Tag Archives: ministry

The Spiritual Danger of Having Power

Reading recently about the Mark Driscoll situation at Mars Hill Church as well as seeing the ongoing falling and failings of other spiritual leaders, I thought it time to become a part of the conversation.

Let me first start with stating I don’t condone ungodly or hurtful behavior from anyone toward anyone. With that being said, I don’t think it is time to move from mere condemning of the problems to seeking solutions. For the past decade I wrestled with the question of why so many in spiritual positions of authority and leadership were falling to reprehensible behavior in their lives. I often heard that they were human, just like you and I. Although true, I also knew that even humans (of faith) like you and I are called not to live this way. In addition when becoming a spiritual leader myself, I took to heart the truth that those who lead would be judged more strictly.

I discovered something else while becoming a spiritual leader that lead me to my doctoral research on how one’s status can influence their behavior. I my time as a leader in ministry, sports, education, and business, I have noticed three things: 1) Many leaders do not live and behave in the way they expect their followers to live. 2) People can drastically change when they became leaders. 3) Followers can be guilty of treated leaders differently than their fellow followers.

1. People in Power Behave Differently

When leaders get a hold of too much power and status, their behaviors begin to change. Research shows that the more power people get the more their behavior differs from those without power. Power is said to set off behavioral systems in people which moves them to pursue their desires and wants more than others with little fear of consequences. When power is high, people are more driven by what they can get rather than the consequences of their pursuits. I’ve seen leaders who made unwise decision even when warned by others.  I’ve seen leaders who put themselves in situations that most would not, simply because they thought that could handle it. Lastly, I’ve seen leaders who justify their actions and are blinded to their implications of their actions on others. Power can change the way a leader sees the world.

2. People  Can Change When They Get Power

Power and status seems to be the drug of choice in most churches, and business organizations. I have often experienced good people become elevated to roles of authority and suddenly become totally different people. Having others look up to you and admire you can be an intoxicating feeling and experience. It can and has changed people’s leadership to where they start leading for the feeling of being admired instead of the need for making hard choices and doing the right thing. Because of the addicting influence of being elevated in the hearts of others, many spiritual leaders (and leaders in general) have unknowingly become slaves to appeasing their followers in exchange of their approval and support. This is a dangerous trap that most spiritual leaders can’t seem to find their way out of.

3) Followers Can Worship Their Leaders

Many followers are not aware that they can actually fall into idol worship of those in spiritual positions of power.  Research again shows that the more we admire a person, the more we are to champion their behavior and ideas, and the more  likely we are to defend and justify their actions and behaviors. This is a dangerous recipe for wrong worship. Followers can be just as much the reason leaders fall as leaders the reason followers are manipulated or deceived.

I am convinced that many of the ungodly behaviors that happen among the spiritual leaders of our congregations are greatly influenced by the status and power they have. What many of us fail to realize is that only God can handle worship from man; man cannot. To prevent and avoid the damaging behavior among leaders we must become aware of the power of worship and it’s impact on our behavior. There is a real danger in having too much power; it can create an atmosphere that makes moral failings among those who lead and follow an inevitably sad reality among most churches.

In my latest book on Worship (spoiler alert: it’s not about music, it’s actually about worship), I bring a much-needed awareness to how easy it can be for us to worship any and everything except God. I am giving my book away free this weekend as a part of my writing on this issue today.

None of the Above

Free Download here:

None of the Above: The Power & Pitfalls of Worship http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F1QVI2C/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_awdm_G6ffub1TWCMPC

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What’s on your Mind? How to Avoid Leadership Groupthink

I Hate those Meetings…

I hate meetings where no one is really saying what’s on their mind. I have seen many just flat out stupid plans proposed by leaders receive unanimous support from other “leaders”. I have also seen those who actually shared what they were thinking about the plan receive the black sheep death stare or worse the ostracized death sentence. This is often times the result of a toxic organizational culture of groupthink that permeates many organizations today.

A Culture of Mind Control

The culture of group think comes from a lack of power balance (true empowerment) within an organization. When such an imbalance occurs, people who are power holders experience leading mostly in a world of all green lights from their people. They often face little or no resistance from others on their ideas, opinions, or decisions. This makes it extremely easy for those in power to begin to believe their own hype. The toxicity of groupthink does one of two things to group members; for one group of people it intoxicates (the aroma of life) and for another group of individuals it suffocates (the stench of death). Let me explain.

Groupthink Intoxication

    The intoxicated ones are those who are heavily influence by the power of those who are power holders. They desire acceptance from those individuals and fear rejection or a lack of acceptance from them because of the status or power they hold. Listen, power or status influence creates high degrees of admiration in such a way that the intoxicated ones fight to champion and preserve the thoughts and actions of those in power. When you are intoxicated, your thoughts are no longer your thoughts, but an extension of the thoughts of those in power. So not only do you support the bad ideas, you also oppose those who speak up against such ideas. Thus I have come to realize that intoxicated leaders or team members are actually saying what’s on their minds;  the problem is, what’s on their minds is usually whatever the person in power has (directly or indirectly) placed there.

Groupthink Suffocation

    The suffocated ones, on the other hand find themselves in an organizational twilight zone. They know they are seeing supposedly very smart people continue to make very stupid decisions. They feel trapped; not being able to say what they are really thinking because of the overwhelming backlash that usually comes from their questions, points of concern or opposing ideas. When toxicity levels reach a breaking point, the suffocated ones snap and act out of character. They can’t take it anymore and usually they just say whatever is on their mind, at this point however, it is said with no filters what so ever.  This lashing out or out of character response in the moment comes from built up emotions that can no longer be contained. Unfortunately, this type of behavior only reinforces groupthink by devaluing or eliminating those who think differently and justifying it due to their out of character behavior.

To avoid intoxicated and suffocated minds in an organization, leaders must become intentional about the following practices:

1. Create a culture of empowerment: 
True empowerment involves power holders actually giving some of their power to others, thus lessening their own direct influence and increasing the influence of others.

2.Create a culture of high level dialogue: 
Encourage and challenge people to come prepared to add something of value to the conversation. This helps team members focus on developing their own thoughts and ideas.

3. Ask open-ended questions: 
This prevents from directly or indirectly placing thoughts into the minds of those who are easily intoxicated by influential leaders. When no responses come, this tells you they are merely waiting to be told what to think. Don’t take the bait!

4. Use your independent thinkers as pulse checkers: 
When their frustration levels are increasing, it is probably because people in the room have stopped thinking (for themselves especially). Acknowledge their value and ask them if they think things are heading in the right direction.

When the culture isn’t toxic, organizational leaders will began to truly experience the value of saying to their team, “Tell me what’s on your mind.”