Much has been written about discovering your leadership style, being your best, maximizing your gifts, increasing the productivity of your staff, etc. Last month over coffee, my friend Scott and I were discussing factors influencing church health. As we talked about how leaders impact their people, we identified one profile that makes both of us run the opposite direction.
Some leaders are able to achieve amazing results – yet the emotional carnage around them goes unreported because of the public accolades they receive for their work. This is not to say that all productivity is a marker for destructive personalities. Yet these individuals have a focus on accomplishments that when coupled with a character deficit produces a painful dynamic. The title for this leader profile? Manipulator.
Manipulation is the art of getting others to do what you want even if it’s not in their interests or contrary to their wishes. Because overt behaviors are easily exposed in church environments, (it’s harder to get away with yelling at parishioners or berating staff) the primary implementation is emotional – it is far less obvious, but equally destructive. To these people, manipulation is typically woven into the core of their character and manifested through their words and behavior – it’s how they’ve learned to get what they want. Consciously or subconsciously, intentional or inadvertent – regardless, it is necessary to distance yourself from these damaging leaders.
Here are some of the highlighted distinctions that evolved from my conversation with Scott:
- Manipulators position themselves to receive what they want from you. Leaders emphasize, encourage and call out what they see (that God has put) in you.
- Leaders create a context for God’s work in your life. Manipulators devise ways to control you and produce their desired results from your life.
- Leaders trust God to accomplish His vision in and through disciples. Manipulators (attempt to) create shortcuts to manufacture their own glory.
- Have you heard it said that “you might not be a leader if no one is following you?” More accurate: “you might not be a leader if no one near you is experiencing God and growth.”
Our discussion strengthened my resolve to continue to grow in love for Jesus Christ, in passion for people’s growth, and to develop in character. I want to be the type of leader that pursues God’s glory, not my own, and His love for people, not myself.
So laying aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2 adapted)