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You voted: Here’s why you believe you haven’t reached your leadership potential

March 29, 2012

Yesterday I did a post on reasons people don’t reach their leadership potential. I suggested that probably the most common reasons this happens is:

  1. You’ve never been invested in by a competent leader.
  2. You’ve been invested in by a leader, but they weren’t terribly competent themselves.
  3. You’ve been invested in by a leader who is competent, but you might have blown the opportunity.


Included in that was a poll for readers to submit which reason they believe articulates why they haven’t reached their potential. Here are the results:

  • I’ve never been invested in by a competent leader:                                 39.13%
  • I’ve been invested in, but not by a very competent leader:                    41.74%
  • I’ve been invested in, but might have blown the opportunity:             19.13%
A couple of people, in the comments from yesterday, asked if we are going to explore this more and hopefully make some recommendations. In the next 6-8 weeks we are going to be hitting this leadership topic over and over. Moreover, it’s all leading to the release of my new book: Multiplying Missional Leaders: From half-hearted volunteers to a mobilized Kingdom force.
  • But for now, let’s talk about these results. What do they say to you? What are they suggesting? What do you see?
34 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2012 1:48 pm

    A couple of thoughts…

    MENTORING There’s a lot of mentoring and discipling that occurs by guys trying to figure it out along the way, making mistakes, not sure how to do it. On the one hand this is troubling. On the other hand it is refreshing, and a sense of real life and genuine ministry.

    We have this false picture of how it should look, aided by our Christian culture that promotes stardom and quick results, but true faith is molded by real people in real situations.

  2. Jon McCranie permalink
    March 29, 2012 1:53 pm

    In America, we are going through an “it’s not my fault” complex where many people are looking for scapegoats. Leadership is taught very clearly in the New Testament…Acts 1:8 should be pretty easy to understand. It is easy for us to forget the “Priesthood of the believer” and expect someone else to open up our little heads and pour in the knowledge we need.
    I am not saying that some of the answers are true at least in part. A good catalyst can bring out and encourage leadership qualities but “soul competence” comes into the equation as some point. What I am saying that it is easy to make excuses and blame others for our failures. Leadership comes from followship. If I am truly becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am going to witness His love to those around me. And isn’t that what it all about ???

    • March 29, 2012 5:44 pm

      Yes, but if we don’t learn how to be a witness from others….

      • Jon McCranie permalink
        March 29, 2012 7:48 pm

        I hear you Brian. We can certainly all use fine tuning and I benefit each time I engage with others…but isn’t the mandate personal…doesn’t it mean for me to simply share what I have seen (witness). Do we get so bogged in training that we untimately loose the interest of the trainee and overcomplicate what is really very simple. Just asking.

  3. March 29, 2012 2:06 pm

    COMMUNITY I wonder if much of our mentoring and discipleship has occurred one on one, in isolation from community. Effective discipleship can falter if there is not a communal aspect to the wisdom, teaching, life experience, etc., that is transferred to the disciple. Thus, the perception is that the discipler leader was not competent, when actually his methodology was not fully engaging.

  4. Laurence permalink
    March 29, 2012 2:10 pm

    Hi Mike,

    I chose option number 3 because I didn’t want to blame anyone else for what in the end of the day is my life.

    I wonder if the prominence of the second option shows something of a tendency to either blame other people for our own failings, or like what Brian said, we buy into this celebrity idea, so our local leaders seem a bit incompetent compared to superstar Christians and our false impressions of them.

    • Mark permalink
      March 30, 2012 11:12 am


      I agree, as much as it hurts to admit failure, option 3 was the one I chose, but for a slightly different reason. Options 1 and 2 requires a judgement to be made of someone elses competance. Since I am evidently not a competant leader then how can I judge others competance?

