Leading the Floundering Leader

A few weeks ago we started a discussion about The Floundering Leader.  We talked about how to encourage and support the flounder-er and what to do if you are the one floundering.

That discussion got me processing another side of this issue…

What happens when you are trying to lead someone who is floundering in their leadership?

And if everyone flounders from time to time (which I believe they do), as a leader of leaders you are going to find yourself leading a floundering leader at some point.

And here’s my concern… I think sometimes we give up on floundering leaders too soon.  We think they just can’t cut it.  We think the job’s outgrown them.  We point out everything that is wrong and rationalize why they should have handled it differently.

As leaders of leaders, this is where it gets really tricky.  How do you know if someone is really failing or just floundering?  Floundering can look an awful lot like failing for a season.

Before you give up on someone too quickly, let me challenge you to consider a few things:

  • What can you own?
  • Where could you have provided better direction?
  • Have you been too controlling or too hands off?
  • Have you, in your busyness, been ignoring the warning signs that this leader was struggling?
  • Is there something that you can do to lead them better?
  • Do you understand what they need to succeed?
  • Are they willing to try?
  • Are you engaging the tough conversations and providing them candid, considerate, honest feedback?
  • Does this leader feel safe being vulnerable with you about what they are struggling with?

Before you give up, be sure you’ve done your part.  You set the tone and create the culture that allows leaders to thrive or flounder.  Do your best to give them every opportunity to thrive!

Have you ever given up on someone too quickly?

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  • Sherie September 1, 2010  

    This is really good. Much of my leadership now is in support roles so I am not often in a role to "give up". I believe God doesn't ever fail us, so personally I don't believe it is ever okay to give up, but I have been the person given up on. You are right that sometimes more time or a different way of approaching the situation could lead to different outcomes.

    Today a friend called who retook a test she had failed and passed. She believes she just needed more time for the information to gel before she could be tested on it. One leader gave up because he felt I was not being submissive or receptive. He felt I was responding out of fear. Hindsight shows that God was doing some really deep work in me and there was about to be a breakthrough. After he gave up, I entered discipleship. Deep change happened after only 3-4 sessions concentrated in God's word. We got to the roots behind the symptoms of the “lack of submission and fear”. The leader didn’t try different methods or give time to process through things. He depended on worldly wisdom and leadership instead of trusting God and asking questions like these.

  • Carl September 2, 2010  

    Right. My wife and I almost left a church years ago, but I told my wife "no, we really haven't put our foot down here yet." Just a few days later the person in charge of the kid's SS asked my wife and me to lead the worship for the kids. I hadn't done anything like that before. Since we didn't go to SS, we had no excuse. This started an awesome spiritual journey in that church.