The Embarrassing Lesson That Impacted My Leadership

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A leadership lesson I learned as a young leader has not only stayed with me for decades, it has become embedded in my leadership. But it took an embarrassing episode to learn it.

In leadership you can’t have progress without process.

As a much younger and inexperienced leader I found myself serving on the board of our church, and along with other board members I was growing increasingly concerned as to the space pressures caused by rapid growth.

Our church was, at that time, sitting in an auditorium which sat about 1200 people and we were fast approaching 1000 each week in our single Sunday service.

To us the solution seemed obvious; we needed to add a second weekend service.

The rest of the board quickly came on board and with the support of the senior pastor we notified the congregation at a hastily-called members meeting.

The new service motion was voted down.

I was stunned. And I was embarrassed by our failure.

But a well-spoken, reasonable member of the congregation articulated the concern. “This is a major decision for this church, and you’ve really surprised us with this. There are some considerations we need to understand. What will happen with Sunday School? What will happen if there isn’t even distribution at the 2 services? What is being planned to ensure we don’t devolve into two separate congregations?”

They sent us away to do more homework. We called another meeting several weeks later, answered their questions, and received almost unanimous support.

What did I learn?

Great ideas are important; they’re just not enough

Simply knowing what needs to be done isn’t in and of itself effective leadership.

People might reject a good idea if process has been violated

The resounding “no vote” was a loud message that we hadn’t brought the people along on the journey.

The best route between two points is not a straight line

Our pastor Tim Schroeder taught me this gem. Effective leadership isn’t measured by the speed or simplicity of the journey. It’s about bringing everyone safely to the destination. Even if that means things move a bit more slowly.

You might have the solution to your organization’s problem clearly figured out. But coming up with that brilliant plan is just the start.

If you want to see the plan successfully implemented, the hard work of leadership is just beginning.

Because without process, there’s no progress.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.


  1. Oh Scott! I had a similar experience earlier in the year when I attempted to reword the mission statement of the church I lead, having arrived as leader six months before. My rewording did not change the meaning of the mission statement at all, but simply tried to make it shorter and more memorable. A no-brainer, you would think (or at least, I did!). But my idea was rejected. Why? Because I hadn’t brought anyone along on the journey I’d had with it. I sprang it on them. Thank you for reminding me of that embarrassing lesson and for reminding me about the importance of process when seeking to make progress. In Christ. Rob (website:

  2. Yikes Rob; sure sounds like you and I learned a similar lesson, in a similarly painful way! But as leaders, we learn and grow from these experiences. Thanks for sharing.

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