You’ve Been Taught A Lie About Leadership

June 24, 2016

It blows my mind how many leaders simply don’t lead well. You know what blows my mind more than that? That so many “Christian” leaders don’t lead well.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in several secular organizations as well as several Christian organizations, and some of the leaders in the secular organizations lead their staff far better than the Christian organizations.

Thankfully I have had the opportunity to work with strong and healthy leaders in both secular and Christian organizations, but why is it that so many leaders in high positions are poor leaders?

I believe it’s because there’s a little lie going around about leadership. That little lie whispers things in your ear things like:

“You’re in charge. Either your people WILL respect you… or you have to FORCE them to respect you.”

When I transitioned from one church to another in 2013, I interviewed with a total of 67 churches all over the world. My only requirement was that the church must have healthy leadership. By the grace of God I succeeded in finding a church that not only appeared healthy, but actually was/is healthy. However, in the interview process with those other 66 churches, I realized that the vast majority of churches were run by unhealthy leaders.

The unhealthiness oozed out in the answers from church leaders as I interviewed the interviewers. I asked questions like:

“What do you consider a ‘win’ at your church?”

“What do you celebrate at your church?”

“How do you motivate the staff at your church?”

“Do your employees live in a fearful state of mind or do they feel empowered?”

“Do you encourage risk-taking knowing that it might lead to failure?”

“Tell me about a time you released someone from staff, why you felt you needed to let them go, and how you went about letting them go.”

Without going into the details of answers to each of those questions, you’d likely be shocked at some of the responses I heard.

It’s not to imply that hard decisions and tough conversations cannot be made within the walls of a church. That’s not the case at all. Nor do I believe that people who are lazy or underperforming should not be let go from a position within the church.

However, it became evident to me just how many church leaders use manipulation, deceit and bullying tactics to “get their way” when it comes to employee performance. What a poor example and methodology of leadership!

If only these church leaders would take a harder look at the greatest handbook of life that has ever been written (the Bible), I wonder if their cultures would change from the inside out. If only these leaders would learn a bit more from the greatest leader of all time (Jesus), I wonder if more churches wouldn’t have the incredibly high turnover they do.

I don’t claim to have all the leadership answers in the world, but what I do know is this: Jesus is the best leadership teacher and example of all time. He is the most famous leader of all time. He is the most influential leader of all time.

Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God or not, you simply cannot deny the impact He has made considering over 54% of the world’s population claims to believe in Jesus. With that many followers, He obviously did something right.

I want to learn from the master, but not just learn, I want to “do”. James says:

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

My goal is to be a leader who is worth following among a sea of leaders who aren’t. Jesus teaches all about the best leadership model: servant leadership. Jesus was straight-forward. He wasn’t a pushover. He told it how it was. He was a strong leader.

Yet at the same time, Jesus was full of compassion. Grace. Understanding. Patience.

This dichotomy of leadership is easily seen with Jesus’ interaction with a prostitute.

John 8:2-11  (NIV)

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus offered grace to the woman by refusing to condemn her, but also made it clear that she should leave her life of sin. He did not lead the woman by engaging His own sinful activity, but rather, He offered the woman grace and redirected her onto a better path.

Each of my posts about leadership will unpack a model given by someone who has figured out how to lead people well based on the fact that they’ve figured out how to lead themselves well.

What is the best lesson you have learned from a leader who was worth following? Share your thoughts in the comment section.







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