Our lessons in leadership continue. These series of posts are based on the work of Myron Rush in “The New Leader.” We turn our attention today to the issue of risk. Every leader knows that at some point each must weigh how much risk they are willing to take. Early in my ministry, my goal was to avoid epic failures, just play it safe, but safe is boring. I am also not sure safe is godly, but that is a subject for another day. When I think about this question I remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff being dared to jump. Some of the most difficult decisions a leader must make mirrors that sense. Does the leader have the courage to risk it all, to chance failure? Of course, be willing to risk it all if it is God telling you to trust Him and jump. Some opportunities warrant a “take the hill attitude”, others require a more cautious approach. Leaders need to discern when you go for it and when the risks are too great. “One of the reasons why mature people stop growing and learning,” says John Gardner, “is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.”
You must be willing to risk failure.
Our Scriptural grounding this week is based on Joel 2:17, “Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep. Let them say, “Have mercy, Lord, on your people, and don’t make your inheritance a disgrace, an example of failure among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Joel is called upon to lead the people in a time of repentance and renewal. For Joel being in the will of God meant risking failure. What if God’s people ignored his message? It would be much easier to avoid the risk of failure. Joel addresses several different groups of people as he describes the terrible plague and its devastating results. To convince the people first Joel turns to the old men (vv. 1–4) asking them if they can remember such a tragedy from the years gone by. Sadly, they cannot. Joel then turns to the drunkards (vv. 5–7) who are mourning because the vineyards have been destroyed and their supply of the nectar of the vine is gone. He then turns to the worshipers (vv. 8–10) who must go to the temple without any sacrifices to bring. He references the farmers (vv. 11–12) whose livelihoods are all ruined. Finally, Joel turns to the spiritual foundation of the nation, the priests (vv. 13–14) and tells them to lead the renewal through fasting and praying. The nation is on the verge of judgment, God is preparing to punish the nation, due to their unfaithfulness. Joel is willing to risk failure because if the people do not turn from their sinful ways and repent, God will act with power and wrath.
As a leader, you must be willing to stand in the gap, risk failure for the sake of your people, facing the possibility of coming up short of the success meter. Failure at times is a very real option. Are you willing to do what it right when God is leading you there? Which leads us to the next leadership lesson which I will save for next week. You must be willing to make decisions others don’t want to make.
Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing,1988, p. 32.
Other posts in this leadership series:
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