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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

07 Dec '14

Leaders who lose credibility by listening to their constituency

Posted by T.J. Addington
This is going to sound counter intuitive since we are all told to listen to those we lead. However, there are scenarios where listening actually hurts the credibility of a leader. Let me explain.

Most leaders know they have to listen to those they lead. So most do. However there are leaders who listen (because they have to) but have no intention of actually addressing the concerns of those they are listening to, even when it is a deafening roar. They can therefore say they listened but nothing was ever done to address legitimate concerns expressed leaving those who shared with even greater frustration than before they shared. It is a disingenuous listening because the leader has no intention of actually doing anything about what he/she heard but they can say, "I have heard all of you." The truth is that it was a disingenuous hearing.

Take a leader who introduces significant change without running process or building a consensus among those who will be impacted by the change. They can expect some push-back as change is not easy for people to deal with. But suppose they receive very significant push-back from people who are not known to be difficult or contentious. A wise leader would pay attention to that. 

When reasonable people - and many of them - are saying "this is not wise" good leaders listen. Dysfunctional leaders on the other hand will often say "talk to me," listen to the concerns and then ignore the concerns (after all they are not concerns to them) while saying "I have heard you." Now the offense is not only bad leadership in not running process and unwise change tactics but they have now minimized people who actually have valid concerns. The offence is now significantly greater than it was originally because those who shared their concerns to no avail now know that their leader frankly does not care. He/she plays the game but has an agenda they are intent on regardless of what others think.

Let's take this one step further. Because the leader has encouraged people to share their concerns with him/her (while not intending to do anything with them), they now know who is not supportive of their decisions. Often, those who share their concerns are seen by insecure leaders like this as "malcontents," "difficult," or "problem people." Never mind these same people have been long time supporters and participants in the ministry. It is in these cases that one starts to hear a great deal about church unity and in extreme cases, church discipline (the Mars Hill story). Dysfunctional leaders are unable to deal with those who disagree with them and get in the way of "their way."

If one is going to listen to their constituency (which they always should), leaders must be willing to hear them and respond to legitimate issues where they can or should. To listen and ignore good advice - especially when it comes from reputable people and a large group of people is usually indicative of an insecure or even narcissistic leader who must have his/her own way. It is sad but happens all too often in the Christian community.

All of T.J. Addington's books are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 discount on orders of ten or more.