12 Mistakes Leaders Make

mistakesHow bout I start with a little cold blooded honesty: Each one of these are mistakes I have made. And in some cases, still make. My goal with this blog is not to be negative or self-deprecating. Rather I just want to be helpful. Over the years, I’ve learned more about leadership from others honesty about their mistakes than just about anything. So here goes, in no particular order, 12 mistake I’ve made in leadership:

1) Judging your success by the size of your following – I think this is the most common mistake a leader makes. They imagine that their ministry is not successful, valuable or valid because it’s not a mega-ministry. In the kingdom, your success has nothing to do with your ministry sphere. It has everything to do with faithfulness in love. Realizing you are loved by God and are a lover of God is the foundation of success.

2) Taking it personally when people don’t follow – I’ve stepped in this hole many times by getting frustrated or blaming myself when people don’t follow. There is no way every person you have the honor of leading is going to flawlessly follow. Consider Jeremiah. He didn’t have one convert after 20 years of prophetic ministry. Don’t take it personally when someone veers off the path or leaves your ministry. Be kind, prayerful and open-handed. Always speak, pray and believe for their best, even if they don’t follow your lead.

3) Focusing on what could be over what God’s already done – Leaders tend to be visionaries, seeing ahead and believing God for great things. At times I’ve focused more on what could be over what God is currently doing. If you’re not careful you can become ungrateful, dissatisfied and discouraged about what God is presently doing because you’re too focused on what could be. Guilty as charged. Be grateful for everything He’s currently doing, even small victories, while continuing to believe for greater things in the days ahead. Gratitude will keep you out of discouragement.

4) Quitting prematurely because you don’t see the results you want – When the Lord gives you an assignment see it through to the end. Don’t quit because it gets hard or doesn’t grow. Too often our internal gauge by which we measure effectiveness isn’t calibrated by God’s measure of effectiveness. Be faithful and persevere allowing the Lord to direct you. If He’s called you to something, don’t stop until He makes it equally as clear that He wants you to move on.

5) Assessing before listening – I’m particularly talking about counseling individuals here. Too often I’ve sized up a situation, believing I understood everything, and offered input without really listening and understanding. At times, experiences with others have been my biggest challenge. I thought I understood because someone else’s situation was similar. Instead I’ve had to realize that each individual’s situation is different. Always listen thoroughly before you assess.

6) Isolating yourself – You will face challenges in ministry. Ministry can be very difficult. I’ve found that it’s essential to have several people around you that you can tell EVERYTHING. Otherwise when your tempted, attacked or challenged you’re a sitting duck for the enemy. Too many leaders do not have safe relationships around them to listen, encourage and pray. There was a time when I’d go all “Elijah Complex” if I was experiencing ministry difficulties. Isolating myself always compounded my problems. Share what you’re going through with a few trusted friends, it will help you A LOT.

7) Not being submitted yourself – A key requirement of anyone who is in authority is that he must be under authority himself. Leadership doesn’t mean you have less accountability, it requires you to have more. If you do not have those in your life that can tell you ‘No’, you are dangerous as a leader. Find someone you can trust, preferably someone whose older, who will speak into your life. This relationship should be in addition to those who are close by, whom you can ask for prayer and input through difficulties.

8) Not realizing you have blindspots – There was a time when I thought I knew all my weaknesses. And then I had an objective counselor tell me I am one of the most intense people He’s ever met. He went on to tell me that when I speak, I think it’s a level ‘3’ intensity, but it’s really a level ‘9’. I wouldn’t have believed him but my wife was sitting right there in complete agreement. BUSTED! It was unpleasant to hear in the moment, but it has been one of the most helpful pieces of input I’ve ever received. Everyone has blindspots. You need to ask your friends what yours are and don’t defend it. Allow the Lord to use this as a purifying exercise. It will be VERY HELPFUL for you.

9) Playing Holy Spirit for people – I have over-counseled and over-preached on many occasions. Not only have I told people what the bible says, I’ve shared my opinion, given multiple reasons why they should follow the Word, and then continued to follow up with them to make sure they were choosing the right path. Somewhere in there I moved beyond being helpful to playing Holy Spirit. Share the truth with people. Pray for them. Give input as they give you permission. There’s nothing wrong with following up but make sure you allow the Lord to work it out in their life. He’s way better at convicting and convincing people than you and I are.

10) Leading by legislation instead of revelation Rules are written on paper. Revelation is written on hearts. I have failed miserably in getting people to follow when I’ve instituted too many rules to govern their behavior. But when I’ve given sound biblical revelation as to why and how we are to live, it’s produced incredible results. People aren’t constrained by my rules, they are compelled by revelation on their hearts. (Side Note: I’m not saying you shouldn’t have some guidelines, but in general don’t default to rule-making when you’re calling people to serve the Lord with abandon)

11) Valuing budgets, programs or initiatives over individuals – What’s the value of a person? I’ve gotten my eye off the ball often, esteeming the initiative or budget as more important than a person. A good way to tell if you aren’t valuing people properly is if you get upset at a person when their mistake messes up the program. What’s more important, the person or the program? Too often leaders mishandle individuals because they make mistakes. If the sound man causes high pitched feedback, don’t give him the evil eye or chew him out. He’s just as valuable as anyone in the congregation. Treat him with kindness, honor and value.

