Not long ago I read this powerful sentence from Dan Allender's book Leading with a Limp, "A good leader will, in time, disappoint everyone." Could one simple sentence be anymore true, yet ignored at the same time? We expect our leaders to be without fault, never to blame, and always on our side. Any movement to the left or to the right on the part of leader ultimately brings distrust and disillusionment on our part. For us, yes, even for the Christian, a disappointing leader is a failure, a cast-off, and a victim of what could have been.
I used to think that the best leaders were those that carried themselves well, who always had that right words at the right time and in the right circumstances, but after years of leading and being led my paradigm for a good leader has shifted drastically. For me, gone is the fallacy that the best leaders are those that have their lives in balance, never struggle with sin, and have all the right answers. The best leaders disappoint because the best leaders sin, but even more they know and experience grace.
If we took only a few moments and scanned through our Bibles we would find one leader after another that "fell off" the proverbial "pedestal." Noah, Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, the Disciples, and countless others "disappointed everyone." One Biblical character that I'm constantly drawn to for his ability to "disappoint everyone" is the disciple that many Christians and even preachers mock...Peter. I'm so easily drawn to Peter because I see myself...a loyal, stubborn, brash, and bold, follower of Jesus.
Peter was on a leadership pedestal of sorts and then in a matter of a few short days it fell. With bold confidence Peter told Jesus that he would walk faithfully Him: Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death (Luke 22:33). Jesus' response: I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me (Luke 22:34). Peter did just as Jesus proclaimed, he ran, he hid in the crowds and then denied Jesus three times. Simply, he failed. This gregarious, outspoken leader fell...and rather than seeing ourselves in him, in his failure, in his disappointment, we mock and claim never to be so foolish.
In a beautiful picture of redemption, Jesus restored Peter (John 21:15-19) and Peter would become a pillar in the early church. In Peter and the host of other in Bible, its clear, leaders disappoint...but through the person and work of Jesus Christ, leaders can experience redemption, restoration and then fullness of Godly leadership. What I've learned is that the best leaders aren't those that have it all together (they're pretending anyway), but those that have fallen off the pedestal and into the arms of Grace.
Here is the simple reality for us as Christian leaders... We will disappoint people. We will fail. We will fall short. But...what will our response be? Run? Hide? Deny? Or surrender to Jesus? It's there, in our weakness, in our failures, in our disappointments that we find ourselves, but even more we find God...the One who is leading us! As we submit to His leadership, day by day, moment by moment we find that we can then truly lead.