You’re Not Always a Great Leader (and That’s OK)

“In reality, average doesn’t always mean mediocre, and ordinary doesn’t always mean you’re second-rate.”

We live in a time when the pressure to be a great leader is a clear mandate for everyone from pastors to business executives. Being average is unacceptable. Leadership books and conferences are everywhere. I have no fewer than 300 books about leadership in my personal library. If you Google “leadership,” you’ll find about 775,000,000 results.

Leadership is a big deal in today’s world.

Yes, leadership matters. Of course, mediocrity is never a good thing. Personal growth is always preferred over the status quo—especially if the status quo is pathetic. Being better is always a worthy goal.

My concern, however, is the growing internal conflict I see in leaders who will, quite frankly, never be all that great.

On our best days, most of us are average.

A lot of us are one- or three-talent people rather than five-talent worldwide rock stars (a loose reference to the parable by Jesus). In the story, the first guy got just one bag of gold because the boss knew what he was capable of handling. Evidently, the other guys received more because they could manage more.

The number of bags (i.e., talents) wasn’t the issue.

I’m afraid we’ve missed something important in this parable. In Jesus’ story, the owner gave to each person “according to their ability.” He gave each of them what he knew they could successfully oversee.

Here’s a well-known leadership principle: Giving too much to someone too soon sets them up for failure, especially if it’s well beyond their capability or gift mix. Stretching people is fine, but breaking individuals with a load far beyond their capacity is not.

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[Your pastor is broken (and that’s OK, too.)]

Of course, the main point of the parable is simple: Be faithful with what you have. Be diligent. Work hard. Do your best. But for heaven’s sake, don’t compare yourself to the five-talent people.

For years, I fell into the trap of comparison.

I would watch myself on video or read something I’d written and get mildly depressed because, well, because I was average. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d never be a Rick Warren, Bill Hybels or an Andy Stanley.

Sadly, I measured myself and my success by a standard that God never had put on me.

Certainly, I want to grow and develop as a teacher and an author, but I’ll never be gifted to speak like Beth Moore or write like C. S. Lewis.

And it’s OK.

Really. It’s fine.

I don’t have to be a “Big L” leader to be counted trustworthy or approved by the Father.

What am I responsible to do?

Grow. Be faithful. Be committed and true. Be the best me I can be in Christ and stay the course no matter what may come.

God expects you and me to use what he gave us. He’s looking for devoted, reliable and dedicated servants, not superstars.

When Jesus returns, he won’t care whether or not you made it on TV or a best-seller list (and I suspect you won’t care then, either). The only question will be, “Did you do your best with his investment in you?” And the only thing you will want to hear is, “Good work! You did your job well” (Mark 25:21, The Message).

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Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be motivated by a fear of being average. Not everyone is born to be great.

In reality, average doesn’t always mean mediocre, and ordinary doesn’t always mean you’re second-rate. The truth is, average is acceptable if average is your best. Just be better tomorrow than you are today.

So, take a deep breath. It’s OK to be normal. Most of us are.

Kurt Bubna is the senior pastor of Eastpoint Church in Spokane Valley, Washington, a regional purpose-driven director (Saddleback Church) and the author of the book Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot. This post was originally published on