By Chris Brown
Leading is a privilege and a risk. If you want to be a good leader, you must learn to measure and manage risk well.
The risk of leadership is seen throughout history. It’s one that you and I, as leaders and pastors, sense and see on a regular basis. The risk is this: Leadership combined with power is a dangerous combination.
Nothing will take a leader down faster than an inflated sense of power. Many people think they’re immune, but power is sneaky. That’s because the title of “leader” naturally allows a higher level of operational freedom.
Freedom in the workplace can make a leader feel above the law. Sometimes they aren’t even aware of the feeling—it’s deception on a subconscious level. Still, it can suffocate team morale from the top down.
When this happens, that leader’s team may notice an abuse of power but be too intimidated to speak up. This will lead to serious challenges within any organization, even the church.
When power interferes with leadership, it can lead to:
- Decreased transparency
- Inflated self image
- Justification of unethical behaviors and decisions
- Decisions made for personal gain rather than organizational gain
- Unrealistic team expectations
- Decreased desire to listen to feedback or other ideas
- Withdrawal during social events at work
Do any of these character traits look familiar to you? Maybe you see them in other leaders—or maybe you struggle with a few yourself.
The descent from a humble, noble heart to this unintended place is a slow process. It’s usually a result of justification upon justification. Rationalization can take a leader to scary places—and the bigger the platform, the stronger the gravitational pull. That’s why Scripture, accountability and confession are so important in the life of a pastor.
To defend against this process, leaders must first spend consistent time in Scripture. The Bible says in Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden thy word in my heart that I may not sin against you.” If we don’t stay in God’s Word, we don’t have a fighting chance.
Leaders should also look for reliable sources of accountability. Your spouse is a great place to start because they’re seldom impressed with your leadership platform. They’re more likely to be impressed with the heart behind your platform.
Other great sources of accountability are trusted family, reliable friends, or even a pastor or mentor. Look for people who are not afraid of tension, and be sure to include someone who knew you before you became a leader.
The Scriptures say in Proverbs, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” As a pastor, you are called to sharpen others—but who is sharpening you? If you find the right accountability partners and give them permission to speak into your life, they will.
Another excellent defense against power problems is to confess at least one thing to your team each month. This is huge! Of course there are appropriate levels of vulnerability depending on the environment. But in all situations, it’s refreshing for a team to hear authentic humility from a leader. Trust and security is cultivated quickly when this is a consistent practice. The team will respect you as a leader, and it will help you keep your heart in check.
Self-awareness is essential to the successful leader. None of us are immune from fooling ourselves. John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Let’s take a good look at how we are managing our power as leaders. Be intentional with the opportunity God gives you to lead. Steward your position well, and you will see team morale, unity and synergy reach new levels.
And as a result, more people will reach the kingdom.
Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and dynamic speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. Available on radio stations nationwide, Chris Brown’s True Stewardship provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. You can follow Chris online at Stewardship.com, on Twitter at @ChrisBrownOnAir, or at facebook.com/ChrisBrownOnAir.