The Leader's Achilles Heel


Achilles was the mightiest of the Greek warriors, but it was his subtle weakness -- an unprotected heel -- that became his undoing. Every leader has an Achilles heel, a vulnerable weak spot. What is yours?

M.I.C.E. -- The Achilles Heel Of The Twenty-First Century

M.I.C.E. is the international espionage acronym for the four means of recruiting agents and informants. It is also the Achilles Heel of the twenty-first century. The letters stand for Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego. If spies want to flip an agent they will wave cash (money), persuade on principle (ideology), tantalize with sex (compromise), or appeal to pride (ego).

Every person is subject to these temptations. But when a leader succumbs, the consequences are perilous for both the individual and the organization.

For a moment, let's focus on the "E" of M.I.C.E. Ego is a two-sided coin: arrogance and insecurity. Both can be crippling.

Insecurity -- The Subtle Side Of Ego

Insecurity is a lack of confidence. It comes when a leader's image is built on the shaky foundation of Self instead of God. Insecurity produces fear and anxiety. It results in ineffectiveness.

7 Things Insecure Leaders Can’t Do

  1. They can’t give other people credit Insecure leaders are blinded by pride. They either can't, won't, or only grudgingly acknowledge the good work performed by others.
  2. They can’t rejoice in others' successes Insecure leaders feel that "more of you" means "less of me," so they refuse to rejoice when others succeed.
  3. They can’t move on Insecure leaders linger in "the departed yesterday." Because their performance is their identify, they get stuck cherishing their victories or sulking over their defeats.
  4. They can’t delegate effectively Insecure leaders believe no one can do the job as well as they can, so they refuse to turn over work to others.
  5. They can't raise up and empower other leaders Insecure leaders are afraid that others will outshine them so they don't equip and empower other people to take on bigger roles.
  6. They can’t take risks Insecure leaders are afraid of failure. Confusing their success with their significance, they are risk averse.
  7. They can’t enjoy the work of God in their own backyard Perry Noble said, "Some people can’t see what God is doing right in front of their eyes because they are too busy being envious of what He is doing somewhere else."

Three Marks Of A Secure Leader

John the Baptist was a secure leader. His ego was subservient to Christ and His kingdom. Did God need a voice? Then John picked up the megaphone. Did God need a bellhop? Then John carried the luggage. Did God need just a part-time worker? Then John said, "I'll take that job!" Here is John's story:

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:19-23 ESV
Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:25-30 ESV

Reading John’s story we see three marks of a secure leader.

1.  Secure leaders don't confuse their role with their identity

John knew his role. He was the voice of one crying out in the wilderness -- and he was content with that. John knew that his identity -- who he was -- did not change because of his role -- what he did!

Secure leaders find their identity in their relationship with God. God loves them. God saved them. God made them His own. THAT IS THEIR IDENTITY. Their role is just their job for God.

My name is Tommy, my role is Senior Pastor, but my identify is Jesus. I am a child of God made possible by the kindness of Jesus Christ.

2.  Secure leaders understand stewardship

John said, A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. That is a man who understood stewardship. Stewards live their lives as "managers" not as "owners." Stewards manage God's stuff. They know that they are ultimately responsible to God. So like the Apostle Paul, they respond to their critics by saying:

Well, it matters very little what you or anyone else thinks. I don't even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that isn't what matters. It is the Lord himself who will examine and decide. 1 Corinthians 4:3

Secure leaders serve people, but they live for an audience of One.

3.  Secure leaders are willing to be invisible

John’s followers, jealous of Jesus’ increasing popularity, complained, "Everyone is going to him,” but John was not bothered. He responded by saying:

A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become lessJohn 3:27-30 NIV

Secure leaders are happy to become less – less visible, less recognized, less “important”— provided that the cause of Christ is advanced. In his book, Built To Last, Jim Collins notes that such “selfless executives,” are what make successes successful.

There are "invisible leaders" everywhere. They are absolutely essential for a growing company—and a growing church! These are people who happily work behind the scenes. They have the mindset of a person I spoke with years ago who said:

"My fingerprints are on everything, my name is on nothing, and that is okay."

How Leaders Overcome Insecurity:

1.  They make a daily surrender

The John the Baptist of today begins the day with open palms and an open heart: "These gifts, this role, this time . . . it belongs to you, Lord!"

2.  They live for God's "Attaboy"

I return to Paul who said, "It is the Lord who judges me . . . He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." 1 Corinthians 4:5

3.  They ask the question, "Am I defending truth or my pride?"

Some time ago, I received some negative criticism. I was grappling over whether to respond and what to say if I did. I shared my sense of inner turmoil with a trusted friend, who responded in a note with this pearl of wisdom:

“The point is, Tommy, as I’m sure you agree, retaliation for wrongs done against me is a response of human pride. Speaking the truth in love even when it requires confronting a brother or sister in Christ is prompted by a defense of the truth. Truth is worth defending; my pride is not.”

I grow a healthy heart when I separate the truth from my pride. I am learning to ask the question: “Are you defending the truth or your pride?” Grappling with that distinction goes a long way to helping keep my heart healthy.

4.  They get presbyopic

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is debilitating. What is true of sight is true of life. When we get too focused on self, we lose perspective. People with healthy hearts get presbyopic -- they look beyond themselves. Someone has said, "Humble people don't think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less." Who needs your attention today?

Insecurity is the leader's Achilles Heel. Don't let it bring you down. May God keep you secure and strong -- for Him!