My 10 Biggest Leadership Mistakes

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Ron Edmondson shares his biggest leadership mistakes so that you can learn from his experience. These leadership lessons point to the importance of honesty and humility, honoring the perspectives of others and attending to the Holy Spirit, and knowing when the time is right for action.


I’ve made a lot of leadership mistakes. To help others learn from my experience, I want to share some of my mistakes in hopes that other leaders will take encouragement from them. 

1. Playing salesman more than seeking wisdom.

I have had times I was so convinced I was right I used my skills as a communicator to get people on my side. In hindsight, I should’ve taken more time to seek other people’s insight and wisdom because I wasn’t right after all.

2. Listening only to the yea-sayers.

The fact is critics sometimes have valid points to make. I prefer they find kinder and gentler ways to share them — and, even better, be brave enough to attach their name — but it’s a mistake to only listen to people who agree with you.

3. Ignoring my gut because the crowd was excited.

We were going to launch a capital campaign. We knew we needed to do it at some point. Everyone was excited, or so they seemed. The momentum was high, but something inside of me said wait. When I began to get nervous about moving forward and went back to the excited crowd and asked them to pray again, it was unanimous. They didn’t think the timing was right. We were moving forward in emotion but not under God’s direction. I learned this one the hard way. Other times I’ve not been as sensitive to my gut or the Spirit’s leading.

4. Failing to remove the wrong people soon enough.

They say hire slow and fire fast. They weren’t necessarily in the church world, were they? Seriously, I’ve waited too long too many times. It only delays the pain.

5. Rushing too fast to fix things.

Some things need time to gel. I have learned that sometimes things get solved on their own. Conflicts are resolved and relationships saved, even strengthened, because I didn’t get involved.

6. Avoiding a brewing conflict.

At the same time, when I know trouble is stirring and it isn’t going away without my input, it’s a mistake if I refuse to deal with it because it is awkward or uncomfortable. It always comes back to haunt me. Unresolved conflict never just “goes away” And when left to brew long enough, it can cause irreversible damage to a team.

7. Talking someone away from their heart.

For example, I’ve talked a few people into staying in jobs they didn’t like just because I liked them. It never works. It isn’t fair. It always ends worse than if I’d let them follow their hearts. I’ve learned, when someone knows what they should do, I should encourage them rather than persuade them otherwise.

8. Not challenging because I didn’t understand something.

I lead areas of ministry I’m not an expert in. Worship. Students. Small groups. Children. Preschool. Technology. Missions. Okay, I was afraid you’d notice, pretty much everything. By practice, I’ve surrounded myself with people smarter than me. But I have learned it is a mistake to believe, because I’m not the expert, I can’t challenge them in their field. I may have to study more, but as a leader my job is to challenge us to excellence. Therefore, I can, and should, challenge all areas that impact the overall vision. Again, that is pretty much every area within our church.

9. Assuming people understand.

I don’t need many details. Well, let me be a little clearer, I don’t want or retain many details. But everyone is not me. Some people thrive on details. They can’t function without them. And neither personality is wrong. We need both types on our team. I’ve had to learn to communicate in different ways and let others assist me in communicating, and I welcome questions.

10 Ignoring the real problems.

I’ve been tempted to Band-Aid the problem because it was too messy to address the real problem. Real problems often involve people. It’s easier to add a rule than get someone upset, but problems never go away until the real problem is addressed.

I’ve been honest with some of my leadership mistakes — some of them at least. What are some of yours?


This article originally appeared as a blog post on ronedmondson.com. Used by permission.

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About Author

Ron Edmondson is a church and organizational leadership consultant. Previously, he has planted churches, pastored turnaround churches, and most recently served as CEO of Leadership Network.