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When a Leader Makes a Mistake

One of the hardest parts of leading is admitting you made a mistake, living with the consequences of that miss-take, and keeping followers on mission after you make it. Leaders are human, and no matter our training, experience, or talents, we can't see everything and we can't be right 100% of the time.

This truth is why I appreciate the story about Joshua in in Bible. In Joshua 9, we read how the leader of Israel was deceived into making a treaty with an enemy whom he would have destroyed. While the cleverness  of the enemy to survive is interesting, the better part of the story is how Joshua exhibited character in the midst of his failure as a leader.

Here are some leadership lessons from this experience in Joshua's life.
  1. Take responsibility for your actions. Joshua did not play the blame game or whine he had been deceived, nor did he get into the politics of blame and point his finger at the elders who ratified the treaty by oath. To lead is to take responsibility for your leadership decisions.
  2. Keep your word even if it may be unpopular or costly. Those who followed Joshua did not like what the leaders had done, and they made their dislike known. Joshua could have given into the people's pressure--many leaders do--but he had made a call based on God's ways of doing business, and he would not violate what he had done in God's name. Biblical servant leaders stay the course of following God's mission above its cost or its popularity with those they lead.
  3. Your leadership will be more effective on the other side of your miss-take. Joshua's record as a leader who completed God's call was stellar. God continued to use him for the greater good of the mission even though he compromised God's word by the treaty he made with the Gibeonites. Your leadership will improve more after you have lead through your miss-takes than when leading victory after victory alone. Ask Joshua.
Joshua is a biblical servant leader who teaches us much about leading a movement of God. Read his full story, and you will learn more lessons than these. But for now, consider learning to lead from your miss-takes rather than from your victories.

You can read more about Joshua and his character in our book Character: The Pulse of a Disciple's Heart, and you can hear my message from Sunday based on this story here.