5 Things To Do When You Get It Wrong

Leaders make mistakes.  That’s no surprise to anyone who’s ever lead anything or been led – yeah, that’s pretty much everybody.

No leader is perfect, and no leader makes the right decision all the time.  One of the best decisions I think the church I serve, Southview, ever made was to establish a plurality of leaders, called Elders, who make strategic decisions for the church.  Too many churches are “single Elder” (or single pastor) led – and that means that person has to make the right decision every time, all the time, and never have a bad day.

Yeah, good luck with that one.

Even with a plurality of leaders, you can still make a decision that creates situations and effects that were unintended and unanticipated. No decision is 100% popular or accepted, especially if it involves change; making hard decisions is just part of being a leader.  But what do you do when you make a decision that causes MAJOR backlash and pushback from those you lead?

This week we have a case study in this.  Earlier this week, World Vision made an announcement that was cause for celebration for some and angst for others.  You can read about the announcement here. The pushback from World Vision supporters, though, was significant.  The board of World Vision met yesterday, and they released this statement, reversing their decision and apologizing.

Whether you agree with World Vision’s decision or their reversal, there are several things I believe we can learn from these leaders and their statement yesterday.

1) When you make a mistake, own it. Don’t deflect blame to others; don’t bemoan the circumstances. Own it. World Vision’s board began in their statement by doing this – that’s good leadership.

2) Apologize. Don’t use what my friend Jim would call “weasel words” – no buts, no equivocation, no vagueness.  Apologize directly for exactly what was done.

3) Humbly ask for forgiveness. Following what the Bible teaches and in line with their core values and beliefs, the World Vision’s board members publicly apologized and humbly asked for forgiveness of those they offended.

4) Commit to following your core values. In their statement, the board of World Vision reaffirmed their resolve to follow their Statement of Faith and act in accordance with it, reaffirming for their supporters their commitment to biblical authority.

5) Don’t major on the minors or confuse the issue. At just over 400 words, the statement by the board members was brief, but focused on owning their decision and making what they feel is the right correction to it based on their convictions.

What would you add to this list that we can learn from the leadership decisions of World Vision’s board this week?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “5 Things To Do When You Get It Wrong

  1. A very successful executive once told me that the very best of us are only right 50% of the time. That means getting this right is much more critical than we may think. I really liked Russell Moore’s (no relation) tweet after the reversal when he said, “The older brother questions motives in the face of repentance. The father’s house rejoices and receives it.” When someone follows the steps above it’s time for everyone to move on and get back to the party.

    • That’s a good point, Jim. I would like to think (and hope) that the majority of people engaged in this discussion are like the Father’s house. Though this post wasn’t directed toward it, I do think the conversation is worth having around this larger issue.

Comments are closed.