How Do Leaders Survive? | Edvance Christian Schools Association
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How Do Leaders Survive?

Written on November 23rd, 2016


In his previous session, Andy Crouch solidified the idea that in order to become the embodiment of transformation in an institution, leaders must have two qualities: authority and vulnerability. He carefully outlined authority, and in this session promises to give an overview of what it means to balance that authority by being vulnerable and taking meaningful risk as a leader.


Vulnerability is the second quality that leaders must balance, along with authority, in order to become the embodiment of transformation in an institution. This vulnerability involves more than just emotional transparency. Instead, leaders need to ask themselves, “What is the meaningful risk that I can take in this situation?” This depth of vulnerability comes in four forms for leaders: accountability, confrontation, delegation, and solitude.

The number one form of vulnerability for a leader is accountability. It is a huge risk for leaders to let someone else hold you accountable for what you are doing in an organization. However, in order to maintain a healthy organization, it is crucial for there to be accountability for every role of leadership. Accountability is especially vulnerable for principals, as their role is to lead people, and therefore they are accountable for something that they cannot fully control.

Confrontation is a second form of vulnerability for leaders. Naming something that isn’t working in an organization is never an easy thing to do. Leaders would often rather not confront the truth, and let things slide in order to maintain the peace. However, without practicing necessary confrontation, an organization will self-destruct.

Delegation can also prove to be a vulnerable thing for leaders to practice. Nevertheless, it is a good example of symbolic inaction—choosing not to act so that others are enabled to action.  Leaders often struggle to hand tasks over to others, rather than doing it themselves, because want to maintain control. But when they cannot delegate, leaders are limiting the potential growth of an organization.

Finally, the fourth form of vulnerability that leaders must embrace is solitude. Because leaders are people with public authority, and much of their work revolves around communicating with others, there needs to be time set aside for disciplined, private, spiritual growth.

Vulnerability is something that can be difficult to achieve as a leader. As people step out into the role of leadership, there are often systems that are set up to protect a person from vulnerability. For example, people start not telling you things, hoping to protect you. Therefore, leaders must continually push towards the meaningful risk side of leadership.

Communities fear risk, and they try to hire leaders who will tell them they don’t have to take risks. Because of this, an essential work of leadership is to be the kind of person who can steward vulnerability on behalf of the community, and to call the community to proper risk. The leader’s role is one which creates an environment where people in a community have enough confidence and trust in one another that they can bear the suffering that is theirs to bear.

One of the most difficult things that leaders must keep in mind is that the vulnerability leaders practice will not always be visible to others. Leaders can be in a position where they are using proper authority, and at the same time are taking all kinds of meaningful risks, but other people do not see the vulnerability that they are experiencing. When leaders go out in public, everyone sees their authority, and they really cannot imagine all the vulnerabilities that lie behind it. And oftentimes, it is not possible for leaders to disclose the vulnerability to others, or it is not helpful because those they are sharing it with have no agency to address the problem. In these cases, exposing the vulnerability would only serve to frustrate others because they have no ability to act or change the situation. Instead, vulnerability should only be shared when it will help everyone flourish.

How then do leaders survive? The tension between finding the right balance between authority and vulnerability has destroyed many leaders. Often, they become the idols that people think they are, and they start to exploit people. To combat this from happening, there is only one way for leaders to survive—leaders must have friends. In the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain to encourage him. Although Jesus surrounded himself with his disciples on earth, they could only see his authority and they rejected his vulnerability. In the transfiguration, Jesus’ full authority was revealed, but also his vulnerability as he talked with two people who bore vulnerability on behalf of Israel and could understand.

“Jesus needed friends,” Crouch concluded. “And if Jesus, the perfect example of leadership, needed friends, then all leaders need them—friends with which you can share everything and anything, and who will love and minister God’s grace to you.”


The next summary will share Crouch’s final thoughts, as he explores how leadership is not only difficult, but also crucial to complete the story of redemption and restoration here on earth.