“Do first and ask for apologies later,” said someone. Have you ever heard that line? I have. On several occasions as a matter of fact. In fact, I’ve even used it myself and sometimes it’s true… though only sometimes. However, those “sometimes” are very few and far in-between. In fact, I can think of many ways in which this is just unwise advise.
Leaders Don’t Have a Blank Check!
All leader’s make mistakes because every leader is human and as I said, sometimes you must simple do and be ready to apologize if necessary. However, the truth is that this “do first and ask for an apology later” does not come with a blank check. It comes with a very small credit line and once that credit line is crossed, you lose credibility as a leader.
The obvious way leaders lose credibility is moral failure. I can think of several prominent cities where the mayor or mayoral candidate lost credibility. The latest example involves the unfolding scandal that Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto is facing. But. . . And this is important, moral failures are not the only way to lose credibility. Leaders can lose credibility by the decisions they make that end up failing at a great cost.
Let me share two examples involving U.S. Presidents losing credibility because of the decisions they made. The first example involves former President George W. Bush and his decision regarding the war in Iraq. This was a war waged under the pretense that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ready to use. However, as the war dragged on, costing lives and money without ever finding these weapons, many Americans came to judge the war as mistake and lost confidence in Bush’s ability to lead the nation. Fast forward to 2013 and President Obama’s handling the launch of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.” Like it or not, it is a controversial policy which means it already comes with challenge. However, with the recent problems regarding the healthcare website, the President’s credibility is now in question. Time will tell whether he gains back some of the credibility he appears to have lost but there is still a lesson to learn here.
The truth is, poor decisions will cost a leader his or her credibility. Even though that seems pretty obvious, it’s never so obvious for the leader.
Follow Me Into Unchartered Waters!
Any ways, I don’t care about presidential politics and I’m not interested in debating the politics of President Bush and President Obama. What I do care about is leading churches to live on mission with God and the challenge of leadership this requires. In many ways, we are living on the frontier of a new era… postmodernism, post-christendom, secularization, globalization, and so on. The challenges are great and are requiring us to rethink how we do ministry, how live within the community, and what it means to participate in the mission of God.
In leading churches to live on mission with God, what is needed good conversational partners. Theological education is very important, seminars and conferences are nice, and reading books is even nicer. Good conversational partners who understand the task at hand and are able to help think through challenging issues… priceless!
Besides having other ministers and friends outside the church we serve in as conversational partners, there is a need for a team of conversational partners within the church. For larger churches, such partners might be other ministry staff. However, if you serve a small church, as I do, where you are thee singular minister, then such conversation partners must come from other church members. These are members who, having shown through commitment and character, that they can help listen for God’s leading, reflect on what God might be saying, and discern what God wants the church to do next. Having such a team just might help avoid some of the unwise decision making that will cost a minister his or her credibility.
Some might ask how much the competency of these conversation partners matter. That’s a good question but not one that I worry as much about because I see it also as an opportunity to teach about missional living and missional church.
What I do know is that good decisions are rarely, if ever, made by one person thinking alone. So find some conversational partners because the way forward is in many ways unchartered waters and as always, credibility is the currency to lead the church into these waters.