Admitting Inexperience and Leading Nonetheless

Some of the Lutheran pastors and I were supposed to study Greek this morning, but instead, we spoke about causistry and pastoral practice–wedding stuff, mostly. It is fun and thought-provoking, to consider what I usually do and how it differs with some of the other pastors’ practices.

But one bit of discussion stood out for me: the importance of being earnest, of just speaking the truth. Admitting ignorance, admitting inexperience, admitting weakness. It’s actually quite powerful. It relaxes you, it relaxes those around you. It helps your hearers or co-workers or audience know what to expect.

It’s even more authoritative, though it sounds like it would be the opposite. Leaders don’t want to admit they are wrong or uncertain or inexperienced. They want to be heard and followed. But when the leader makes mistakes or shows those weaknesses he is desperately trying to hide, it dramatically affects his performance and how he is received. Two things happen to his team or audience: they may notice the mistake and then begin doubting, asking themselves, “Did he really say that? Am I missing something?” They become distracted. The other consequence is that the group begins to loose trust and confidence. When you tell them ahead of time, they expect some issues and aren’t bothered nearly as much.

Of course, you must be careful in admitting your weaknesses. Some humor and humility are good. Defensiveness, whining or excessive apologizing are bad.

Here’s an example about wedding rehearsals: “Ladies and gentlemen, before we begin, please remember I am a man and haven’t dreamed about this day since I was four years old, like the bride has, so I may be asking more questions than some. But she and I will make sure this is the day she planned and is done in reverence.” Then start the rehearsal. Begin the meeting. Go and be confident with what you know and confidently ask when you don’t.


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