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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.