#120: How to Recover When You Slip and Fall as a Leader

I loved the results one young sales manager was achieving. He was delivering on every new product launch. He was above quota, and below budget. I didn’t dig too deep into how he was achieving these results because I trusted him.

Leader slips falls


It turns out he was using allowances from the next product launch to pay for the promises made for the previous launch. In reality, he was not under budget. He was actually way over budget. When his deception was uncovered he “left” the company, and left his mess behind for others to clean up.

Needless to say my boss, and his boss was not happy with me. I had failed to manage an employee properly. It cost the company a chunk of money, and more important, it cost us credibility with our customers.

Most leaders I know, when pressed, will admit that they have failed as a leader at some point in their career. The question is, “what do you do to recover?”

How do you recover when you slip and fall as a leader?

By and large King David was an excellent leader whose heart was fully devoted to God. Even so, David made a couple of huge mistakes as a leader, and he provides an excellent example of what to do when we fail.

God was with David and gave him much success over a period of years. With this success, David became prideful and began to trust in his own power rather than in God. So he commanded a census to be taken of all the fighting men in Israel (1 Chronicles 21). This was a direct violation of God’s law. David’s military commander pleaded with David not to order the census, but David stubbornly refused to listen to his advisor. God was displeased (to say the least) and He struck Israel.

David admitted his sin

When David realized he had angered God, the first thing he did was confess his sin to God, admit he had acted foolishly, and ask God to take away his iniquity (1 Chronicles 21:7-8).

Lesson for Us. Mistakes don’t go away because we ignore them. Get out in front of your mistake by admitting your failure and asking for forgiveness. It is never good if the boss finds out you’ve got an issue that you tried to hide.

David submitted to God’s judgment

God offered David a choice of three punishments: three years of famine, three years of devastation by your enemies, or three days of an angel of the Lord destroying throughout Israel (1 Chronicles 21:11-13). David chose to be punished by the angel of the Lord rather than fall into the hands of man.

Lesson for Us. David didn’t try to avoid God’s judgment. He didn’t try to blame someone else or excuse his behavior. He simply accepted God’s judgment, praying for God’s mercy.

David repented of his sin

When David saw the angel of the Lord with his hand stretched out over Jerusalem, David clothed in sackcloth (a sign of mourning) fell on his face, and begged the Lord not punish the people for his mistake (1 Chronicles 21:16-17). David then built an altar and offered sacrifices to the Lord, and the Lord accepted David’s sacrifices.

Lesson for Us. Saying you’re sorry is a good first step, but being repentant is far more important. Repentance means “to turn away” from your sin. When you repent of your mistakes it shows the strength of your character.

There is a price to pay

Regardless of what led to your leadership “slip and fall” there is a price to pay. In David’s case, even though he took responsibility, his mistake brought judgment on the people. In addition, to restore his relationship with God there was a material personal price that had to be paid.

Lesson for Us. As leaders, we must recognize that any mistake we make is likely to have consequences that reach far beyond ourselves. In my own example, the consequences were far reaching. I had to deal with an employee who defrauded the company. Relationships with customers had to be rebuilt because trust had been breached. And of course, this whole episode didn’t exactly help the advancement of my fledgling career.

None of us is a perfect leader

Sooner or later mistakes will be made. The big question is, “What will you do, and how will you respond?” Consider David’s example a great case study. He admitted his wrong, he submitted to judgment without excuse, and he repented of his error. Good lessons for us today!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you experienced a “slip and fall” during your career? If so, what did you do to recover?


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Category: Skills | Accountability

#095: Does leadership involve both accountability and responsibility?

Does leadership involve both accountability and responsibility?  This can be a confusing question simply because a lot of people use the terms accountability and responsibility interchangeably.

David, Uriah, Accountability

If I am accountable for something, I am the one who is ultimately answerable for the activity or decision.

If I am responsible for something, I am the one who actually completed the task.

Generally speaking, the leader is accountable, the one who is ultimately answerable for the activities and decisions they make. The leader may also be responsible if they are the ones carrying out the decision or task.

The result of a leader not being accountable or being held accountable can spell disaster for an organization. Over the span of my career, I worked with only two managers who tried to avoid being held accountable for their actions.

While the Bible provides several examples of leaders who were not held accountable for their actions today I want to look at what happened to King David.

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#026: Is Our Motivation Important to God?

We know God expects us to obey Him, but in our obeying, are our motives important? Does it really matter why we do something as long as we do the right thing?

Right Path, Motivation

What difference does it really make if I do the right thing while muttering under my breath why I don’t want to, as long as I do the right thing? On more than one occasion my boss has “guided” my decisions to do the right thing against what I thought was my “better” judgement. My spouse has played the same role guiding my decisions in our home life.

Solomon addressed the question of motivation in Proverbs 21:

 1  A king’s heart is like streams of water in the LORD’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses.
2  All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD evaluates the motives.
3  Doing what is righteous and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:1-3, HCSB)

There are three important takeaways from this short passage:

Power. Kings considered themselves to be absolute rulers over their lands and people. But no matter how powerful a king thinks he is, God is more powerful. God is sovereign even over a king. God directs a king’s heart as easily as a farmer directs water into a field to irrigate it.

It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding” (Daniel 2:21).

Motivation. Men may think their way is right, but God looks inside our hearts at our motives. Men may try to justify their actions in any number of ways. Men try to lift themselves up, to exalt themselves, but God examines our hearts.

Speaking of the Pharisees, Jesus said,

“You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Obedience. Being obedient to God is more important than the outward actions of religious observance (“doing church”). The Israelites had dozens of laws governing their religious sacrifices, but God says he would rather we be obedient to Him in doing what is righteous and just than go through the motions of making sacrifices for the sake of making sacrifices:

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hos.6:6).

Summary. We are kidding ourselves if we think we can deceive God. We cannot hide anything from Him. God knows our motives and sees every action. He knows our hearts, our plans, and every word that springs from our lips. He will not bless wrong actions done with good intentions, and He will not bless good actions done with wrong intentions. We must not only do the right thing, we must do it for the right reason!


Examine the motives that drive your decisions. Are you doing the right things for the right reasons? Are you doing the rights things for the wrong reasons? Let’s hope you are not doing the wrong things for any reason!

Join the Conversation!

As always questions and comments are welcome. Do you consider yourself accountable to God for your decisions? What do you struggle with in your decision making? How do you resolve these issues?

Category: Skills | Accountability