Chutes and Leaders: Stories from the Fourth Rung

Character is developed by our response to a failure rather than the failure itself. After a leader pays the cost of leading growth occurs. This is the area that God himself looks at and seems to care for most. It is in this area that the leader may fool others, but he or she will not fool God. This is the real test area for the leader. It’s the little details that help make a difference.

Much like Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, leaders need to care about the tiniest details because God is concerned about every part of our lives. It is here that the leader’s true character shines. In some many cases it looks dull and unpolished. Either way he or she has to decide if all the misery that may occur in at this point of the climb is worth the risk of moving to the top.

When a crisis of some sort happens close to the top of both ladders, the leader can over come the most difficult challenges. If knocked off the ladder and to the ground they need to get back up and climb again. God can work through the leader’s character and rebuild it through humbleness. Successful growth through this fall can be achieved because God is involved. Focusing on the purpose can help in a quick recovery.

Think of the great Christian leaders who have suffered and experience failure. Some get back up whereas others seem waste away into the history books. Many times in my own life I have failed miserably. Some hurt so bad that I pray will never be mentioned again. However, I know that each one happened and can serve for a greater purpose in my own leadership.

As I stay focused on my ultimate goal of serving God and making his name known, I am encouraged to know that Christ will always be there for me when I do fail. I am now able to see that the farther a leader is up on a ladder the farther he or she has to fall. However, the farther that leader is up the ladder the closer they are to the top.

I have learned to get back up even if I have to restart more often than actually reaching the top.


Thrall, Bill, McNicol, Bruce and Ken McElrath. The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.


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