Why Leaders Fail – The Intoxication of Saying “Yes”

This week I’ll be finishing out my series on “Why Leaders Fail.”  If you missed any of the previous posts, you can read them here.

This final one, I believe, is one of the more difficult reasons why leaders fail, especially for those that are in church leadership.  This is because that the very thing that draws people into ministry, can also become their greatest weakness…the desire to please people.  This is never more evident then when it comes to decision making.  Leaders are instantly loved for saying “Yes”, and can almost as quickly be vilified for saying “No.”  It might be a new ministry idea, the color of the carpet, a choice in worship songs, or even what you preach on.  People can offer some great suggestions…some that are even viable options for a decision your facing.  The problem is, when you struggle with the intoxication of saying “yes”, you end up saying yes to whoever is standing in front of you at the moment.

So here’s the skill that great leaders develop:  the ability to say no…often.  Not to be negative and shoot down ideas, but great leaders understand that the cost of saying yes is often saying no to the vision God has given you.  That doesn’t mean you say no to everything, but you learn to say no the things that don’t line up with your vision, because ultimately it’s not about pleasing people.  The Apostle Paul understood this when we wrote these powerful words in the opening of his letter to the Galatian church:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)

So if you struggle with saying “No”, here’s what I want to challenge you to do:

  • Clarify the vision God has given you for your leadership role.  Without a clear vision, it’s difficult to say no with much conviction.
  • Look for small opportunities to say “No.”  This is a skill that, believe it or not, does get easier as you exercise it.
  • When you do start to say “no,” don’t allow it to send you on a power trip.  This isn’t about power, position or authority, it’s about direction.
  • Remember, the people you say “no” to are still people with real emotions, feelings and passions.  Say no with grace, gentleness and a concern for their own well-being.  The ability of a leader to say “Yes” or “No” doesn’t give them to right to be a jerk.

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