When Leadership Fails – How to Cope

By: The Centre for Effective Serving

In the wake of scandals across churches and leaders, the Christian community has been trying to make sense of what went wrong and whom to hold responsible.

When leaders ‘fail’, there can inevitably be perceptions of blame and judgement. It could also pollute our attitude towards religious institutions and leave a rather sour taste towards leadership. As we witness this and read regular updates, it can have an impact on our wellbeing. The people we might have perceived as ‘good’ have now turned out to be flawed. In fact, some of them have serious allegations against them. This article aims to help us gain an understanding of how we can process and respond to leaders ‘falling from grace’.

Check in with yourself

What am I feeling? Where in my body am I feeling it? This might range from anger to disappointment, from shock to denial. Whatever those emotions are, you can try to acknowledge them and let them ‘sit’ with you. Your emotions have wisdom to them and don’t need to be discarded as unimportant. Take a moment to notice this as your feelings might be quite nuanced. This simple act of checking in will help you be more aware of your internal world.

Ask how this affects you

Are you in the ministry space and now feel like you have to defend all your decisions? Perhaps you are a parent who is trying to help your child make sense of this or a leader yourself who is struggling in a particular area. Whatever your position is, it is important to think through how these incidents impact your day-to-day functioning. Have you noticed significant changes in your mood? Has this contributed to a sense of hopelessness? If your functioning has been impaired, seeing a professional can help in gaining clarity and moving forward.

Remember that leaders are fallible

We can sometimes hold the belief that church leaders have perfected the art of living out every Biblical truth. The reality, however, is that they might make errors in judgment, be susceptible to mistakes and not always get it right. This does not justify unethical behaviour or imply that they should not be held accountable. However, it shouldn’t come as a shock when we hear news confirming that the best humans are humans at best.

Revisit expectations of leadership

It can be frustrating to witness church leaders struggle as we expect them to be representative of the institution as a whole. There are numerous reasons behind such ‘failures’ in leadership. Some of them are lack of accountability and mentorship, lack of flexibility, gaps in communication and boundary violations. Who is a perfect leader? What are my expectations of leaders? It might help to verbalise your beliefs and expectations of leadership, and then redefine the ones that might be unrealistic and sometimes unhelpful.

Have you been experiencing significant difficulties in terms of your wellbeing and find it challenging to move forward from leadership incidents? If you are looking for professional help, you can get in touch with one of our team by filling out the enquiry form on our website.

Article supplied with thanks to The Centre for Effective Serving.

Feature image: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash 

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