Derailers: What Every Leader Should Avoid And Why


Derailers are those things that may cause us to fail. Several of the posts you can read from my blog detail the emotional intelligence of some of the most famous Bible characters. What do Moses, Samson, David, Solomon and just about every failed King of Israel have in common? How are they different from Joseph? What were their derailers?

I think we can all agree Joseph was one of the most successful men of God, however, he was not without fault. When sharing his dreams with his brothers, at least he lacked awareness of how his actions might adversely effect him. At worst, knowing he was his father’s favorite, Joseph was very prideful. And later as number two in Egypt, when his brothers were bowing before him, Joseph may have exercised a bit of revenge. That said, as an adult we find few faults with Joseph. We would all be well served to study the life of Joseph

But back to my question, what do most of the de-railed leaders in the Bible have in common? First, they lacked accountability. Ultimately we are all accountable to God for our actions, however, leaders who have been through 360 feedback know they are not who they think they are. These de-railers may simply be blindspots, which I will discuss later. I think there is more to it. In the absence of accountability our unbridled ambition may be our undoing regardless of our motives. A senior leader who doesn’t have a board that holds him or her accountable is a recipe for disaster. One just need to look at a few very well known Christian leaders in the news the past two years. And, this string of failures isn’t for moral failure in the typical sense of the definition but rather failure to be accountable.

Accountability is a key factor in management because it is the cornerstone of empowerment and personal growth. If no one is accountable for a project, no one gets to grow through the experience of it. Accountability has nothing to do with blame. It has everything to do with individual and corporate growth. Accomplished tasks breed self-confidence. Self-confidence breeds success. And success breeds more success. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Laurie Beth Jones

Of the leaders previously listed, all of them lacked accountability except for Joseph. Samson found his power in his great strength. David was a mighty warrior. Solomon was wise beyond comparison. Perhaps these leader’s failed because they thought too highly of themselves. The tool I use to measure emotional intelligence refers to this as “self-regard.” Over applied this shows up as over-confidence, vanity, arrogance and narcissism. All of these leaders were used by God despite their deficiencies. Joseph was different in that he was accountable to Pharaoh.

Second, they lacked self-awareness. Solomon killed his father’s general, his father’s enemy and his brother within a few short days. Shortly after, Solomon asked God for wisdom and God granted his wish is spades. Later Solomon married hundreds of women and had concubines galore, which caused him to worship idols. Samson gave away the secret of his strength because of the “nagging of a woman.” Moses’ sin was low impulse control, which eventually kept him from entering the promised land. The Apostle Paul said, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” I believe Paul was able to write this because of his own self-awareness. He knew what he knew and he was desiring to know what he didn’t know.

Third, they had blind spots. Strong leaders tend to have strong opinions. Strong opinions coupled with lack of self-awareness can overpower one’s judgement. Strong leaders usually have experience in making decisions and they are right most of the time. It is the time when they aren’t right when a leader can de-rail. David decided to stay home when his armies went to war. Later he took Bathsheba. When it came to his job as warrior, I think it is safe to say that David was right most of the time. All of us have blind spots. Who is helping you see them?

Fourth, they missed the early warnings. David had signs that things weren’t well after his affair with Bathsheba. These were obvious: pregnancy and the integrity of Uriah. Samson had warning signs as he lied to Delilah when the Philistines tried to jail him. Still he decided to tell her the secret to his strength. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam asked his young advisors how he should tax the people. His choice was to add a heavy burden and the result was catastrophic.

Do you suffer from any of these imperfections? When someone offers to help you, are you very selective because you see them as inferior? Are you quick to compare yourself to their abilities, talents or skills. Do you find fault in others to elevate your opinion of yourself? Do you have enough self-awareness to recognize these imperfections in yourself? Is this an area that you would like to change?

In closing, we gain self-awareness through objective feedback. If you have been fortunate to have a coach or a close friend willing to be honest with you, be thankful. These people can sometimes provide the objectivity required for improvement. A good coach isn’t always a friend but will always be honest with you. I use a variety of tools that will lead you to understand your strengths and weaknesses. However, knowledge can be quite different than wisdom, which is the very thing that would seem to define self-awareness.

For more on emotional intelligence check this out.






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