  5. Scott Rauch permalink
    March 29, 2012 2:12 pm

    Competence is the interesting word for me in the three reasons. I think many people associate competence just with good knowledge and experience and thus if they feel they have little of either, then leadership development is not a good experience for them. Can competence be a growing in what you know and sharing with others in such a way that you grow together in your competence level. I suppose it does directly connect to the Information, Imitation, Innovation progression. We typically get stuck way too much in Information OR pretend that trial by error without good Information is a good way to imitate. Not sure if this is making sense but it does seem people want a good balance of Information and Imitation which can then propel them into trying on their own (Innovation).

  6. March 29, 2012 2:15 pm

    It seems to me that we have not lived up to the commission to disciple and develop others, since over 80% are saying we haven’t been mentored or haven’t been mentored well. Personally, figuring it out on your own was championed (directions are for when all else fails) so I never asked someone to mentor me until recently when I was able to admit I needed help. Seems like a combination of not having the humility to recognize the need to be mentored and the lack of confidence to believe you could mentor someone else.

    • March 29, 2012 5:48 pm

      This is an excellent point. I’ve had a hard time asking people to mentor me because I didn’t respect people I knew who were qualified. That was self-pride.

      At the same time, I thought I could get along on my own.

      Now I realize that most of what I have learned came through 4-5 key men in my life, over the years.

  7. Jon McCranie permalink
    March 29, 2012 2:47 pm

    Perhaps we should look at the model for discipleship mentoring. Jesus worked with 12 men and taught them the Kingdom priciples that they would need to establish the New Testament Church. One of the most important things He taught them (and I preached on this last Sunday) can be found in John 13:34-35 “By this ALL will know that you are my Disciples, that you love one another”
    When we start talking about how to mentor etc…we wind up fighting about it or at least have strong failure to agree.
    We are seeing results of advocies such as Mike is teaching us…but…when we begin to pray
    “Lord break my heart for what breaks yours”…when we stop arguing about how to disciple and start teaching what our Lord taught I think we see even more results.

  8. Kelly permalink
    March 29, 2012 3:05 pm

    Are there competent leaders around? The pool is small, to be sure. And it would seem to me that competent leaders are busy, well, you know, leading.

    Across the US in all institutions, including the church, there simply is not a culture of mentorship, discipleship, and leadership development. We are steeped deep in John Wayne development, that is, cowboy leadership where you get it done independently through blood, sweat, and tears. “I did it myyyyy waaaaaaaayyyyyy…”

    But really I think the core issue runs deeper than this and you have touched on it throughout your life I suspect. The protestant culture in America, mainly, has come down to one man and his study bible. What, with 33,000 different churches to choose from, does it really matter, don’t I just need my study bible to be “saved?” So it follows that there is no sense to develop (mentor, disciple) others.

    The long rant made short is that I think we simply don’t think it’s important to invest in the leadership development of others based on the cultures we live in, including church.

  9. Jon McCranie permalink
    March 29, 2012 3:19 pm

    Perhaps we need to spend a little time trying to understand what a competant leader is. Were the 11 faithful disciples competant to lead after 3 years of following Jesus. If I spend three years studying what Jesus taught in the 4 gospels, shouldn’t that be enough if I am able to apply those teachings to my own life.
    Or do I need some “superstar” who is willing to take credit for God’s success to come show me for $20 per ticket…

    • March 30, 2012 3:06 pm

      Jon, this is on our other thread cuz I couldn’t go deeper on it. I think the mandate is both individual and corporate, given to each disciple, but also to a group of 12. So yes, we are each responsible to be witnesses. But Jesus emphasized the nature of a witness: I’ll show you how to do it – go out in two’s. Then Paul delivered the concept to churches, emphasizing the corporate nature – he took Barnabas – he worked in teams – he also did his part individually. My point is that we learn it from others. The only person who didn’t learn it from another was Jesus himself. Hey, good discussion, Jon!

