The Leadership Mistake That You May Not See Coming

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Leadership Lesson: Doors rarely open if we don’t have a reputation for being reliable.

When I was 18, I was fired for the first time.  From a play.  As the lead.  

I was in college studying acting and was ecstatic to have my first role. But I was a busy and important (in my own mind) freshman and just couldn’t seem to get around to memorizing my lines well.  Two weeks before the show I was told I was fired. It was crushing. This (at the time) was what I had gone to school to DO.    

How could someone take that chance away from me? 

See what went wrong with my thinking there?  The truth is that I had taken the chance away from me, through my own irresponsibility.  Thankfully this didn’t take me very long to admit to myself, and I vowed that I would never sabotage myself in the same way again.

If there is one thing that holds aspiring leaders back more than anything else I’ve seen, it is a lack of reliability.

Unreliability will LOSE someone:

  • A great job.
  • An open door.
  • The investment of a leader.
  • An incredible opportunity. 

Scripture is chock-full of leadership warnings that let us know, at the end of the day, we are going to reap what we sow, for good or for bad.  Even worse – an ounce of foolishness often outweighs a pound of wisdom.  Doing a little wrong can often destroy much that we’d previously done right (see Ecclesiastes 10:1)!  

“Dead flies will cause even a bottle of perfume to stink! Yes, a small mistake can outweigh much wisdom and honor.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1, The Living Bible)  (See also Luke 16:10, Proverbs 12:11, 22:2927:18, 28:19)

Bottom line? 

We have to do our work well – and KEEP doing our work well – to earn the privilege of leadership and influence.  

We have to demonstrate to the Lord (and often others) that we are RELIABLE.

To be unreliable means that we’re inconstant, wishy-washy, hit-or-miss. People are never really sure what they’re going to get with us because our “yes” is really a “We’ll see what I feel like” (see Matthew 5:37 for Jesus’ thoughts on this).

Here Are Two Things We Can’t Have Unless We Develop A Reputation For Being Reliable.

1. More Influence

Promotions often include greater influence over others as a REWARD for doing an exemplary job at our CURRENT role.  Through that role, we are telling people (and the Lord) that they can count on us to do an amazing job.    

But if our team is falling apart, our deadlines rarely met, our work is full of errors, or our communication is sloppy or missing, why would the Lord (or any leader who is paying attention) want to put us in place to model that for others?  

Doors rarely open if we don’t have a reputation for being reliable because no one has a lot of confidence that we’re going to BE there.

Or execute.

Or be resourceful. 

Or be kind. 

To put it in Kingdom terms, if we can’t demonstrate that we can be counted upon to do LESSER things (even when no one is watching), why would someone trust us with LARGER responsibility (see Luke 16:10)? 

2. A Louder Voice Within The Organization

It is natural to want to have more say in the agenda of the team we work on.

I’ve worked in organizations where people have told me that they longed for a larger voice in direction and decisions, yet these were often the people who are doing the LEAST to bring about positive change. 

They’re efforts and work ethic were often so dubious, the truth is that it was hard for higher level leaders to TRUST them.  Their own self-interest (laziness, carelessness, other agendas, etc.) historically tended to win their devotion INSTEAD OF the goals of the organization or team. 

It’s just hard to take a work ethic like that seriously.   

Just as it would be hard for me to sell you a dishwasher that MIGHT work, there is no way to do SYSTEMIZE the ideas of an employee that MIGHT follow-through. 

Of Course, Don’t Fear People  

The fear of man is still a snare (see Proverbs 29:25).  The last thing I’d want to encourage is trying to earn the favor of PEOPLE when we would do better to TRUST in the favor of the Lord.  

The most important person to develop a reputation of reliability with is Jesus.  All promotion really comes from Him (Psalm 75:6), and He sees the hidden person of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), even when we are misjudged by others. 

And because of the grace of God, it is okay to occasionally blow it, miss the mark, or stay home sick.  He doesn’t promote only perfect people because He doesn’t have any.  

And the great news for all of us is that WHEN we have messed up, with HIS help we can rebuild a reputation of reliability, even if it takes a long time.

Leadership Lesson: Doors rarely open if we don’t have a reputation for being reliable. 

Pray it: 

Lord, You are God who is infinitely gracious, who also rewards hard work and growth in character. I confess that I have areas of life which are characterized by laziness or half-way commitments. Empower me by Your Spirit to demonstrate your excellence of attitude and follow-through today.  Cause my character testify of the God who makes all things new, including me.

Where has a lack of reliability or follow-through hurt your progress as a leader?  What is one area of life in which your could more consistently bring your A-Game? 

Was this helpful? Let me know below and share this post.  

Posted on February 19, 2018

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