The Disappointing Leader

By Rev. Tim Yee

September 30, 2017

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at.”

1 Samuel 16:7a


Digital report on data analysis and metrics.In my twenty-plus years as a leader in the non-profit sector, I’ve found that much of leadership involves disappointing people. When I got into church leadership, I assumed I would spend the majority of my time inspiring people with my vision, comforting people with my pastoral skills, and instilling God’s Word through my preaching. Little did I know that in every one of those areas (and more) I would disappoint people.

Before David was known as a victorious warrior, powerful king, and devoted follower of Yahweh, he was just a shepherd boy who was low on the hierarchy among his brothers in his father Jesse’s household. When Samuel came to Jesse, he was sure that the physically impressive eldest son, Eliab, was to be named God’s new king (16:6). Everyone, including David, was shocked to learn that David was the one to be anointed king. David’s resume was unimpressive! He was young, small, and very inexperienced in life. According to the standards of his day, David was a disappointing choice.

My resume could be equally disappointing depending on what areas you look at and what metrics you use to evaluate me. Am I a disappointment for currently leading a small urban church that has plateaued in growth? Was my ministry more “fruitful” when I led 3000 people instead of the 200 now? Am I a failed leader when our budgeted income is greatly lagging again? What should I do with the long-time member who continues to express his disappointment that I don’t spend enough time counseling him through his significant emotional and financial challenges? If the metrics being used to evaluate me are increasing attendance and income while meeting the needs of each parishioner, then certainly I would appear to be a disappointment. (And often, I do really want to fulfill these expectations. What leaders don’t want to help their people and see their church grow?)

But when I pause and try to listen to the Lord’s voice, I am reminded of God’s challenge to Samuel to use different metrics: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at.” I want to look at the things that the Lord looks at, and it sounds like God is not impressed with the external metrics that we and others often use to define success, value, and importance. We’ll take a longer look tomorrow at what it means to define oneself based on what God looks for in a leader.


How does your organization define success? Are there certain metrics that are used to evaluate your leadership regularly?

How are these metrics in line with what you think God is looking for in a leader?

Are there any metrics that you think are focused on the wrong things?


Lord, I know that my leadership will often disappoint people, so give me the ability to see myself with your eyes. When I fail to meet expectations that bring both merited and unmerited criticism, help me to remember that you are not impressed with the appearance of strength, health, and success. Give me courage to own the areas I need to grow in and the strength to resist becoming merely a pleaser of people. Help me hear your voice as Samuel and David did and simply follow you where you lead. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryThe Task of Choosing a King (1 Samuel 9-16)

Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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