  10. March 29, 2012 3:51 pm

    I used to search for someone to teach me, to mentor me. I couldn’t find anybody. I finally found a guy who was not so confident, but I learned a few great things about life from him. I found another guy. I learned some really important things about evangelism from him, but he also did a lot of damage to me because he manipulated my reputation badly within our shared organization. Then, in my mid thirties, at a time of great crisis in my life, a friend connected me with a guy who mentored me for 4 years. It revolutionized my life. Now, I mentor lots of people in ministry to Hindus, some very personally and deeply, others at more of a distance. They love it and so do I. In my opinion, the stats that indicate a mentoring crisis have been reality for decades.

  11. Rodney permalink
    March 29, 2012 4:01 pm

    We have poor to no leaders in our churches.

    • Jon McCranie permalink
      March 29, 2012 4:15 pm

      Hey Rodney…find a new church…I am sure there are plenty around you.

  12. March 29, 2012 4:23 pm

    Great thoughts Mike. I didn’t vote (missed the post) but I find myself choosing #3 … to a point.
    I have worked with good leaders, but everyone is flawed and lacking in some way. I have seen great pioneers act without compassion. Careful team-builders have sacrificed quality for keeping people happy. Great listeners don’t always project great visions of where we can go.
    It may be a tired quote, but I am challenged when I hear John Maxwell say “everything rises and falls on leadership.” I must take the blame myself for my lack. It is too easy to just blame others.
    Really, with the proliferation of books, magazines, seminars, videos, and the internet, is it really hard to find good information? How far do I live from other ministries that are growing? Why don’t I visit and initiate a relationship? The weight lies with us.

    This is why I like reading your books and blogs!

  13. March 29, 2012 5:11 pm

    I think the insecurity of some leaders leads to them actually holding people back rather than mentoring them. From what I’ve seen there are many gifted people in the church who are not actually moving in their area of gifting or are being pushing into areas where they are not gifted and are burning out. I would think that the group who answered no. 3 have possibly not had enough encouragement or direction. The church is FULL of people with potential and one of the things that pains me to see is gifts being wasted and not used. I know leadership issues can be contentious but they need to be addressed so I thank you for this post. I would also add that the the issue of women in ministry has caused some to shrink away from leadership. I know many, many women who feel called but battle with this but it’s a whole other blog post.
    Bless you, Mike.

    • March 29, 2012 7:34 pm

      Yeah, I think the insecurity of leaders, especially as a major blindspot, holds a lot of people and communities back. Leaders who are transparent and vulnerable hold more esteem in my mind than leaders who hold on to things too closely.

      Not sure how Mike feels about links in the comment section, but I would offer a blog post I wrote here on 9 Benefits to Vulnerability in Ministry Feel free to cut this link out if you’d like.


  14. Lou permalink
    March 29, 2012 6:00 pm

    Sad to say, but this is a classic “mistakes were made – but not by me” result.

  15. Stephen Lockhoff permalink
    March 29, 2012 7:55 pm

    I guess we have to ” go round the rooms ” and tease out what competent leaders look like . Of course guided by the Holy Spirit and scripture as well . Damn the torpedoes , full speed ahead . By the way , keep the conversations coming ; this is encouraging material Hebrews 10 :24-25 Peace and love Steve

  16. Jon McCranie permalink
    March 29, 2012 8:02 pm

    oilofjoy has made a good point and Brian has given a good response. In Church as well as in Business, there are those who are afraid to delegate authority because that is what they hold as their trump card. Now, the really successful business people that have learned to grow their venture…have learned that they have to delegate authority. Many pastors live in a constant fear, that the next deacons meeting is their ticket to ride.
    After I retired, I was in a church where the pastor was scared to death that I was going to go after his job. Didn’t stay long and he is still there and the church has continued to dwindle. Not that I could have changed that…but all I wanted to do was help him like I always wanted someone to help me.

    • March 30, 2012 3:09 pm

      Thanks, Jon. I agree. The roles where I have been delegated authority with responsibility are roles where I have flourished. In roles where I have only the responsibility, but no authority, I am tied down to the system and it stagnates me.

