Leadership Lessons to Live By: The Limitations of Leadership

Way too often, leaders think they’re superheroes. NEWS FLASH:  Leaders are not superheroes! Superheroes wear capes, appear in comic books, and have movies made about them. Some superheroes can even turn into muscular green monsters. Leaders are human beings who plod, who serve, why cry, and who get really discouraged sometimes. Most don’t own a cape. If you’ve ever been prone to succumb to the Superhero Complex, this article is for you.

There are three main areas where we leaders think and act like we’re superheroes. First, we think we can do everything by ourselves. Second, we think that there is no problem too big for our amazing minds and wills to conquer. Third, we think that everyone will naturally follow us.

Incorrect, incorrect, and incorrect.

  1. You can’t do it alone. You need a team. Leadership is not a solo. In order to qualify as “leadership,” there must be people to be led. Leadership does not consist of Twitter followers, conference speaking events, and really great ideas. It consists of people —the people you work with, lean on, and confide in. You cannot truly achieve anything substantial on your own. You need other people. Here are some practical applications of the you-need-other-people lesson:  1) Empower those you lead; don’t discourage them. 2) Please don’t micromanage. 3) Seek to work with people who are not just like you. Successful leadership begins by realizing that you can’t do it alone. Leadership is a team sport. More importantly, leadership is about depending upon God for strength and ability.
  2. You can’t solve every problem. You need the insight of others. In his bestselling book Imagine, Jonah Lehrer explains that powerful creativity doesn’t always emanate from deep within us. Often, we need other people to inspire, prod, excite, and illuminate the way. There are problems too big for you to solve by yourself. In the realm of Christian leadership, the problems are often of supernatural proportions. When you attempt to solve every problem in your own strength or power of intellect, you’re going to hurt people. The best thing you can do is admit your inadequacy, recruit the power of others, and pray for the wisdom of God (James 1).
  3. You can’t force people to follow. If you’re a leader, people are going to follow you, right? Well, not everyone. Every leader has his or her opponents. Expect them. Realize that not everyone is going to follow your lead, your decisions, your ideas, and your path. It’s more important that people follow God, not you. As a leader, you are to serve in such a way that others can grow closer to God.

You’re a fragile, frail, piece of dust. Worse, you’re sinful. You can’t do it all. You’ve got to realize the limitations of your leadership. Leaders who are charged with delusions of superpowers are going to burn out and maybe even wreck other people’s lives in the process.

“Wait a second!” you’re thinking. “This isn’t the stuff of leadership blogs! I need motivation. I need encouragement. I need power.”

Yes you do. Christian leadership is about realizing our own inadequacy and realizing the all-sufficiency of God. Paul wrote about his weaknesses and limitations. He knew his own inadequacy. God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul accomplished so much. That’s because God’s power is apparent in our weakness. The secret to success is not more energy, more productivity, and more creative thinking! God’s power is revealed in human inadequacy.

Paul wrote more: “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Your leadership limitations are God’s opportunity to reveal His power. Accept your weakness so that you may marvel at God’s strength.

You are no superhero, regardless of how awesome you think you are. Yet we serve a God whose infinite power and eternal majesty is all the power that we need. Our greatest strength is our weakness. Power — the kind of power that consigns superheroes to their rightful place in comic books — is available as we realize our true weakness and rely on God.

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  • Reply Paul April 17, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Can I still wear my cape in private!?? LOL

  • Reply Angela Andrews April 18, 2012 at 8:15 am

    This is suuuuuuuuuuuuuch a great article! It really spoke to me on many levels…I have been in leadership for years and often find that my eagerness and skill at accessing a situation and tackling a challenge gets in the way of allowing God to show up…We shy away from weakness because WE ARE LEADERS!!! we have to be STRONG! Have it ALL together! Have just the right answer, response, plan & flawlessly execute because people are looking at us…Great reminder to align our selves with the reality that it is God who has it all together and we get to be partners with Him in ministry. He leads, we follow. We seek, we find. He speaks, we listen. He leads, we fall on our knees and offer our hearts to the one who created the universe and the beat of our heart. Thanks for the encouragement and the renewed perspective. This is a great message for anyone who is trying to rise up and lead in the Body of Christ. Thank you!

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