Failing in the crucible of success

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about crucibles of leadership – those experiences which test and transform a leader. The term normally conjures up some kind of harsh experience in fact not every crucible is painful.

Success can be a crucible – and it’s possible to fail in the crucible of success.

Hezekiah was an essentially good king in Judah. He got to witness the remarkable destruction of Sennacherib and his Assyrian invaders; and he experienced a supernatural healing, going on to live a further fifteen years as God responded to his prayer (see Isaiah 38).

Upon his recovery he received envoys from Babylon who had come to find out what had happened. The biblical text observes that ‘God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.’ Motivated by pride (see 2 Chronicles 32), he welcomed them and showed them his treasure house with its precious metals, spices and oil.

Sadly, he was judged for his pride, though judgment was deferred as he humbled himself.

A leader’s response to success and prosperity are as significant as his/her response to failure and adversity.

  • Success can distort our hearts, leading us to forget that apart from God we can do nothing of significance. It can lead us to become proud, not only to forget who God is, but to forget who we are. One of the leaders I interviewed for my research told me that he had been reluctant to consider himself as a leader (even though he led) and that part of the reason for that was his observation of people whose success and status changed them for the worse: their ego took over as they were increasingly celebrated as leaders.
  • External success might draw a blind over what may be going on in the hidden parts of our lives. Another leader I spoke to recalled a time when his public ministry was flourishing while his home life was in chaos. The more his ego was stroked as his ministry prospered, the more he worked and the less he invested in his family.
  • External success might even lead us to think that the hidden and inner parts of our lives don’t really matter too much: after all, look at how successful we are.

So, leaders, don’t just reflect on what you can learn from the hardship experiences and how they might be shaping you: pay attention to how you handle prosperity and to what your response to success says about you.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise (Proverbs 27:21).


PS (20/6/16) – Came across this – from Abraham Lincoln – yesterday:

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

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