In a post, Michael Hyatt refers to a book about Abraham Lincoln, “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I have read and highly recommend. (You can find a book note on my blog.)
Some of the material in the Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” is based on this book. There have been many books written about President Lincoln and I would put this one toward the top of the list. It is a complete, detailed (and long) book about many aspects of Lincoln’s personal life and his leadership.
In his post, Michael Hyatt mentions General McClellan, about whom much is written in “Team of Rivals.” President Lincoln removed General George B. McClellan from command for demonstrating significant leadership weaknesses and failures.
Hyatt identifies five characteristics of weak leaders from General McClellan all of which contributed to his demise as a leader:
#1: Weak Leaders Hesitate To Take Definitive Action.
#2: Weak Leaders Complain About A Lack Of Resources.
#3: Weak Leaders Refuse To Take Responsibility.
#4: Weak Leaders Abuse The Privileges Of Leadership.
#5: Weak Leaders Engage In Acts Of Insubordination.
Allow me, in this post, to share some of my own ideas on these five:
1. Weak Leaders Hesitate To Take Definitive Action -
Leaders make decisions. That’s what leadership is all about. They make the tough decisions nobody else wants to make. They make them when they are unpopular, when they are difficult and they make them when they need to be made without procrastinating and vacillating. Leaders are not right 100% of the time, with the exception of Jesus. A leader is a person who makes decisions, some of which are right. The hallmark of good leadership is the willingness to make the tough calls and stand firm when criticism comes their way. As I leader I can’t let fear of failure keep me from pulling the trigger when it is clear I need to.
2. Weak Leaders Complain About A Lack Of Resources -
They complain about a lot of things, not enough resources being one of them. There are excuses and there are results. Good leaders (and followers for that matter) figure out ways to make things happen. Weak leaders have all kinds of excuses and reasons why they are not getting done what has been agreed upon. The needs will always exceed the resources. I have never been in a situation where everyone agreed that the resources were sufficient. We almost always lacked something we felt we needed, but we did it anyway. In the military they call it “field expediency.” Making due with what you have.
3. Weak Leaders Refuse To Take Responsibility -
Good leaders take responsibility for doing the best they can with what they have and they don’t blame others or make excuses. Weak leaders blame others and point fingers. It’s not whether you win or loose but how you place the blame. Strong leaders accept responsibility for whatever bad things happen and when good things happen, they share the credit with their team. As a Christian leader, I like to think of responsibility as my response to His ability. Responsibility frankly scares me, because I see my sin, my fears and my inadequacies. But He is strong where I am weak and able where I am unable.
4. Weak Leaders Abuse The Privileges Of Leadership -
Leadership is clearly a privilege and a trust, but not a right. You earn the opportunity to lead--not demand the opportunity to lead. Positional leadership is the lowest form of leadership. Nothing could be more antithetical to biblical leadership than abusing and lording it over those Jesus allows us to lead. A biblical leader is one who serves, develops, encourages, equips and empowers those being led--not abusing, controlling or commanding them. The fruit of the Spirit should mark the leader who is seeking to lead like Jesus, who said that He came to serve, not to be served. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23. Does this characterize your style of leadership? Does this characterize the style of the leaders you work with?
5. Weak Leaders Engage In Acts Of Insubordination -
Before one becomes a good leader, that person must be a good follower. One of the main contributing factors that led Lincoln to fire General McClellan was that he flat out refused to follow orders given to him by the president. Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow me, learn to do what I am exemplifying and what I am telling you and then you will be able to lead others (be a fisher of men). There are lots of books and seminars on good leadership. We could use some on good “followership.” Some potential leaders don’t want to learn how to follow, but only want to lead. It doesn’t work that way in business, in sports, in the military or in the spiritual realm. A strong leader will not have a problem being a strong follower first. If someone has not demonstrated that they can follow well, perhaps that would disqualify them from being offered a leadership role.