’s greatest enemy is not the one he fights outwardly but the one he fights inwardly. The “inner me” is more often than not the true enemy. So let us embark on this journey together and identify the proclivities of great leaders that limit their possibilities. Let us explore the limitless possibilities of your leadership and help you overcome your challenges so you discover a continuous realm of greatness. Let us ask ourselves the tough questions so we may gain the right answers. Let us do all this, so that when people mention your name, they will not follow it up with the question, “whatever happened to that guy”?