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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.

01 Dec '11

Sensitive and insensitive leadership

Steve Jobs was a genius but I suspect that most of those who have made their way through his long biography left the book fascinated but saying, "I would never work for that guy." His empathy and sensitivity level were in the basement as leaders go and many who worked for him felt used and abused. I love his products but abhor his leadership style.


I think the same could be said for many leaders in the Christian ministry world who accomplish amazing things but leave in their wake disillusioned and wounded people. Like Jobs, they were successful in how we often define success but at a huge cost of individuals who were wounded by them in the process. And in both cases I have to ask myself, is success at the cost of people real success? In fact, it seems to me that success at the expense of people is an oxymoron. It cannot be true success because in the end, ministry is about people.


No leader will be universally popular - that I know personally and understand. It is not the job of a leader to be popular but to lead people toward a common mission. There are times that a leader must make an unpopular decision about a staff member. But, a leader is a steward of those they lead and the using, abusing, and disposing of people, or harsh treatment of staff hardly fits the leadership style of Jesus in the Gospels or reflects Biblical teaching on how we interact and treat others. It truly bothers me deeply when I meet leaders who are users and abusers of those they lead. 


The acid test for a leader and for those who watch a leader are these: Is their leadership more about them or those they lead? Is it more about them or the mission they are perusing? In the pursuit of that mission, do they bring people with them or do they leave a trail of victims in their wake? Do they use people or serve people? Do they have empathy for those they lead or are they hard and insensitive when people get in the way of where they want to go? And here is a great question: Would those who have worked for them want to work for them again?


One of the reasons so many individuals leave ministry is that they become disillusioned by working for "Godly leaders" that outsiders look up to but who they have been wounded and abused by. Being violated by those who should have higher standards because they lead in the name of Jesus is deeply wounding. It is truly the dark side of ministry - and the church. 


If you are a leader, ponder these questions. If you are courageous, ask those around you how they rate you in those areas. If you don't care, well, leave ministry!