12) Misunderstanding your role as a leader – Contrary to some leadership teachings I’ve heard, leaders don’t exist to receive accolades, perks, privileges or honor. Leaders exist to serve Jesus’ bride and bring her into her destiny. The bride DOES NOT exist to serve the leader. The bride is for the Bridegroom. This has been upside down in the church for too long. I tremble for the day that Jesus sorts this out. Many leaders will be convicted and corrected, perhaps severely, by the Lord for having used the bride for their own glory.

There you have it, 12 mistakes I’ve made as a leader. I’m sure there are many many more. If you’ve made any of these mistakes or are currently making them, just know that making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. Hopefully my mistakes are helpful and instructive for you.

What are some mistakes you’ve made? Which mistakes in the list do you have questions about? Comment and I’ll do my best to reply.

12 thoughts on “12 Mistakes Leaders Make

  1. Hey Billy, I love how you have been dressing leadership issues etc.. this was really helpful.. This is one of the things that I struggle with..

    6) Isolating Yourself

    I have been pursuing God for about 4 years, in that span of time He has revealed to me that I am a leader. The more revelation I have gotten about God, the more difficult it has become to relate to my peers, so it is frustrating trying to convey the intense emotions in my heart regarding who Jesus is, what He has told me etc. and especially difficult to make known to adults that don’t listen or believe in me.

    So, basically I fell stuck in this place right now where I don’t have that person to go to and tell “everything” and and I have ALL this vision.
    The Lord has been revealing ALOT to me about what He is doing now, and what He will be doing in the future, regarding the Church and our maturity and His coming.. and all my family that I tell about the return of Jesus looks at me like I’ve lost my mind

    please pray.

    1. I hear you. I want to encourage you to find others who are like minded and connect. Also connect with a church and a leader you feel you can submit to. One of the lies the enemy tells us is that we are all alone. That’s never true. Gods got a community for you to connect with that will be a source of encouragement & life for you. Blessings.

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jun 21, 2013, at 11:24 AM, “billyhumphrey.com”

  2. Great article. A good list of items to constantly review, because without thoughtful meditation it is easy to slip into any one of these and cause damage to the work of God and to those around you.

  3. I had a friend send me here because I had posted an article on Ephesians 3:1-13 on my blog and the conclusion of said article seemed to draw the same conclusion as point number 4 of this blog entry. I thought perhaps it might encourage you, so I will post the conclusion here:


    This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (Ephesians 3:11-13).

    These Ephesian Christians are in danger of becoming downhearted. Their founding pastor has been arrested and is in prison awaiting trial. And the wheels of justice have ground to a halt. He is not only in prison, but he has been in prison for a long time. They hear what he is going through and they know that they might be next. They feel for him. They have prayed for him and it seems their prayers have not been answered.

    They are beginning to wonder about it all. It appears that God’s plan has failed. His apostle has been imprisoned. And this time there has been no earthquake to open the cell doors and no angel to lead the prisoner to freedom. Years have passed and Paul is still chained. But Paul wants them to know that there is a divine purpose at work. Knowing that purpose results in boldness – even from a Roman prison. And Paul’s hardships have resulted in glorious growth.

    It is easy to be faithful in the midst of obvious success. When the church is bursting at the seams. When your bank account is good. When Sunday school classes are full. When everything is going well.

    But will you be faithful when you cannot see the immediate results? Will you be faithful to share the gospel when you do it and no one believes? Sunday school teachers, will you be faithful when there is just a small handful of students – when you can count their number on one hand and still have fingers to spare? Will you be faithful when you are the only one being faithful?

    You will if you remember that there is an eternal purpose at work. Your faithfulness bears fruit – not necessarily today or tomorrow, but in eternity.

    Soli Deo Gloria

  4. What a wise young man you are! If you have learned this as a young man, you are not only way ahead of the curve, but moving forward unencumbered–you’ve stripped off the weight that slows us down (Hebrews 12:1).

    As a 52-year-old spiritual mother, I have made (and walked in for extended periods of time) all 12 of these mistakes, but He is so gracious to teach and generous with His wisdom. The one thing I would add to the list is: not loving enough. Once He increased my capacity to love–the I Peter 4:8 fervent love (which is a stretched love), it was life- and ministry-changing!

    Blessings and favor on your ministry!

  5. Reblogged this on The Key of David and commented:
    I had to share this post here from Billy Humphrey, director of the Atlanta House of Prayer. I have been so inspired by his teaching, you should subscribe to his blog and check out his books, they’re powerful.

  6. Thank you for sharing about Mistakes. It gives me a chance to look back about my mistakes through out my life. I want to thank God for all mistakes I made, because of it, I learned so much about who I am, what I am, where I am, My mistakes teach me how to be very Weak, how to have Poor Spirit, how to Humble myself, how to Love, how to Grow Up, how to have Courage, how to have Confidence, and how to have Faith. All is to bring Glory to God. Thank you, May God Bless you always.

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