Recently I have been thinking about some of the struggles that come with leadership. whether leadership in the home or the marketplace, or wherever, there are certain unavoidables. One of those unavoidables, as I call them, might actually turn out to be avoidable after all. It is one cost of leadership that will ALWAYS be paid but the amount is in our control to a degree. That is the cost paid when our followers are hurt by our actions or inactions.

Last month my daughter, Leila, lost one of her guinea pigs, Pinky. He was a friendly lil guy whose time had come. so we decided to take a trio into the forested trail behind our house and give him a proper burial. I had the “perfect” spot in mind. As we walked for a while we finally came across the area where we’d go off trail and bury Pinky. The problem was that this was the extent of my location preparation. I now was playing it by ear and wandering Leila in close pursuit until I found a spot I deemed worthy.
As we walked I stepped over rocks and broken branches and eventually on a fallen tree. This log however was hollowed out by the apparent nest of bees that was awoken when my foot smashed right through the log. I continued the journey without being aware of the discovery until Leila walked upon the swarm and they pounced in anger on her legs. This sent her screaming and panicking in sheer fright and pain.
Lesson in the moment: don’t step on fallen trees. Just walk over.

Bigger picture lessons:
1. Know where you are headed and what path you plan to take to get there.

Had I walked this path before, rather than just having a general idea where we’d be going it would’ve been less likely that I would be caught unawares by something like bee hives and rotten logs filled with them. Being a trailblazer is a big part of innovative leadership. However, preparation is a more crucial part. Learn and then teach. There will always be some learning happening as you teach. Teaching is a great way to learn more, but there need to be significant lessons learned prior to leading.

2. Be careful of your decisions. As a leader there is more at stake.

Most days a choice like that would have only impacted me on a walk through the forest alone. But on this day I was a leader and as such that means that my choices have a direct impact on those I lead. The deceptive part of this is that leadership is not like walking through the forest for me any more. As a parent, there are no solo journeys. All of my choices carry this weight. Either immediate impact as in bees attacking, or spiritual impact as in leaving a legacy of faithfulness and prayer for my daughter to walk in so that she is attacked and surprised by blessing. Be advised; they are ALWAYS watching and the things you do in secret build who you are in public. They WILL see.

As leaders,  we will hurt those who follow. This fact is inevitable. However, thoughtful choices and preplanning can help us not only lesson the impact and frequency of mistakes, but can increase our wise choice making and leave behind something that any team member, follower, or loved one would love to walk in.

What are some other examples from your experience when a leaders choices hurt those following?