5 Truths to Remember When Your Leader Falls

This is a guest post by Lisa Whittle. She is a speaker and the author of {w}hole. You can watch the trailer for the book and download a free chapter here. You can also read Lisa’s blog and follow her on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

The platform of a leader is often visible, broad and elevated. So when a leader falls from this place, it can be a hard fall, indeed.

Businessman Falling Down the Stairs - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/viki2win, Image #16002596

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/viki2win

I know of this experience, firsthand, as my pastor-father fell hard and fast from his visible place of mega-church leadership in the early 1990s. While the eyes of the world watched pastor scandals of famed leaders on TV, I watched one of my own unfold, inside our family home.

It was difficult and painful, on every level. But with it came some rich lessons of understanding, grace, and the value of people. It brought about insight into what every tribe member should remember when the one they follow falls. 

  1. Your belief in him or her was not necessarily wrong. Often, when a leader falls from their position, those who followed him or her feel duped, setup or foolish. But while we are wise to be discerning in whom we let speak into our lives, we are always to believe the best about people. This includes leaders. Even the most godly, respected leaders can fall from their position, should they allow power, wealth or influence to corrupt them.
  2. You are not expected to (nor should you) take personal responsibility for them. When we choose to follow a leader, we choose to invest in their leadership. As a result, we may begin to feel like we are responsible to defend, excuse or speak for them, taking on their fall to the point where it effects us, personally. Though we can offer our support through love and grace, it is not healthy to, in any way, own their actions.
  3. Your response will determine your future. Because the position of a leader elicits respect, we are influenced by their actions. For a time, this may mean that we become stagnant or discouraged, doubting our ability to make wise choices or follow trustworthy leaders. But our ability to thrive depends on what we choose next. No matter who we follow that has fallen, we have the ability to move forward, choosing well for ourselves in the future.
  4. Your realistic expectation will be important. It is vital to know several things about your fallen leader, going forward. You must know that after a time of sabbatical, the leader you have followed will likely want to lead again. You must know that he or she will feel hurt and will likely attempt to self-protect. You must remember that he or she is human and expect them to respond as such, no matter the size of their platform or far their fall.
  5. Your attitude toward him or her may produce change. When leaders fall, they learn to expect judgment from the watchful eyes of the world.  But they long for gracious people to believe in them again. When a leader is offered grace, it provides a measure of necessary healing to their soul, which, in turn buoys their self-esteem. A tribe member who understands this can offer his or her leader a type of leadership back by leading out in a campaign of understanding and love. 

Like any other human who suffers the loss of a valued role, when a leader falls from his or her platform, they struggle to find their place. While he or she is responsible to maintain their own integrity, it is the support members of their tribe that can help them learn to stand, again, from a very public leadership fall.

Question: What have you learned in following a fallen leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your transparency and honesty.

    Along with this, we should never use the sins of others to excuse our own sins. 

  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    Timely and important post, Mr. Hyatt. Thank you so much.

  • http://perichoreticlife.blogspot.com/ Michael

    I like the affirming tone of this. Failure can happen to anyone.

    When I interview candidates, I always ask them how they deal with failure. If they say they never have, then I know that they either are not being completely honest or have not attempted anything big enough to work for our company.

  • Joseph cantone

    The only leader I follow is Jesus Christ. If you follow ANYONE else you will ultimately be
    disappointed, even crushed. I will disappoint others-I am only human. So are our ”leaders”.
    We do not put our faith in them, only in Jesus.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Yes, Joseph. Agreed.

    • http://www.philippknoll.com Philipp Knoll

      I can’t agree to your statement, Joseph. There can be other leaders besides Jesus. Yes, they might disappoint at times. But what is so bad about that? Isn’t disappointment what forgiveness is for? I believe it is all about the intentions. A leader might make disappointing moves but if his/her intentions were honest and good there is no real harm done. You move on, learn and do better next time.

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

        If meeting expectation and not disappointing were the criteria for leading, we’d even give up on Jesus. Jesus failed to live up to the expectations of His own disciples. His plan surpassed theirs but not before passing through disillusionment and despair.

