Leadership & Formation #5: Major Barriers

Leadership & Formation #5: Major Barriers

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Some time ago I approached my boss suggesting that my business card be changed.  Somewhat bemused he said it couldn’t get much longer. I said I wanted to shorten it to a title that reflects the primary role of a leader of others—barrier remover. Our job as leaders of others is to remove any impediment that restricts them from performing at their optimum best.  Our job is to help them flourish from the foundation of their wiring; to be all God intended them to be, and to realize their full potential.  In doing so, the organizations they serve will benefit.

 There are barriers however that are self-inflicted.  If these barriers are not addressed they will prevent a leader from finishing well.  To be sure, each barrier has gradations or degrees of dysfunctionality.  The degree to which a barrier impedes a leader will determine the degree to which one’s effectiveness is limited and thus their hope of finishing well.  J. Robert Clinton identified six barriers to finishing well.  Others could be added for sure but these six dominated the research.

Again in Clinton’s own words…

Comparative study of effective leaders who finished well has identified six barriers that hindered leaders from finishing well.  It only takes one of them to torpedo a leader. But frequently a leader who fails in one area will also fail in others. What are these barriers? We can learn from those who didn't finish well. We can be alerted to these barriers. We can avoid them in our own lives.  We need to look ahead in our lives and not walk right into these barriers.  We need to avoid being entrapped by them.  Proverbs 22:3 tells us that, “Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later.”

Barrier 1.  Finances—Use and Abuse

Leaders, particularly those who have power positions and make important decisions concerning finances, tend to use practices which may encourage incorrect handling of finances and eventually wrong use.  A character trait of greed often is rooted deep and eventually will cause impropriety with regard to finances.  Numerous leaders have fallen due to some issue related to money.  Biblical Examples:  O.T.: Gideon's golden ephod. N.T.: Ananias and Sapphira.

Barrier 2.  Power—It’s Abuse

Leaders who are effective in ministry must use various power bases in order to accomplish their ministry.  With power so available and being used almost daily, there is a tendency to abuse it.  Leaders who rise to the top in a hierarchical system tend to assume privileges with their perceived status.  Frequently, these privileges include abuse of power.  And they usually have no counter balancing accountability.  Biblical Example:  Uzziah's usurping of priestly privilege.

Barrier 3.  Pride--Which Leads To Downfall

Pride (inappropriate and self-centered) can lead to a downfall of a leader.   As a leader there is a dynamic tension that must be maintained.  We must have a healthy respect for ourselves, and yet we must recognize that we have nothing that was not given us by God and He is the one who really enables ministry.  Biblical Example:  David's numbering.

Barrier 4.   Sex--Illicit Relationships

Illicit sexual relationships have been a major downfall both in the Bible and in western cultures.  Joseph's classic integrity check with respect to sexual sin is the ideal model that should be in leader’s minds. Biblical Example: David's sin with Bathsheba was a pivotal point from which his leadership never fully recovered.  It was all downhill from there on.

Barrier 5.  FAMILY--Critical Issues

Problems between spouses or between parents and children or between siblings can destroy a leader's ministry.  What is needed are Biblical values lived out with regard to husband-wife relationships, parent-children, and sibling relationships.  Of growing importance in our day is the social base profiles for singles in ministry and for married couples.  Biblical Example:  David's family.  Ammon and Tamar.  Absalom's revenge.

Barrier 6. Plateauing

Leaders who are competent tend to plateau.  Their very strength becomes a weakness.  They can continue to minister at a level without there being a reality or Spirit empowered renewing effect.  Most leaders will plateau several times in their lifetimes of development.  Some of the five enhancement factors for a good finish will counteract this tendency (perspective, learning posture, mentor, disciplines).  There again is a dynamic tension that must be maintained between leveling off for good reasons, (consolidating one's growth and/or reaching the level of potential for which God has made you) and plateauing because of sinfulness or loss of vision.  Biblical Example:  David in the latter part of his reign just before Absalom's revolt.

Forewarned is forearmed. There are many other reasons why leaders don’t finish well—usually all related to sin in some form. But at least the six categories are major ones that have trapped many leaders and taken them out of the race. Leaders who want to finish well, Take heed!

To Clinton’s list I would add a seventh barrier…

Barrier 7: Emotional and Psychological Wounding

Emotional and psychological wounding is all too frequent in people’s lives today.  Such wounding is often administered from the hand of someone we trust.  As terrible as it is, some leaders wear their victimization on their ‘sleeve’ for everyone to notice.  Nearly every conversation is punctuated with a rehearsal of the wounding.  Taken to extremes such behavior can prevent a leader from finishing well.  You may not get over it but you can get past it with God’s help.  Biblical Examples:  David’s children neglected by him; Jonah in Ninevah; Elijah in the cave

What contemporary examples can you identify for each barrier?

What barriers not addressed above would you add to the list?

Which barriers are impeding you from finishing well?

Who can help you overcome this barrier?

Who do you know who is struggling with one or more of these barriers?

What assistance can you offer to them?

Which barrier are you most susceptible or vulnerable?

What are you doing to remove the barrier?


It is never too late to begin living and leading in such a way as to finish well.

Stay tuned in for the Enhancements to Finishing Well.

To be continued…



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