What Should We Do When A Respected Leader Fails?

In the past couple of years, the Christian leadership world has been rocked hard with leaders who have fallen.

Powerhouse leaders such as:

  • Bill Hybels is the founding and former senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. He also started the Global Leadership Summit. Allegations of sexual misconduct and an affair were brought against Hybels and he no longer holds the positions he once did.
  • Ravi Zacharias was the founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and a globally recognized expert in Christian apologetics. He impacted the lives of so many, including mine. His legacy is now tarnished because of his inappropriate behavior with women.
  • James MacDonald is the founder of Harvest Bible Chapel. He publicly failed when his improper behavior was exposed. He made sexually inappropriate comments, bullied those he led, and handled his organization’s finances inappropriately.

These are but 3 examples of Christian leaders people looked up to. They’re also 3 Christian leaders who fell hard and failed.

It’s been a rough time in the Christian leadership arena. Many leaders are failing. More are turning away because they’re sick and tired of seeing the leaders they respected fail.

As someone who writes about leadership and follows many leaders, I am often asked what I think when another leader fails.

Honestly, my thoughts on the leader themselves don’t matter. Whether I respect the leader or didn’t know who they were, my opinion means nothing.

What matters is how we respond when a respected leader fails.

What Should We Do When A Respected Leader Fails?

How we respond to a failed leader is a good barometer of who we are and where we’re at in our walk. Our response can show us where we need to grow and how we can better guard ourselves against a potential failure.

So, what should we do when a respected leader fails? We should:

1. Fall to our knees in prayer:

The failed leader didn’t set out to fail. They set out to make a big difference in the kingdom and the world. Their failure happened because something wasn’t right.

Leaders, we need to fall to our knees when we hear of another leadership failure. We need to ask God to expose any potential sin or problem areas in our lives. We have to be ready for God to expose in us what He has exposed in others.

I believe we’re closer to a failure than we’d like to admit.

No leader sets out to be sexually immoral. No leader sets out to abuse their team members. No leader sets out to destroy their family or the organizations they’ve built.

Fall to your knees and ask God to expose your most troubling areas.

And, not only should we be praying for ourselves, we need to pray for the leader whose sins were exposed. Pray for conviction. Pray for their family. Pray for those they led.

2. Don’t gossip about the failure:

I am not trying to gossip when I share the names of the fallen leaders above. They have been publicly exposed. I am using them as an example today.

It is easy to begin gossiping about a leader who has failed.

We see an easy opportunity to feel good about ourselves. We see an opportunity to talk about someone who may have been above us.

Gossiping feels great in the moment. You can connect with others and rally around a cause.

Yet, gossiping never leads to anything productive. Gossiping hurts not only the person you’re gossiping about, gossip hurts you. It tears down the influence you have and makes people question whether or not you’re doing the same thing behind their backs.

3. Be more relational:

There’s something special about community. It helps us realize our faults. Community also allows us to be called out on the things we’re doing wrong.

When we see another leader fail, we need to become more relational. We need to find our community and dig in. We need to make sure we’re surrounding ourselves with people who love and care about us enough to call us out.

Find a group of people you can count on. Find a group of people you can go to when you’re struggling. Find a group of people who are willing to tell you to get your ducks in a row.

Many of the failed leaders we see have neglected community. They began to pull back. They lost the people who would tell them the truth.

Be more relational. Make sure you have people who have your best interests at heart.

4. Reflect:

As the sins of fallen leaders are exposed, their sins can expose the sins in our lives. We can look at what they did wrong and see the same things in our lives.

*GASP*

Yes, we’re just as flawed as those we’ve seen fail. We have to realize this. We can realize just how flawed we are by reflecting on our current state of leadership and our thoughts.

Reflect on what you’ve been thinking about. Reflect on the things you’ve been viewing. Reflect on the things you’ve been doing.

Reflection will expose many of the things in our lives that we are trying to hide or not think about.

5. Don’t cover it up:

It’s easy to sweep things under the rug. We don’t want sin and evil-doing to be in the public arena. We don’t want our sins to be exposed.

Yet, cover-ups happen all of the time. It’s one of the reasons leaders continue to fail. They have a team around them that is willing to cover things up.

You cannot be like that. You cannot desire to cover up your wrongdoings. You also can’t be willing to cover the wrongdoings of others.

Covering up bad situations only prolongs the situation. It only deepens the issue.

When everything is exposed, it is only magnified by the level of the cover-up. Just take a look at RZMI.

They have committed to removing Ravi’s legacy from their organization. They will no longer be a big player in the apologetics arena.

Coverups hurt you and others. Don’t cover things up.

Leader Failures Are About Us

If you noticed, the 5 things we need to do when a leader fails have nothing to do with the leader who failed. Rather, the actions we need to take have to do about ourselves.

Leadership failures aren’t about others. They are about us. Our hearts, our thoughts, our desires.

When a leader fails, don’t attack the leader. Instead, look inward and upward and figure out what you need to do.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.