Bold Leadership: A Cost vs. Benefit Analysis

To be honest, the title of this post is a misnomer in some respects. Bold leadership sometimes requires we ignore any assessment of cost versus benefit. There are just times when the cost is worth it no matter what, such as when truth or integrity is at stake. At other times, we need to ascertain the damage of a risky decision, such as when a “smart” move might hurt someone we love.

These are the inner conflicts leaders face daily. Consider these questions that swim through my own head quite often:

  • Should I press forward and leave some behind, or lead everyone together?
  • Should I make a decision without the authority when I know it’s right and can’t wait for permission?
  • Should I seek advice and counsel or go with my gut?
  • Do I make an immediate choice, or delay for some thinking time but lose the immediate gain?
  • Do I delegate an important task or complete it in the confidence I’m the best person for the job?

We hear pithy sayings that offer what are sometimes trite answers to these questions, and some great leaders reading this already have certain rules and boundaries in place for these and other scenarios. But let’s face it – there are times when we are backed into a corner by our situation and have to make decisions without all the answers being provided us. In fact, that’s the nature of leadership.


These are some guidelines I’ve formed in my own life that help, but some of them are just that – guidelines – and have to be negotiated in the moment. Others are ironclad. The difference might be obvious…

  • What is right?
  • What is wise?
  • What is loving?
  • What develops someone else?
  • What is best for my organization?
  • What would Jesus do?
  • What would my wife say? (it comes in handy, sometimes)
  • What would my heroes do?
  • What regrets will I have?
  • What regrets will I avoid?
  • What impact will it have on people in the future, especially my kids?

Here’s the point – leadership has costs and benefits and a life of leadership is a life spent weighing them out. If you’re going to navigate leadership well, you need to have a moral compass. Mine is the beleif that God is holy and righteous, His Word is absolute truth, His Son Jesus is the ultimate leadership example, and His Holy Spirit is here to guide me.

I wish it were easier, but maybe then everybody would do it, and maybe it wouldn’t be worth it in the end.

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