Individuals can be effective leaders even after a life-altering failure. Read Acts 2:14-40.
In John 18 during Jesus’ trial and just prior to His crucifixion, Peter, one of Jesus closest friends and most trusted disciples had a failure in his character. Peter demonstrated disloyalty and cowardice when Jesus seemed to need him the most. The Bible does not specifically tell us, but in all likelihood Peter may have felt he would never be trusted again. Fast forward a few months and we read in Acts 2 how God used Peter to reach thousands of people with the life-saving message of Jesus resurrection and personal salvation for those who repent and believe in Him. Even more, throughout the New Testament the Bible indicates that God trusted Peter with leadership of the early church.
Not all team members will regain trust as Peter did in Acts 2 but every person is so valuable in the sight of God that the wise Christian leader should, at a minimum, evaluate the possibility of restoring trust. In my personal experience there are two very general categories in which team members fail. There is a failure of character such as Peter had in John 18 and there is competence failure. This happens when a team member accepts an assignment and fails because they don’t have the skill to complete the assignment.
So how does a leader determine when to give a teammate another chance after a major failure? The details of reinstatement decisions are too numerous to cover in one document but there are a few overarching principles that will help leaders make these difficult decisions.
When looking at a failure of character a leader should consider at least three primary overarching principles:
- Does this character failure fit an ongoing behavior pattern or does this incident seem to be an anomaly? Life patterns come from deep seated core truths that control our actions. From the body of information we have in the Bible on Peter, his actions in John 18 are outside his normal behavior patterns. My personal experience is that a failure of character outside a teammate’s normal pattern of behavior is generally not repeated. They are a good candidate for restored trust.
- What is the attitude of your teammate after their failure of character? According to Luke 22, once Peter realized his failure his spirit broke, he was humbled and he wept bitterly. When a teammate is repentant of a character failure they tend not to make that mistake again.
- Are you as a leader willing to forgive and release the pain you may have suffered so the teammate truly has another chance to succeed or, are you giving the teammate a second chance to fail?
When looking at a failure of competence there are a few primary principles to consider:
- It requires a judgment call, but does the teammate have the aptitude to learn the skills required to succeed. If yes, are you willing to invest the time required as they develop their skills?
- Is the teammate motivated to improve their skill to the necessary level? A good way to evaluate their motivation is from the obvious i.e. attendance, do they show up for work late, on time, or early, do they put in some extra time if needed to finish projects on time, etc.? Pay attention to the past track record as it is often the best predictor of the future.
- Are you willing to change your attitude concerning their initial failure? Fixing the situation will require some level of humility on your part.
Every leader is aware that people make mistakes. Christian leaders have information from the Bible on how to deal with failure. God allows His people room to fail but then, as with Peter in Acts 2, permits them to get back up and again be used by Him. If God treats us in this manner, doesn’t it make sense that Christian leaders should extend the same rights to those they lead?
Psalm 145:14 “The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”