Avoiding a Leadership Fall
Leadership falls are far too common for Christian nonprofit organizations. Leaders have fallen for various reasons: money mismanagement, addictions, arrogance, mistreatment of ministry staff, sexual sin, etc.
Ultimately, the blame for a leadership fall is almost always a leader’s own - decisions they made, actions they took, or words they spoke. Scripture is very clear concerning individual accountability, especially in leadership.
Establish Accountability Structures
But wise leaders and those who are a part of accountability structures understand there are many facets of the role that can create stumbling blocks in a leader’s Christian walk. Those stumbling blocks can manifest in the leader choosing to succumb to their fallen humanness and wandering down the wrong path.
The board has a unique opportunity to alter that path.
While there is no question a leader must be proactive in keeping their path straight, those around them, especially their board of directors, have a role to play. The board has a unique opportunity to alter that path. But they must be proactive.
I maintain strongly that communities that surround our leaders have time-after-time watched them as they are stumbling, and then acted surprised when they fell. If we’re honest, most times after a leader falls, those closest to a leader recognize they saw it coming. Yes, hindsight is 20/20.
Too many times people don’t react when they see it happening. Onlookers don’t know what to do, or they don’t have the courage to act. Or they may sit back and tell themselves that someone should do something, not realizing they are that person.
Listen and Act on Warning Signs
When an individual leader falls, many times an organization fails, or is at least damaged and deemed stagnant for a period of time as they regroup. The fall, which typically is of a personal nature, ends up in the lap of the board.
Many falling leaders can be saved if those around the leader take a proactive approach by listening and acting on the warning signs.
Some of those early warning signs include: the leader’s loss of true identity, re-prioritizing of their life, credit absorption, listening deficit, and adrenaline addiction. I go deeper into these on my website in a report I have written.
Be Attentive to an Executive’s Personal Life
Being alert to these possible early indicators requires two things: board engagement and personal relationship that includes attention to the personal life of an executive.
You might say, “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, the personal life of a Christian nonprofit leader is none of our business.”
Oh, but to a certain extent it is. You exhibited this when you hired your executive. Your executive was not hired based solely on their resume, were they? You conducted an interview that helped you determine who they were/are. You asked them questions, many spiritually based, to help you determine if they have the personality to create the culture you are looking for, if they can handle the pressures of the job description, and if they have the charm and character that will represent your nonprofit well in public. These are very personal qualities.
Again, most leadership falls have personal issues at their core.
Again, most leadership falls have personal issues at their core. But yet if you were to search the internet for board responsibilities, it is rare that you would find a listing that addresses the personal life of the executive.
Yes, I recognize there is an appropriate level to this monitoring. But most of what I am asking you to consider comes from a conscious effort at a personal relationship with the leader and simple board engagement. I can assure you, leaders crave it. During the course of doing business, increased board engagement can also reveal some of those early signs of a fall.
It’s pretty easy for a board to analyze data points and financial goals. Most of these are simply black and white, success or failure, and must be done. Holding a leader accountable to a set of key performance indicators is so much easier than getting down in the muck of their personal life.
This is where it gets sticky and uncomfortable for board members, and no one likes sticky and uncomfortable.
Without a conscious effort by the accountability structure to care for the leader in a responsible but personally compassionate way, the personal issues that are harbored by many executives will end up in the board’s lap.
A fundamental change must take place.
A Closing Question
Allow me to end with this question: What hurts a nonprofit organization more: missing the year-end budget by 20 percent, or the organization experiencing the ugly public fall of their executive?
Should be an easy answer.
It’s time to incorporate that easy answer into the way our nonprofit organizations are run. It’s time to start a conversation.
Brian Kreeger is the author of The Courageous Ask: A Proactive Approach to Prevent the Fall of Christian Nonprofit Leaders (TUBA Publishing, Sept. 23, 2021). He also writes a weekly blog that can be subscribed to, and found on briankreeger.com. Brian Kreeger fell, and God is using his experiences for the advancement of the kingdom.
Hear more from Brian Kreeger on this episode of the Deep Leadership Podcast as he discusses “Avoiding the Leadership Fall” – LISTEN