Rethinking Leadership

Rethinking Leadership ImageSome books entertain. Others educate. And then there are those books that mess with you.

I’m talking about the books that by design or default show up on your bookshelf (or get downloaded on your Kindle) that knock you off stride. Bust up your mental models. Remind you that you have some learning to do.

Or perhaps some unlearning.

Meet Leading With a Limp by Dan Allender—author, professor, therapist, and former president of Mars Hill Graduate School.

The book grabs its title from the encounter in the Old Testament where Jacob finds himself in a no-holds-barred, all-through-the-night wrestling match with the Almighty—a wrestling match that forever alters his gait, and more importantly, his life. Here’s a quick snapshot of Allender’s take on this remarkable event:

The climax of the story is found in Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with God and gains a new name as well as a leader’s limp. Prior to the limp, scheming and deceit marked his life. But after wrestling all night with God and gaining a limp that was obvious to all, Jacob in many ways became a different person. His story shows that God intends to wrestle with each of us in order to both bless us and cause us to walk and lead with a distinctive frailty.    

Armed with this age-old account, Allender fires away. Meddling. Messing. Often painting you into the proverbial corner. No way out. Forcing one to think deeply. Differently.

Here are a few excerpts from Leading With a Limpthat may serve to whet your appetite for the full read. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. But buckle up. You’ll hit some bumps along the way—the kind of bumps that jar heart and mind.

  • Leading is very likely the most costly thing you will ever do. And the chances are very good that it will never bring you riches or fame or praise in exchange for your great sacrifices. But if you want to love God and others, and if you long to live your life now for the sake of eternity, then there is nothing better than being a leader.


  • Here is God’s leadership model: He chooses fools to live foolishly in order to reveal the economy of heaven, which reverses and inverts the wisdom of this world. He calls us to brokenness, not performance; to relationships, not commotion; to grace, not success.


  • This is the terrible secret about leadership and life: we achieve brokenness by falling off our throne. To be broken is not a choice; it is a gift. I don’t know anyone who has made the decision to be broken and achieve it as an act of the will. But to experience brokenness and humiliation, all you have to do is lead.


  • Leadership is far from a walk in the park; it is a long march through a dark valley. In fact, leadership has been described as wearing a bull’s-eye on your chest during hunting season.


  • A leader who limps subverts the expectations of those who define leadership as running an organization. It is not that a limping leader does not hire, fire, advance, reward, discipline, and delegate. These are inescapable duties of leadership. But the aim of a leader’s activity is not the growth of the organization. It’s not even meeting needs or doing good. The purpose of limping leadership is the maturing of character.


  • Clearly the disillusioned and best leaders are those who have nothing left to prove because they have known both failure and success. Failure teaches us to not fear the contempt of others. Success teaches us to not trust the applause of others. When contempt and applause no longer move your heart to hide or to strive, then you are ready to ask the question “What will please you, God?”

While I was reading Leading With a Limp, I was repeatedly taken back to perhaps my most significant wrestling match. With the clarity of an interstate billboard, I can give you the exact day and time and place, and more importantly, the message. It wasn’t what I wanted. But it was what I needed.

On that day, I bulled my way into the wrestling arena armed to the teeth with an arsenal of complaint, wielding a veritable grocery list of well-documented, self-justified reasons for why I deserved something different…something better.

But what I left with wasn’t what I came for.

I left with a limp. And a fresh start.

I know I’m a different person. And I trust a better leader.


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23 thoughts on “Rethinking Leadership

    • Keep pointing us to true leadership Chuck. Thanks for sharing your gut wrenching experience. It reminded me of the rethinking process I went through, how God directed my steps to continue leading, not quit. I have long appreciated your inspiration and commitment to develop others.

  • Coincidentally (?) I am in the middle of reading this same book which was referred to me by a dear friend. Psalm 51:17 is one of my life verses.
    Thank you, Chuck!

  • To say that leading is most likely the most costly thing you will ever do is so true.
    To be a wise leader, leading with deep integrity and strong character is an ever diminishing group. The church needs to take a stand on God’s call to living in His light.

  • SO many long to be leaders, without taking into account the deep and dark side to it.
    Accountability and solid character are two areas that seem to be most lacking in our circles.

  • If every pastor and leader in the local church would grasp hold of the concept that we are to live life by instilling character into those under our care, what a transformative thought and act that would be. Character and integrity go hand in hand.
    We have skirted around these issues by raising up other virtues as more to be respected – preaching, webinars, classes. But the reality is if a leader is not morally compassed, growing deeper in his own personal walk, they will never be able to lead others further. We can only lead as far as we have gone.

  • I love how real you are Chuck. You have shared in Rock Solid the times in your life and leadership when you have been “limping”…and from those times, have developed a foundational character and personal walk with God.

  • Leaders who limp seem to have more empathy for those they lead than leaders who have not experienced any hardship. After reading this, I am going to purchase the book. Thank you for sharing Chuck.

  • So true, leaders who experience both success and failure are the ones I want to follow.
    Appreciate the way you share so much of your own personal ups and the downs of leadership with us on the Rock Solid journey Chuck.

  • God used a different criteria for choosing leaders! And it doesn’t always match up to what we think should be!
    God truly puts an extremely large emphasis on leaders who know the value and have walked through some brokenness. Through the humbling, leaders are brought to their knees, recognizing their strength is in Him alone.

  • “God chooses leaders who aren’t deceived by the myths of power and control, but who realize that God’s power is found in brokenness.”
    This will be a certain read for our church board.

  • God can take a broken life, a life that has been tormented and weak, and enlarge his borders beyond imagination. I am forever grateful!

  • What a great gift – God takes flawless people and makes them of use for His Kingdom purposes. He takes brokenness and in the mending, He brings glory to Himself.

  • This was a powerful quote from the book for us: Flawed leaders are not preoccupied with protecting their image, they are undaunted by chaos and complexity, they are ready to risk failure in moving an organization from what is to what should be.
    Such a good challenge to my work and ministry.

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