        • http://www.philippknoll.com Philipp Knoll

          Well said – totally agree. I simply used the terminology as it were the words of the comment I replied to. Far more than meeting expectations and not disappointing leadership is about trust – to me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066638106 Rl Chance

      Well said Joseph.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, but God has provided leaders (bishops, elders, deacons) in the church. You really can’t avoid following human leadership.

      • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

        I had the same thought, Michael. We have to strike a healthy balance of appreciating and gleaning from those gifted for leadership and remembering who our ultimate Leader is.

      • http://www.justcris.com Cris Ferreira

        I agree, Michael. And we also have leaders in the non-spiritual realm too. We have managers, executives, CEOs, and when we work for a company, we have to follow their lead (if we don’t agree with them, we can always quit our jobs).
        Jesus presented himself as God so it is not exactly the same as following a leader, it is much more: we worship a divinity. Jesus is our leader indeed, but not only that, he is our God.
        And there are people that follow another person not only as a leader, but as an idol, and in that case I agree that it is wrong.

      • http://twitter.com/shawnakirk shawnakirk

        Michael, this is such a great reminder. We follow leaders, we put our hope, faith, lives in Christ. Christ is propitiation, I see a great distinction between the two. Parents lead their children, Teachers lead their students, Generals lead their soldiers, we need great leaders.  We must pray to Christ for our leaders all the while remembering they put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us!

      • Pam

        I think there is a difference between following a leader in a project, group, or organisation and putting all of our faith in them.  The only one who can live up to that is our Lord.  If we put ALL of our faith in a “man”, then we are asking to go down the tubes with him if he fails.

      • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon

        We are called into community as believers, therefore we are called to suffer disappointment and pain together.  When we minimize these relationships, we really aren’t fully experiencing the Body for all it’s blessings- and imperfections.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I respectfully disagree Joseph.

      The Bible teaches that there are many types of leaders that we are supposed to submit to and follow. Those include our parents, the head of our household, government officials, etc…

      I will agree that Jesus should be our main example as a leader.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Tomorrow I preach on Ephesians 4 where Paul writes about what the Lord has given us which includes apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers. In other words, godly leaders. If I follow Jesus Christ, I will recognize His presence in those who lead. Joseph, you’ve provided a good stirring of the pot. Thanks–Tom

  • http://www.Godtaughtme.com Chris Einwechter

    I think number three is not just important, but critical for our recovery. I’ve been in a Church where the pastor fell, almost 13 years ago now. It crushed many and of course some never seemed to recover from it. But thank God the Church had a new leader come in right after the fall, and has grown from 250 to about 1300 folks. So your right Michael our ability to thrive depends on what we choose to do next, and I think that choice is critical when this type of event happens in our lives. Thanks.  

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      I agree, Chris. I find #3 critical to the health and well-being of the church, as well. Thanks for sharing your personal experience. It’s one that is echoed by many.

      • http://www.Godtaughtme.com Chris Einwechter

        Thanks Lisa for a great post, which I am sorry I didn’t realize you had written it until my second cup of Joe! 

        • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

          No worries, Chris. I am coffee dependent, too! :)

  • http://blog.rumorsofglory.com/ Lucille Zimmerman

    Thank you Lisa and Mike for this post. One of the more interesting books I’ve read on this subject is called:  “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership.” We all have “bents” in our personal psychology. 

    There are various reasons people become leaders. e.g. Maybe it was to overcome feelings of inferiority.

    It is important to know how we are wired because there are two sides — one good and one dark. If we don’t understand the dark side of our personality, and how that could impact us negatively, we will not be prepared to prevent a fall. 

  • Anthony DiMaio

    Fact:  Leaders Fail. Leadership on the other hand is the process by which individuals establish an alacrity for “situational” navigation that results in a redemptive outcome. Redemption has to work both ways: for those who follow and those who lead.  Every Plan B emerged from an original Plan A.  That is why Scripture  talks about moving from ‘faith to faith,’ strength to strength’ and ‘glory to glory.”  We must remember though Creation started in a Garden, Christianity got its start in a stable.

  • http://blog.rumorsofglory.com/ Lucille Zimmerman

    P.S. Lisa, I just looked at your website. Your book “Whole” look intriguing. I ordered and recommended to some of my counseling clients. 

