The Floundering Leader

I remember very vividly the first time I served under a floundering leader.  I was a pompous 20-something that was actively reading everything by John Maxwell that I could get my hands on, so I thought I had leadership all figured out (in spite of the fact that I really wasn’t leading anything.)

My arrogance and attitude of superiority caused me to think things like:

“I could do this so much better than them.”

“Don’t they understand how frustrated everyone is?”

“Why aren’t they doing anything?”

I learned a lot about leadership during that season.  I really did.

Since I’ve now experienced my own seasons of floundering, I have so much more compassion and grace for that leader.

If you’re following a floundering leader, here are a few things I would caution you to consider:

  • You have no idea what that leader is facing. You may think you do, but I guarantee that you don’t.  Give them grace.  They need it.
  • Pray, watch, observe and journal what you see. Don’t talk to others about it – that just turns into backbiting and gossip.  Study what that leader is doing and how they are doing it and make some notes that you’ll want to read when you find yourself floundering sometime down the road.  (Because if you are leading, you WILL flounder at some point.)
  • Engage that leader in conversation. Don’t give them an earful of everything you think they are doing wrong – they probably know everything you’ll tell them.  Tell that leader that you are praying for them.  Ask if there is anything that you can do to help them or support them.

If you’re the flounder-er, here’s my advice to you:

  • Don’t deny it. Floundering is one of the seasons and passages of leadership.  Don’t try to convince yourself it’s not happening.
  • Humble yourself. Everyone knows and sees that you’re floundering, no matter how hard you’re trying to cover it up.
  • Be honest with your team and find ways that they can help you pick up some of the things that are weighing you down.  I bet they would be honored to help you.
  • Talk openly with whomever you are accountable to. You need to set some purposeful time to share with them what has you floundering and work together to create a plan to pull you out of this season.  It’s detrimental to everyone, especially yourself, to stay in this space.

Have you ever observed a flounder-er or found yourself floundering?  What did you observe?

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  • Suzie Lind July 27, 2010  

    This is a really good reminder Jenni for all of us, no matter where we are in our leadership journey. It's so easy for pride to creep in at any point and drive a wedge between people and within an organization.

  • ...adam July 27, 2010  

    as a sometimes pompous 20 something "leader" I always try to remind myself of this but fail miserably. Thanks for posting and for your honesty.

    • jcatron July 27, 2010  

      Thanks Adam. I should clarify that I don't think all 20 somethings are pompous… I just was and sometimes still am as a 30 something. 🙂

  • Morgan July 27, 2010  

    I am the occasional pompous late 20 something that forgets I'm in a leadership role at work. My boss recently reminded me that even though manager isn't in my title, I am still looked to as a leader with our clients and teammates. Thank you, Jenni, for these thoughts to keep in mind as I try to get out of a floundering mode.

  • lashorne July 28, 2010  

    Jenni this is a great reminder! Thanks for the journaling tip… I've often encouraged people following that leader to take their observations to the Lord in prayer. Journaling can help a person sort out his/her observations as well as provide teaching/instruction for his/her leadership journey.

  • Priji July 28, 2010  

    i have been in both categories!! i have followed and also been a floundering leader! thanks for taking your thoughts. loved it.

  • Pingback: Leading the Floundering Leader | Jenni Catron August 31, 2010  
  • lance lockhart September 3, 2010  

    I like this topic, I have experienced this . I was involved with a church group that had lots of idea people, and not many foot soldiers to get the ideas in place. Leadership qualities, definitely need attractional practices to encourage people to be part of the process.