Bad Leaders Crawl Backwards

Crawling backwards Bad leaders crawl backwards.

One of the best leadership books to come out in the last ten years is the Arbinger Institute's, Leadership and Self-Deception. It's written as a narrative, which makes it a quick read and one accessible to nearly everyone. However, I would recommend reading it one chapter at a time, pausing a day for reflection per chapter.

The overarching premise of the book is the way leaders deceive themselves in ways that become toxic to their ability to lead people effectively. In many cases, this arrives in the forms of shifting blame, aggrandizing the faults of others while minimalizing one's own faults, and failing to see how oneself causes or at least participates in the problems. One universal trait of bad leaders is their inability to own their mess. Sometimes, it isn't their mess. Most times…it is.

Beginning with the self is the best way to change any leadership situation. Leaders prone to blame others for problems are poor leaders who will not change. Why? Why would they if they don't really believe they've done anything wrong? So, they keep bad cycles going. History repeats itself in perpetuity and churches continue to suffer, because the Emperor cannot admit he has no clothes and those who point it out are charged with treason.

Allow the good people at the Arbinger Institute to illustrate:

"An infant is learning how to crawl. She begins by pushing herself backward around the house. Backing herself around, she gets lodged beneath the furniture. There she thrashes about, crying and banging her little head against the sides and undersides of the pieces. She is stuck and hates it. So she does the only thing she can think of to get herself out—she pushes even harder, which only worsens her problem. She’s more stuck than ever. If this infant could talk, she would blame the furniture for her troubles. After all, she is doing everything she can think of. The problem couldn’t be hers. But of course the problem is hers, even though she can’t see it. While it’s true that she’s doing everything she can think of, the problem is precisely that she can’t see how she’s the problem. Having the problem she has, nothing she can think of will be a solution."

Let those who have ears to hear, let them hear 😉 It's a great reminder for all of us who lead anything. 

How have you seen this leadership parable play itself out?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Pastor of New Vintage Church in Escondido, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on numerous websites, including:, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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