The 3 Most Dangerous Words For Every Leader

The three most dangerous words for any leader are, “I Am Fine.” Go to a conference, stand in the lobby of a church, sit in a meeting or bump into a friend in the mall and you will hear these three words.

The words follow a standard script and I am as guilty as anyone at using them frequently. Here is a sample conversation that all of us have taken part in within the last month in any one of the environments listed above.

Friend: “Hey, Craig, how are you? It’s been a while. How are things going? How are you doing?”

Me: “Hey, great to see you too, I am fine, and you, how are you doing?”

Let me say, I get it. I understand you simply can’t blurt out words of discouragement and despair to every person that asks how you are doing. There is a time and a place to unpack life with someone who is safe and in a place that is safe.

What I am suggesting is that we actually have someone who is safe and a place that is safe to unpack what’s going on inside of us. However, there were times I uttered those words when I shouldn’t have. As I look at my own growth as a leader I want to offer three observations as to why “I am fine” was a standard answer for me, and, possibly for you.

1. Denial

A good friend of mine says the great thing about denial is that you don’t know you are in it. When someone asks us how we are doing and we answer, “I am fine,” we may really believe we are fine when, in fact, we are not.

2. Comparison

If I was not doing well in my leadership life and someone asked how I was doing I could honestly say, “I am fine,” because I really was fine when I compared myself to others around me who I knew were struggling. Here is what I now know.

  • Comparison will kill your soul.
  • Leadership is not graded on a curve.
  • You will always find someone who is doing worse than you which will allow you to stay in the same place you are and continue to answer the same way you do.

3. Perception

There were times I wanted others to have a high perception of me. I wanted them to know I was doing well, even great! I really didn’t want others to know I was simply hanging on by a thread. And, since I am a leader, I should be able to pull myself out of whatever funk I was in. That’s what a good leader does, right? (wrong)

We may say the words “I Am Fine” so much it’s that it has become a preprogrammed response. The bigger danger for leaders is we may say it so much that we actually believe it. (See Denial Above)


Since we are leaders, we cannot or do not want to reveal that we are hurting because good leaders can pull themselves out of hurt and pain. There were times I would even spiritualize this dysfunctional line of thinking. I would say, “This is between me and God. God will pull me up and out.”

I have an entire chapter on why we need others in our lives but for the sake of time and space let me simply say, Mark chapter 2:1-5.

“The house where Jesus was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room. While He was preaching four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof. Then they lowered the man right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven…Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

Sometimes, the only difference between hope and despair is a friend who is willing to dig a hole for so you can see Jesus face to face.

So, let me ask you, “How are you doing today?”

Photo Credit: Image ID:108233207 Copyright: Tom Wang