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| Bob Bumgarner |

Navigating Leadership Disappointments: 8 Ways for Young Leaders to Overcome Setbacks and Move Forward

Have you ever been disappointed with yourself as a leader? I have. Maybe a decision did not go your way in a meeting and now you find yourself discouraged and unmotivated. Perhaps you just realized that you have unrealistic expectations about your ability to control the outcome of an important project for which you are responsible.

Disappointment happens to leaders of all ages. My observation is that younger leaders can be vulnerable to some of the toxic of effects of disappointment as they go through the process of gaining ministry experience.

When young leaders don’t know how to navigate their way through their disappointment it generates fear that can hold them hostage because they are afraid to move forward.  Wounded pride shows up as anger that pushes others away. Finally, disappointment pollutes attitudes with bitter feelings that cloud clear thinking and sabotage progress.

Eight ways young leaders can navigate through disappointment:

  1. Everyone who leads falls short at some point. Own it or you’ll repeat it. Any failure you refuse to take responsibility for returns like a nagging headache. You can build your credibility by paying the price and taking responsibility for the consequences of your action or inaction.
  1. Get a scriptural perspective on your situation. The Bible gives us access to God’s wisdom. Asking the right questions can give us valuable insights into our circumstances through the gospel and the lives of the leaders in scripture.  Here are some I use.
    • What does the scripture say about my value apart from my performance?
    • Who in the Bible faced similar circumstances?
    • What do I need to surrender to move forward?
  1. Candidly evaluate your performance instead of making excuses. Which specific behaviors contributed negatively to the outcome? What do you know now that you did not know in the moment? The result of blaming circumstances on others is giving you the permission to stay the same.
  1. Reconnect with your heart. The pain behind your disappointment is likely something you are passionate about. Let your feelings of disappointment clarify what’s in your heart.
    • What contribution did you want to make that did not happen?
    • What aspirations do you have that have been frustrated?
  1. Don’t rehearse the pain of your disappointment by going around talking about how you were wronged with others. Someone has rightly said words create worlds. Our life and relationships are colored by the words we speak.
  1. Readjust your personal expectations. Feelings of discouragement are normal after pouring yourself into something you really wanted to see happen that is not going to happen. Leaders are not bullet proof. Remember you aren’t the mistakes you make. You made progress before. With discipline, you’ll make progress again.
  1. Overcoming disappointment is a process not an event. If you can, take a break, do it. Find a trusted friend, coach, or mentor who can help you explore your disappointing experience and get perspective. Don’t camp out in the land of disappointment just hike through it.
  1. Respond with purpose and remain forward focused. Create a win quickly by setting new goals and reach for them with what you have learned. Thomas Edison understood that disappointments and setbacks are part of the process of growth and moving forward. That is why in the process of his repeated attempts at creating the light bulb he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  1. Spend time in prayer and self-reflection.
    • What is within your control to change?
    • What skills do you need to develop to create a different outcome next time?
    • What do you need to start doing to be the leader you aspire to be?
    • What do you need to stop doing to become the leader you aspire to be?
    • Are you headed in the right direction despite this disappointment?

The call to lead like Jesus is not an easy one. It comes with challenges and setbacks.Paul’s words to Timothy are a great way to close this blog.

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Lead Missional Strategist

Bob Bumgarner