The first leadership failure

(Genesis 3:1-12)
One of the realities of life is that as human beings we are prone to failure. We fail in so many ways and for a variety of reasons. Failure is a perennial and permanent feature of life.

When we look at the Bible, we see the first failure of the first man and woman. When viewed through the lens of leadership, we find that theirs is essentially a failure of leadership.

The Bible tells us that God had defined the parameters and set the bounds of Adam and Eve’s relationship with Him, and relative to their environment. The God-defined relational protocol was given to Adam, but in the process of time, we find that his wife, Eve, engaged in a conversation with the serpent, the Devil, resulting in the first example of leadership failure in human history.

The first key lesson as to the reasons for the failure that is that leaders should be careful as to who they lend their ears. Leaders must guard their ears, mind, and heart. Eve’s failure was that she listened to the words of the serpent. The second lesson is that every leader should be careful to remain committed to the core values that are supposed to underscore his or her life. For Adam and Eve, these values were based upon and embedded in what God had said to Adam. The core principles enshrined in what Adam was told were to underpin their lifestyle. In their moment of weakness, Adam and Eve forgot the fundamental principles that governed their lives. The result was failure.

The failure of Adam and Eve resulted from a failure in self regulation. One of the big challenges that leaders face is how to ensure that they are driven by virtuous and moral principles from within. This brings to mind the words of the hymn by Charles Wesley. The first stanza says:

I want a principle within of watchful, godly fear,
A sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near.
I want the first approach to feel of pride or wrong desire,
To catch the wandering of my will, and quench the kindling fire.


The heart of that hymn is that there is a fundamental need for leaders to self regulate – from within – based on godly principles. Effective leadership is not simply about competence, it is about character. Character is what a person is on the inside, in times of pressure, and when no one is looking. What lies within is what constitutes character.

A final point that led to the failure is a collective one. We see it not just in the fact the first leaders were tempted and that they yielded to temptation. There are various dimensions to this. In 1st John 2: 16 we read these words, ‘For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.’ Leaders are always susceptible to those three areas of temptation and weakness, namely, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and pride.

So, the first leadership failure was driven by a number of factors. Firstly, there was a failure to filter and carefully select who to lend one’s ear. Secondly, there was a failure to remember and follow the core values and guiding principles that were given by God to underpin their lives. Theirs is also an example of the failure to self regulate.

Finally, it is fundamentally about aggressively guarding against the three poisons that have the potential to destroy a leader – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.

Copyright Emmanuel Mbakwe 2017©
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About the Author:
Emmanuel Mbakwe is a Pastor, an apostolic leader, business advisor, leadership coach, mentor, and published author. He is the immediate past General Overseer of the Apostolic Church UK. His vision and heart’s desire is to help people realise their God-given potential and fulfil the purpose of God for the life.

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