Even Leaders Need Forgiveness

By Ken Idleman

(From our series “The Best or Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received.”)

Ken Idleman
Ken Idleman

The worst leadership advice I ever received was during the second year of my presidency at Ozark Christian College. It was unsolicited, from a member of the teaching faculty.

At age 32, I was still just getting oriented to my new role. One day I sent out an impulsive written communication to the staff. After sleeping on it that night, I realized I had made a mistake. The very next day I distributed a follow-up letter, explaining and apologizing in print.

My former colleague came rushing in to my office to let me know that I had made a terrible mistake. He said with urgency, “As a college president, you should never compromise your leadership by apologizing!” While I appreciated his brotherly concern for me, today I stand by my response to him. I said, “If we are going to have an atmosphere of trust, grace, and freedom here, I have to be able to make a mistake, own it, confess it, and be forgiven from time to time, even as president.”

I remember hearing Wayne Smith say years ago in a practical ministry class, “I am always willing to apologize for myself, but I will never apologize for my Lord!” Only the Good Shepherd was infallible. We “under shepherds” are all fallible and would do well, in humility, to admit it once in a while.

Ken Idleman serves as senior pastor with Crossroads Christian Church, Newburgh/Evansville, Indiana.

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