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Thank you so much, Lucille. Grateful for your support and recommendation.

  • Anthony DiMaio

    Thanks again Michael :)

  • http://twitter.com/lautsbaugh Lautsbaugh

    The reality of watching a leader fall is that they either got caught or the consequences of their sin had a greater impact. All of us are fallen leaders. My lying or pride is the same in God’s eyes as the “big sins”. Different consequences on earth certainly, but the same breaking of God’s standard. We often spend more time debating someone’s salvation, when we should be spending time thinking of how we can help in their restoration.

    “But for the grace of God, so go I”

    • http://www.Godtaughtme.com Chris Einwechter

      You got that right brother! Thanks. 

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      So true. As leaders, they had more eyes on them and were caught.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066638106 Rl Chance

    Timely and encouraging post! This is a reason why ALL leaders should be humble (lest you stumble). It is also vital for leaders to take responsibility for their actions, including a fall because upcoming leaders behind him or her needs to understand that not everything about them is “perfect.” We should not totally dismiss leaders when they fall because we all need redemption. Some folks bounce back strongest after a fall, especially true leaders. One area of a person’s life may be out of balance but in other areas, they may have excellent traits and skills needed to lead. All in all, don’t follow a leader so closely that you leave your brains and reasoning at home. 

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Well said. :)

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate Joseph’s comment about being a Christ-follower. As human beings, though, we need each other to be reminded of this. We are vulnerable to many frailties. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing a part of your story. Important stuff here.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Powerful post, Lisa. In my life, I’ve been through different leadership situations. While having a leader fail can be very disruptive, having a good leader leave or change ministries can also be heart wrenching. God works in mysterious ways. In a previous church that my wife and I had attended for years, the founding pastor received a calling to go into a different ministry. Actually a very different ministry, reaching out to people riding Harley Davidsons. This left a thriving church of 700 to find a new pastor.

    After months of searching, a new pastor was brought on board. He was a very talented speaker, but not the right fit for the church. The church slowly dwindled and after two years was all the way down to 70 members. The new pastor resigned, and everyone figured the doors would close. But God had different plans. A new pastor visited one very dark day, the attendance all the way down to 50. I was an usher and I knew that the doors would be locked soon. The board had left and there was only a remnant of people remaining. 

    Yet a remnant was what God needed.

    That day, sitting three rows behind me, God called this new pastor to take the reigns. It was a slow and tough journey at first, but God is faithful. Slowly, people began to come. Long time members returned. And now, seven years later, the church has grown to over 1200 members and now on their second building project. The original pastor, went on to start Black Sheep Ministries, which has grown to thousands of Harley members around the world.

    Through this whole episode, my faith was challenged many times, yet seeing what happens when faithful people pray, I am in awe of how God works. He is faithful!

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      This is such a powerful testimony of how God can do “more than we ask or imagine”…breathe vibrant life into deadness…and form beauty from ashes. This is a God who can be trusted. You have blessed me today, with this true story.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      John, as a guest preacher, I’ll be preaching soon in the type of church you’ve described (one that dwindled in numbers and currently has no pastor). Having your story helps me see what God can and does do. Thanks for sharing–Tom

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        One of the things I didn’t share in the story was a little boy, 4 years old, sitting across the aisle on that dark day that was diagnosed with stage four spinal cancer. Not only was my church dying, but this little boy was facing a monumental challenge. I felt so helpless. All I could do was pray. Yet through that tough time, I realized that God needs to take us places where all we have is him. He is faithful. I saw that little boy the other day, now in middle school and not so little anymore, who overcame treatments and procedures that many of us couldn’t even imagine. He shook my hand and helped me realize right then, the incredible power of prayer.

  • Jack Lynady

    Love the picture. Sometimes a talent, skill, or strength will take u to a place your character can’t keep you. Thus is often the story of a Fallen Leader. The good news is God will eventually dismantle the false and restore what’s true in a messy but beautiful act of Love.

  • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

    I appreciate #1 and would add that a leader’s fall does not automatically negate all the good they’ve done. 

