Failed Leadership Can be Deadly

This past week a professor, Dr. Amy Bishop, shot and killed three of her colleagues at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Denial of tenure to this chemistry professor may have been the trigger for the incident. Tenure is a process of evaluation for teaching faculty. Tenured professors have more security in the university and are the last to be terminated if the university experiences economic difficulties. Typically, professors have seven years to demonstrate they are worthy of tenure through their writing, research, obtaining grants, and teaching. Failure to receive tenure results in termination from employment. Colleagues cited Dr. Bishop she was a “little weird,” but so are many brilliant academicians and she lacked social skills with her peers.

However, the most poignant commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education pointed to a failure in partnering for performance.

In an interview at his home, Mr. Lawton was reluctant to blame what happened on the tenure process or departmental politics. The professor, who wears round-framed glasses and has a gray, bushy beard, said a tenure denial is a failure for everyone involved. “It means you screwed up a hire and you screwed up a mentoring,” said Mr. Lawton, who has been at the university since 1980. (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 15, 2010)

This incident points to the results of leadership that fails to effectively hire, mentor, and evaluate team members. The consequences for failed leadership are just as deadly in churches. Lack of background checks, inadequate recruiting, and lack of supervision with children’s workers has resulted in child molestations that affects families and its witness to a community. Failure to effectively evaluate and mentor church staff members may result in forced terminations, which is equivalent to killing a ministry career.

Yes, partnering for performance is costly in time and resources, but so is the loss of personnel. Unfortunately, many of the churches I have consulted with have built ministry silos. Every staff member does their own ministry with little or no supervision from other staff members or elders. I have heard the average tenure of a pastor is 3-7 years. Youth Ministers have a shorter tenure. How does one measure the damage done to ministries or the loss of morale in the congregation?

In the Southern Baptist Convention about 1000 pastors are forced to resign each year. A 1999 survey found once again the most common causes for firings cited by directors of missions in reports to state convention church-minister relations directors were: control issues regarding who will run the church, poor people skills of the pastor, pastoral leadership style perceived as too strong, the church’s resistance to change and the church was already conflicted when the pastor arrived.

That is why I am so passionate about the “Hands” part of leadership. Honestly, I don’t see an absence of vision among church leaders. What I see is an absence of implementation, which involves equipping and evaluating team members. Your ministry will only be as great as your investment in the lives of those you’ve called to join you in ministry. Failure at this task can be deadly to a ministry.


One response to “Failed Leadership Can be Deadly

  1. Great post Dr. I just emailed my staff pastors and asked them to let me know if there is something I’m not giving them.

    Love ya man! I need to talk with you.

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