  17. March 30, 2012 1:43 am

    Mike speaks about the cultural earthquake in which the road map is no longer reliable. We need to navigate using a compass. Most Christian leaders in Australia are “map” leaders. It’s still the case that churches that look “successful” operate in the map model – high control, low accountability, client provider. In Australia there just aren’t that many compass leaders and they tend to be well criticised and isolated. Respected by some but hard to follow and hard to learn from because there are few working models. Opportunities everywhere but the stakes feel high for the few pioneers trying to step in to new places.

  18. Laurence permalink
    March 30, 2012 12:17 pm

    This is a great discussion, and i find myself leaning towards the thread that says there are great leaders everywhere, maybe they just need some help or don’t know it – rather than there being no competent leadership.

    If not then what does that say about our view of humankind? God thinks we’re awesome and can do great things – why don’t we?

    On the point about the 11 disciples – i don’t think they were all that great. Yes, Spirit filled and God worked through them massively, but were they really that much better than many other people? Acts doesn’t seem to say so – the people God works with powerfully goes way beyond the 11/12 first disciples.

    • Jon McCranie permalink
      March 30, 2012 1:38 pm

      I agree they were not all that great…even after three years with Jesus. But I do think they were motivated and allowed God to channel His work through them. I think that is the main thing we need today. As the old saying goes, God is not so much looking for ability as He is availability. There was an old truck driver in a church I was a member of – who could not repeat John 3:16 without reading it – and introduced a lot of people to Jesus.
      I have learned a lot in my 35 years in ministry — but I still pray everyday for God to simply use me to bless others.
      I love the work you do and pray for your ministry every day as well.

    • March 30, 2012 3:12 pm

      Laurence, maybe because WE think we are awesome and can do great things – is that the reason we don’t? Humility is accepting God’s endorsement of us, believing it, moving with it but knowing that we are fully dependent on him. But often our lives get bogged down so that we are fully dependent on ourselves.

      • Laurence permalink
        April 2, 2012 9:01 am

        I see your point, you’re probably right!

        Sometimes i just feel like we create this idea that we are wretched and sinful and can’t do anything good Just so that we can then show people Jesus and be lifted back up again with God. i.e. creating a human construct or worldview, rather that just engaging with God and letting him do the convicting and forgiving. Probably this is a longer discussion over coffee somewhere – sorry if i have raised too big an issue here to be discussed properly!

      • Laurence permalink
        April 2, 2012 9:08 am

        Here’s a quote i saw today that kind of says what i’m thinking…

        “As Americans we have a rich history of both heroes and villains. If we cultivate the compassionate understanding that even the ‘worst’ people are undoubtedly doing the best that they know, and that this ‘knowing’ is often seized by ignorance, suffering, and fear, we can learn from them all.”

        – Alice Walker, from We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For

  19. March 30, 2012 5:25 pm

    I missed the poll but I would have picked #2…at least up until 2-3 years ago. I’m fortunate now to have some great leaders in my circle of influence and so if I don’t grow I’ll have to take #3.

    It’s my observation that being a pastor doesn’t mean someone is a great leader or a great discipler. With the narrowing of church leadership over time to basically only include pastors and teachers it feels as though the skills for truly pushing someone to become a better leader have been stifled.

    By that I mean that most of the pastors I’ve been under over time are overly concerned with avoiding conflict or hurting someone’s feelings. This often means pushing someone hard in a one on one scenario isn’t something they’ll do. The most growth I’ve encountered has been from the hardest push backs I’ve received.

    So from my perspective #2 being popular is less about not taking responsibility and more about a dearth of leadership development capacity in the pastors who lead our churches.

  20. Scaramouche permalink
    April 19, 2012 9:33 pm

    My personal experience was having a Pastor who had no intention of sharing the “spotlight”. He did everything he could to minimize my minnistry in and out of the Church and refused to let others minister with me. I suppose he never read where Jesus sent them out two by two.
    I’m out of that church now and from what I heard, so are so many others.
    Hate starting over again somewhere else but the Lord allowed it so it must be part of the plan.

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