    When my husband and I were in college (a quarter of a century ago!) our church pastor was accused of sexual impropriety. The “fact-finding” process was long and public, with students, faculty, and community members vociferously taking sides. When the evidence stacked up overwhelmingly against him, many people threw away all their cassette tapes of his sermons–some were angry enough to smash or burn them!

    We kept our tapes. Although a flawed man, he was also a gifted preacher through whom God clearly spoke. While we did re-listen with discernment, we chose to hold onto the teachings and truths shared rather than throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. 

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Cheri…thank you for this word. Such an important thought.  As a pastor’s daughter who (despite his scandal) still hears of her father’s influence through old sermon tapes, I could not agree more. May we never define someone’s usefulness for God by their greatest ‘success’ or largest misstep. We can rest in the fact that God’s Word won’t return void, regardless of how flawed the vessel.

  • http://www.justcris.com Cris Ferreira

    Lisa, you listed important points here. I’ve never thought of some of these points, and I thank you that I learned something new today.
    As I read your article, I thought of a couple (husband and wife) that lead of the major christian denominations here in Brazil and they have been taking a fall after the other. 
    First, they were arrested in the USA for not declaring a large amount of money they were carrying (part of it inside a Bible). They did jail time there. 
    Then, the roof of one of the major temples fell at the end of one of the services, killing 5 people and injuring more than a hundred others, and they still battle in the courts not to pay the amount determined by the justice to the victims. 
    In parallel, another scandal broke out that most of the temples all over the country are behind in their rent for more than a year. The owners are fighting in justice to get the rent they’re due.
    Looking at all this, there’s one thing that bothers me: they didn’t take responsibility for their fall(s). According to them, everything is a trap set by the devil against them. 
    So the churchers are getting more and more empty (they closed about 60% of the temples since the scandals began, about 5 years ago). They do not give the members a chance to believe in them again. How can they, when their leader blames everyone but themselves and do not take any responsibility for what happened?
    BTW, congratulations on this excellent article.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Thank you, Cris. You have a very valid concern, here. From just hearing this one perspective on people I do not personally know, I’d have to say that the things you detail sound very much like integrity issues on the part of the leaders. I have written something on my personal blog today ( http://t.co/W7MCNnKq) that give some preventative “warning signs” to leaders, as I am equally passionate about leaders living with a personal call to holiness and integrity.  Please know: leaders are not recused of responsibility.  I believe there is a difference between offering grace and understanding for imperfect people and trusting and investing in leaders who don’t use their leadership well. The purpose of this particular post is to help provide insight into the fall of a leader, in the event it has happened or will happened to us…so that our ultimate faith in God is not compromised.  

      • http://www.justcris.com Cris Ferreira

        Lisa, I read the post on your personal blog and it is excellent too, thanks for sharing.

  • Lujeanc

    When we forgive them, God forgives us our failures.  When we forgive them and pray for them, we help them to be able to pick up the pieces as earn others trust again.  They will learn what God wants most for them…there witness and godly character.

  • Anonymous

    A touching post, and very true.  Thanks for posting!

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Thanks, Joseph.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Wow. That’s what I call a face plant. On second thought, though, the guy on the pic looks like he’s doing pushups or something. 

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Loved this post Michael. It goes well with a post I have scheduled to post in a couple of weeks.

    Something I have learned from following fallen leaders is:
    You can not tell who will fall.

    Often, we forget that leaders are humans and have the tendency to fail. And when they fail, they normally fail big because they are in the spotlight.

  • Figitjill

    In the case of our previous church the fall our pastor took was never acknowledged by him. Blame of the staff around him to the brunt. He stayed and we saw a church die. Ego took on giant proportions and the board never called him on his fall.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Sadly, this happens. Sounds like a fail, all around. I think it’s important to remember that we aren’t the judge of that leader and ultimately, they will be held accountable for their actions. Hard, but important for our own soul’s well-being. What we can do is make sure we protect and guard our own heart against becoming embittered, doubtful or separated from God because of the actions of another, which nods to #3 of this post. It’s really why in {w}hole, I talk about the hole of religion.  We must understand that egos sometimes do take over and pride does happen and leaders do fall. Now…what will we do with that information? I propose it is a place that when made whole by Jesus, can elicit our balanced response of grace and accountability.

