The Gift of Bad Leaders

I’ve arrived at a leadership axiom after a couple different observations collided together in my head. Example #1: Recently I watched as one of the people on my team had to navigate a difficult situation. To top it off, he was fixing a problem from someone else. On one hand, it wasn’t fair he had to do this. But that comes with the territory when you lead well. It was precisely because of his great leadership he was given the task of fixing another person’s problem. Example #2: This coincided with a story I was reading about Moses. As Moses is receiving the “big ten,” his brother Aaron is busy enabling the Israelites to start making their own gods and essentially forgetting everything God had just done for them. When Moses confronts his brother, Aaron gives a typical—yet awesomely moronic—defense of his poor leadership:
“Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:22-24)
The last phrase especially makes me smile. Aaron just gave Moses the gift bad leaders give. Reflecting on these two examples together I’ve come to realize a simple leadership axiom: Good leaders fix problems from bad leaders. (tweet this) It’s simple but true. Now occasionally, a bad leader will grow and learn from his/her mistake and also have an opportunity to fix it. But that’s rare compared to how most problems get solved. Most problems get moved up or over for another leader to handle. Think of it as the “gift” of bad leaders. It’s a bit of a downer axiom if you intend on leading well. But if you know it’s coming you will be better prepared for it. The encouragement for you is that every time it happens it’s an indicator you are actually one of the people leading well. It would be easy for good leaders to begrudgingly accept this gift, but here again we see a great example in Moses. Just a few verses after the one above we see Moses going to God on behalf of the very people who just turned on him.
So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:31-32)
Moses pleads with God to forgive them so strongly that if God won’t do it Moses offers to be excluded from God’s book of life. Talk about a leader in the trenches with his people. Good leaders fix problems from bad leaders. And they willingly choose it.

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.