Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones: How Leadership Stands Tall Amid Failures

Picture this – you’re a young and ambitious individual, stepping into the demanding role of leadership. You know it carries great responsibility, involves challenging decisions, and might require bearing heavy burdens. What you might not foresee, however, is that your journey will often involve stumbling upon stones of failure.

Leadership isn’t always about epic downfalls, those shocking missteps that shake your position. More often, it’s about a series of smaller, common stumbles — the kind that might leave you blushing, wishing you could turn back time and change the course of action.

Imagine a sermon that falls flat, an initiative that fizzles out, or a decision that, in hindsight, wasn’t the best. We’ve all had moments of reflection when we feel we’ve let others down or didn’t meet our own expectations. Yet, a significant part of being a leader is learning to navigate these pitfalls and turn them into stepping stones on the path to wisdom and growth.

When we lead, we expose ourselves to potential errors that we may have previously made in private, bringing them under the spotlight. Even figures from biblical times like Moses, David, and Peter experienced this. Before their leadership roles, their mistakes were small ripples in a pond. But when they took on the mantle of leadership, their failures became public, subject to greater scrutiny. In the same way, stepping into leadership brings our flaws to the foreground.

Leadership not only increases the visibility of our flaws, it also amplifies our chances of making mistakes. With leadership comes the responsibility of pioneering new ventures, taking risks, and forging new paths. The quest for success, however, doesn’t always yield the desired outcome, and our attempts can sometimes backfire.

When faced with the reality of failures and mistakes, two common paths may tempt us. One is to build an impenetrable shield around ourselves, protecting us from the sting of failure but also distancing us from the grace of God. The other is to retreat, to return to the comfort zone of our earlier lives, devoid of the pressure of leadership.

While stepping back from leadership may be necessary at times, especially when we need to reassess our identity and purpose, it’s not always the best solution. If everyone who faced failure decided to step back, we’d soon run out of leaders.

What we need, then, is a different perspective – one that sees not just how leaders make mistakes, but how mistakes can make leaders.

The Bible is replete with stories of leaders who failed but didn’t allow their failures to define their destinies. Men like Moses, David, and Peter illustrate how failure can be turned into a stepping stone towards greater faith and fruitfulness in leadership.

Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus might have been a major failure, but it presents an instructive pattern for us to handle our own failures. The key is to own, learn from, and move beyond our mistakes.

Owning our mistakes, whether they stem from our weaknesses or sins, is the first step towards humility and wisdom. It’s about accepting and embracing our flaws and missteps, rather than fleeing from them.

Once we’ve owned our mistakes, the next step is to learn from them. Instead of allowing the pain of failure to consume us, we should strive to extract valuable lessons from our missteps. This shift in perspective ensures that our errors turn into humility, our mistakes become moments of growth, our regrets transform into wisdom, our sense of inadequacy gives way to Christ’s sufficiency, and our failures become steps towards growth.

The final step is to keep leading. Armed with a deepened love for Jesus, we find ourselves on a firmer ground. When we lead for the love of Jesus, not for personal validation, we find the courage to make ourselves vulnerable again, to take risks, and to face the possibility of failure.

So, let’s get back to work. Prepare your next sermon. Plan the next meeting. Chart the next course. Remember, our failures aren’t stumbling blocks, but stepping stones on our path to better leadership. By the grace of God, let’s keep leading.