  • http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/ Susan Cushman

    I would add a 6th truth: if the leader is an abusive narcissist, be careful about interactions with him in the future. Forgiveness is good, but boundaries are often helpful and necessary.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Yes, Susan. Boundaries are indeed, important, with leaders as in life.  Thanks for your input!

  • http://www.extremejohn.com Extreme John

    Everyone of us can fall any time. After all, we are just humans. And it’s the fact of being human that we also have the ability to rise after we fall and face our fears and the consequences that are brought along with it. What matters is we learn from other’s experience be them be the ones we are strongly following or not following at all. 

    Excellent write up by the way. 

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Thanks, John.

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    Great post and so real! Looking forward to reading your book Lisa. Not just saying that. 

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Thanks, Sundi.  I pray it will mean something to you.

  • Melindatodd

    Such truths! We experienced this in our old church and the devastation was immense. The saddest part was how unforgiving some were and still are. That part broke my heart. We have to remember that our leaders are still human, full of sin nature, they too fail. If we put them on a pedestal, we set them up to fail. That’s not right. Thank you for your insights on something that is so easily overlooked.

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      I share your grief over both the devastation and the unforgiveness from a fallen leader, as I have been a close observer of both.  Even in writing my book, some have wanted me to focus on the guilt of my father or the reaction of the church, strongly indicting them for their failings. But I don’t find this helpful, nor do I consider it my place. Instead, I find that speaking up for truth, integrity and grace is the best way I can use my painful experience for something good.  May we all be focused inward on how we can be a part of the solution.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Lisa! Thanks for the timely post on failure. Yes, as humans, we tend to fail at times. And, when the leader falls, he may feel still more embarrassed. As a follower, we can show solidarity with the leader at that critical moment.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Yes, that is so important, Uma. When we withhold grace from another, we in some way indict ourselves. Leaders need people who will tell them the truth but cover it with love.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Agreed Lisa! Amen to that.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 5 Truths to Remember When Your Leader Falls

  • Lib

    Pride precedes the fall. Simple but profound truth of the Bible.

  • http://bit.ly/sviGRp Spencer McDonald

    While reading these things came to mind. 

    1. Show humility – The leader who has fallen has surely made a mis-step and still that does not equate to worthless or bad. It was a mistake. It was one that can righted over time and action.

    2. Be the leader – This is your opportunity to shine in a leadership role by being available to that fallen leader through compassion and a friendly ear. Take the high road and help lead this person back to their status.

    3. Never throw rocks – I use this quite a bit. Others seem to what to trounce on bad news or in this case a fallen leader by verbally bashing that person of situation. If you engage in joining this clan and throwing “I told you so” rocks you are exposing your own glass house to damage. We are not perfect, only trekking toward that every day.
    Be the one who lifts our world and those that have fallen. Show them some light on their darkened road. You will be who they remember in the best light. 

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Love these thoughts, Spencer, especially the last 3 sentences. Thanks.

  • Ianmspence

    None of us are without fault.  John 8:7 “He that
    is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

  • http://www.charlesspecht.com Charles Specht

    A very good article, and about a topic that we don’t consider often.  Thank you!

  • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com elaine @ peace for the journey

    Beautiful grace. That is what I’ve learned by following a fallen leader.

    peace~elaine

  • http://golfwisdomlife.com Larry Galley

    Thanks for the sharing Michael.  You’ve obviously paid a price for this learning. Thanks for the courage as well.
    Larry Galley

  • http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com Cynthia Herron

    Lisa, what beautiful thoughts you shared! In a world where there is often “guilt by association” it would be wonderful if folks would first consider what we are all commanded…”Be careful not to judge lest we judged in the same manner…”

    Extending grace to someone who has fallen and is hurting isn’t condoing what they’ve done. It’s doing what Jesus does every day for all of us.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      So true, Cynthia. I think sometimes we fear extending grace because we feel like in some way, that excuses the leader’s actions. Thanks for reminding us of what it’s really about.

