Most leaders receive too much credit for the good things that take place during their tenure and too much blame for the bad. If the results are good, typically a leader, even if he or she attempts to deflect the accolades, receives credit for his or her stellar leadership. And if the results are bad, a typical leader receives the blame and carries the burden and pain of “not delivering.” There are at least three reasons many leaders receive too much credit and shoulder too much blame.
1) The context
Some contexts are more challenging than others. For example, it is easier for a new church to grow in a booming suburb that is filled with “churched transplants from the Bible belt” than a rural or an urban context. Leaders lead within a specific context, and the context impacts the perceived effectiveness of their leadership.
2) The team
A great leader is not a great leader alone. Leaders who are recognized for “great leadership” are always surrounded by teams of competent and committed people. In fact, some teams really make the leader. We know this, but the proclivity for the senior leader to stand out often masks the importance of the team. In the same way, if a team, ministry, or organization is struggling, the leader is not the only person involved. Often the leader can be a barrier, but the issue is not solely he or she.
3) The Lord
The providence of God trumps all. In His wisdom, He controls the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1), and there is no authority except which God establishes (Romans 13:1). He lifts up and takes down kingdoms, and He is the One who is ultimately in charge of the good and the bad seasons. In His good pleasure and providence, He does what He pleases. If an organization, ministry, or leadership team thrives or struggles, ultimately the Lord is in charge of all.
Wise and humble leaders know that they are not the ones to receive ultimate credit when “things are going well.” Christ-centered ministry leaders know that “unless the Lord builds the ministry, they labor in vain.”
Typically the leader who accepts too much credit is the same leader who accepts too much blame. The leader who glories in what he believes are his successes is the same leader who wallows in shame when things do not go so well. As believers, we are to “rejoice in the Lord” and “boast in Him,” not rejoice in ourselves or in our accomplishments. If we rejoice in the good days of our leadership and not in Him, the bad days will crush us. He, not the good days, is our joy and our Sustainer.