Where Leaders Come to Think

7 Signs of Failing Leadership


Dr. John Maxwell says, “Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential.”

Potential in life is in direct proportion to our ability to influence others. As a person desiring to influence people in positive ways the thought of a lid frightens me.

I have found that there are many warning signs of diminishing leadership – for this reason I sent myself on a journey of self discovery.  My objective – to find the top signals that can act as a warning to a leader who is losing his/her effectiveness.

This week, I will name some common signals I deal with, and next week – take time to show ways to overcome the scenarios I describe.

7 Signs of Failing Leadership:

  • Loss of Heart

Nobody desires a loss of heart. The problem is it just happens. Over the course of my career, I have hit several walls that have humbled me in a hard way and tempted me to lose heart. When a person loses heart nobody wins. Losing heart means losing faith. Faith in God, faith in yourself and faith in others you serve as a leader. Signs of losing heart include; apathy, anger, fear and a life attitude that says, “life is stupid.”

  • Freaking Out

This is the stage of deterioration that may be the most embarrassing. When a leader freaks out – watch out. Talk about decisions that make no sense at all. The good news is that freaking out is a temporary condition but one that can have long-term side effects. As leaders, it’s necessary to remember that trust is the hardest things to gain and the easiest thing to lose. Signs of Freaking Out include; I don’t give a damn decision-making, lack of interest in advancing the cause, failure to influence anything or anybody for good.

  • Physical Deterioration

A tale-tale sign of a leader who is setting themselves up for failure is poor physical health. It may start with a Twinkie induced pudgy belly, but it almost always ends with a heart attack. When a leader stops caring about his or her physical health, it is a sign of a deeper issue of leadership ineffectiveness. Signs of physical deterioration include; No desire for routine physical checkups, lack of energy, weight gain and high blood pressure. (Actually, there is a lot more. Hopefully, you get my point.)

  • Hiding

Where’s the leader? When the going gets tough – strong leaders get going. Conversely, when a leader disappears it is a warning sign of a leader on the verge of losing heart. In order to move the flywheel of success forward, we must make contact. Making contact means being visible and engaged in life. Signs of hiding are as much internal as external. However, look for a latent desire to avoid, a hate for anything pressure filled, and a lack of appetite for competition.

  • Un-forgiveness

Losing the ability to forgive is a deadly game that stressed leaders play. It only happens during an advanced stage of decline. Nobody is perfect, and in some ways when we begin to stop forgiving others and offering second chances, we develop a bitter root. This bitter root, more than anything else, will put a lid on our ability to influence people for good and consequentially, cap our potential. Signs of un-forgiveness are; lack of gratitude, anger, bitterness and lashing out for stupid reasons.

  • God becomes distant

When a leader is in decline it feels as if God is extremely distant. That God no longer cares, and at this point loving Jesus gets either difficult or desperate. But, God isn’t a God of doers. Your personal glory or failure does not affect his love at all. We are the ones pulling away, not God. Signs of distant God thinking include, lack of desire to read the Bible, Lack of silence and meditation, missing community, and lack of joy.

  • Making Excuses

Leaders start blaming every negative situation on an outside force. It’s natural, but this excuse making causes a leader to feel powerless and out of control. This produces a leadership tailspin. Your influence is easily flushed into oblivion. Signs of excuse making are; excuses, frustration, and a feeling of powerlessness.

No matter the sign or symptom – leaders should learn to name them and adapt. The truth is that many others have been there before, and that hope is an attitude that can be practiced. Every leader should take time to analyze their situation and make sure that when the going gets tough they are fully engaged and ready to get going.

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  1. Eddy

    I will watch for the signs…what if i see 2 out of the 7?

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia08-17-2012

      Eddy if you only have 2 of 7 – count your blessings! But seriously, next week we will talk about tactics to overcome these 7 signs together. By the way, I Hope Sly did not disappoint this afternoon?! How was the movie?

  2. Les Beauchamp
    Les Beauchamp08-17-2012

    Mark, so true and so helpful to be reminded of the signs that a leader may be getting close to a cliff! I want to say “no” to lidded leadership!

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia08-17-2012

      Thanks Pastor Les I couldn’t agree more, “no to lidded leadership!” Count me in!

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