  • http://krissiwyss.wordpress.com Krissi

    I’ve seen some “long falls” up close & it is heart-breaking. The nature of the fall does make a difference in the outcome, as well as the attitude of those willing to love the leader anyway.  A close friend loved her  low-fallen ex-husband after he committed heinous sins & tore apart their family. It’s hard to watch, but harder still to endure. Forgiveness is for all. Human nature does too highly elevate another that is gifted. Leaders that fall deserve love & forgiveness, too.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Agreed, Krissi.  Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/kevin_thompson Kevin Thompson

    This one hits close to home, Michael.  I’ve witnessed my father-in-law / pastor endure a horrible shakeup in his church recently.  He took a stand on principle that cost him dearly.  But watching him handle the pressure with grace and love has been very inspiring for me.  Thanks for the insightful post.    

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Grateful it resonated with you, Kevin. 

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  • http://www.agathanolen.com Agatha Nolen

    Michael,
    extremely well said. I especially appreciate the role of the tribe members in helping to restore self-esteem of the fallen leader. Your essay reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8: “But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent–not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.”

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Rich verses.  Thanks for sharing, Agatha.

  • Jraker

    Those are great point. I serve a congregation whose founding pastor floundered and the devestation is widespread. Those who have thrived have followed these principles.

    • http://www.lisawhittle.com Lisa Whittle

      Great affirmation of the thoughts in this post put into real life.  Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Humans will disappoint us because they’re human.  Only God will not disappoint.

    It’s so important not to let failures to cause us to become cynical.  In every situation, we make a choice to become better or bitter.

  • Pam

    Thank you for these thoughts.  My only experience was with several fallen leaders who protected each other and refused the “sabbatical” time.  I thought that the best thing to do was remove myself from that situation while forgiving all of them at the same time.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    As a college student in the late 70’s, I attended a Christian university where controversy seemed to be a daily part of the educational diet. When a key leader and his wife divorced, I wondered how anyone could remain married. I’m happy to say I know a leader’s failure isn’t mine. Your truth that “You’re not expected (nor should you) take personality responsibility for them” is excellent counsel. A leader’s mistake is his or hers. I don’t have to defend the leader and I sure don’t have to repeat the failure. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your wisdom.

  • http://twitter.com/ImBobbyf Bobby F

    great post, really enjoy reading your blog on a regular basis, keep up the fantastic work. from Bob in london

  • http://www.facebook.com/louise.thaxton Louise Thaxton

    Lisa – what a powerful article – and indeed one that is full of GRACE.  I can’t help but think of the disciple, Peter, when he fell……and of that moment when he denied Jesus the third time – and then their eyes connected.  For some reason, I don’t think there was “judgment” in the eyes of Jesus.  And Peter came back to lead again.  I have to remember that sweet sound of  “Amazing Grace” when someone in leadership fails and falls.  And although bad judgment and wrong choices should never be condoned – it is always good to remember that none of us are perfect – and any of us can fall. 

    I especially appreciate #5 – and ask myself the question – “can I be the vessel through which grace is poured on a fallen leader….?”

    Thanks again, Lisa!  I will mosey over to your blog and subscribe!

  • Anne

    I believe it is extremely important to know the difference between a leader who falls because of a moment of weakness, and one who is deeply broken and skilled at hiding it. Because faith communities may reject the insights of the human sciences, and trust solely in biblical teachings, they may also suffer when a leader is discovered to be a long-time predator or exploiter of human weakness.

    I conducted many interviews with persons who became involved inappropriately with leaders, and have seen many faith communities destroyed. The ones who made the best recovery were the ones who conducted transparent sessions of open communication, with skilled facitators. The ones who fared worse tended to keep silence and protect the leader.

    It is very important to know that some leaders are beyond fixing.

    Jesus urged followers to be crafty as serpents and innocent as doves. Discernment in open discussion in community is tried and true to the way of healing.

  • Tony

    Thanks for this timely post. I wholeheartedly agree with extending grace and allowing time for healing. So many leaders with private issues feel they don’t have the luxury of being “human” enough to seek out help or counsel before a fall. They try to live up to “super-human” expectations and a need to appear “stronger” than those they serve. Those who pour out ministry often lack outlets to receive ministry back for themselves. The irony is that leaders still face the same day-to-day challenges and temptations as their followers, but their followers turn to them for help.

