I don't know anyone who likes to fail. We all try our hardest to avoid it, yet it's inevitable.
I was working with a young leader recently who was exercising a new leadership skill for the first time. We talked through details for approaching this new competency, but afterward he came to me discouraged. The outcome was something he labeled a "failure." He wrestled with self-doubt, battled with his ego, and asked himself a laundry list of self-examination questions. And that was good. While things didn't go as he envisioned, he was now asking all the right questions and was eager to learn.
The Need for Guidance
I don't enjoy watching anyone fail, but I do enjoy being there to help a young leader process his mistakes. You see, failure without a mentor can be disastrous—but failure with a mentor leads to development.
In Acts 13:13, John Mark clearly abandoned his God-ordained calling to travel with the team commissioned to take the gospel to the Gentiles. A few years later, this failure caused Paul to reject Mark as a team member on the second missionary journey. But Barnabas refused to give up on Mark and invited him to travel with him to minister in Cyprus (Acts 15:37-38). Barnabas' mentorship undoubtedly paid off because years later Paul told Timothy, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11).
I thank God for failure because:
- It gives me the opportunity to authenticate my belief in the leaders I mentor.
- It gives me the opportunity to be there to answer the tough questions.
- It gives them the opportunity to demonstrate emotional fortitude.
- It gives them the chance to gain leadership wisdom.
When a young leader under your supervision fails, thank God—you'll find this to be one of the most opportune times for leadership development. Don't miss it.
An Opportunity for Growth
As leaders, I believe we have to embrace the benefits of failure more. Failure is fertile ground for leadership growth because it cuts deep into the leader's emotions. Think about it: most of life's long-lasting lessons are typically tied to a strong emotion. And very little stirs our emotion more than failure.
I'll never forget the day I when I was a rookie minister and our executive pastor walked into my office and said," We're going to let you go." WHAM! That moment of failure produced an emotional crisis that led to healthy self-examination and a dependence on God for the development of my ministry giftings.
I've discovered that processing failure the right way eliminates an unhealthy self-confidence and replaces it with God confidence in the spirit of the leader. Part of the sanctification process for a leader is eradicating that self-reliant, ego-driven leadership and coming to a place of realizing, "I am weak but he is strong." It's assessing what went wrong and allowing the Holy Spirit to convince us, "Without me you can do nothing." It's evaluating self in light of Truth and coming to that place of knowing, "Not by might, not by power but by my Spirit says the Lord."
The self-reliant leader's impact is restricted to results that he alone can produce. But it's the humble, God-confident leader that God longs to display his power through. And it typically takes a series of failures to see that produced in our character.
As mentors, we must nurture not just the development of our protégée's competence through failure, but we must also nurture the God-reliant attitude the Holy Spirit wants to produce in their life.
—Mac Lake is the Chief Launch Officer of The Launch Network, a new church-planting network based out of West Ridge Church in the greater Atlanta, Georgia, area. Article reprinted with permission from www.MacLakeonline.com.