  • http://tangoleadership.wordpress.com/ Poul Andreassen

    A truth brought in wisely, that we need to accept.
    Mistakes could be done by anyone. Rightly said, Your response will determine
    your future.

  • Rsr777

    Great article…words of wisdom and valuable insight…thanks for posting!

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    One thing I have to keep in mind is that God can change even that leader’s heart.  I experienced a leader falling a few years ago.  I watched as everyone seemed to distance themselves from him and give up on him.  What he really needed was encouragement and accountability.  He is now flourishing, with checks and balances in place to help support him.  It’s amazing to see what God can do with us once he breaks us of our addiction of ourselves.

  • Guest

    When God chooses to lift his grace off leaders or any of us, we will fall into the first pit that we come to.  Sinful leaders will fall into destruction. The warning that I see is that although we rightly help them heal, we do wrong to become enablers for unrepentant leaders who continue to blame and justify their wrong doing.  

  • http://darensirboughblog.wordpress.com Daren Sirbough

    I have learned that the only leader that won’t fall is Jesus Christ. All others are human and will fail us at one point in time or another. It helps to have fair expectations and not to see any one particular leader in a messianic way. I haven’t not followed a leader that fell from Leadership, though I learned to have compassion for that leader. Others that have hurt me I have found difficult to forgive but all in all it has revealed more about what I value and even what my default responses are when a someone falls from Leadership

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon

    What a helpful post!  Over the course of my lifetime involvement in faith communities, I have seen the fall of leaders handled (mostly) poorly and (occasionally) very graciously.  When the later is modelled, there is truly no clearer picture of the love and grace of Christ.

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  • Elaine

    They only care about themselves.

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  • Heygeno

    TRIBE ?

  • Cedar Rapids Church Pastor

    So true – i am glad somebody said it.

  • Suelewis697

    We’re not to follow leaders.  They should only be faciliators to help you along life’s journey to heaven.  We should only be following Christ.  That’s why so many leaders fail.  They were never meant to be put on a pedestal and be given special privileges and perks.  Christ said we’re brothers and sisters – not leaders and laymen.  That’s why He said He hated the “Doctrine of the Nicolatians”. 
        Leaders will always fail until they become humble servants and truly lay down their lives for their sheep.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, the Apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). God has given leaders to the church. But we are to follow them AS (or to the extent) that they follow Christ.

  • D Bene

    When a leader falls because of a sin or sins, it causes their public trust to be broken; a broken trust is something that is practically unrecoverable. 

    Because of my personal experience with my re-trust also being broken, I have reasonably come to be hyper-skeptical of leaders who have fallen and who desire to return to the pinnacle of trust they have previously trashed. Tough, I can see how being a close relative of a formerly trusted leader would tend to push one to be more open to restoring one’s trust. 

    I think that the writers of Proverbs would tell us to not be foolish. So, I have a maxim or two, a few  mottoes…proverbs if you will allow it: 
    A sterling character is a prime necessity for leaders. And: 
    A sterling character once tarnished is not soon restored. 
    Choosing to trust? An excellent ethical and honorable character is everything.

    The leader who sins, and thereby breaks their public trust,  is in dire straits, for, how does one prove a sterling character the second time? How does one unbreak an egg. –But in Jesus, all such healings are possible.

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  • waterlylies84

    I’ve been under the leadership of many who have failed in one way or another. I’ve watched as the various churches were rocked, two of them to their very core. I’ve seen men and women of God step forward to catch the others who were falling because of the leaders fall.

    Two things I have learned, 1) my mother taught early and often that people of God have feet of clay (yes she knew and I know that the story has nothing to do with religious leadership but the analogy holds). Over the years there were people of God whose feet of clay ran all the way up to their shoulders.
     2). There is power in secrets. All of us need accountability partners who are going to call us out when they see us stepping into areas we don’t need to be. This is true of both leaders and non-leaders.

    While Jesus is our ultimate leader, the New Testament has made it clear that the Lord puts people over us. It is also clear that we must use sense, common and spiritual, when sitting under those in leadership positions. “Guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.”

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