Leadership positions are a mixed blessing. For those wired to lead it is a joy to be in one's sweet spot. However, leadership brings with it a set of very real temptations that trip up CEO's, pastors, presidents and ministry leaders. Given these temptations, the first priority of every leader ought to be health: emotional, relational, spiritual, leadership and skill health. In the absence of that kind of care, there is a high likelihood that a leader will suffer one or more of the following temptations.
Leaders find themselves in a difficult place. They higher one rises in leadership responsibility the more isolated it feels. Good leaders, while collegial and approachable are not "one of the boys," or "one of the girls." They must push the missional agenda with those they lead and while the culture may well be collegial, they are still the leader and their focus on the missional along with decisions they must make will not always leave them popular.
Leaders who are promoted from within their organization quickly realize that the relationships they had with their peers have changed. It must if one is going to lead well.
Isolation, however, is a trap because we were not made to live in isolation. Isolation breeds loneliness and loneliness breeds unhealthy habits and addictions in a desire to fill that hole of loneliness. Leaders must face that temptation squarely and intentionally foster deep, meaningful relationships with peers at their level and friendships outside their organization. Isolation is dangerous so there needs to be a strategy to counter it.
Feeding a dark side
As noted above, feeding a dark side is often the result of isolation. Long hours, loneliness, constant travel, lack of genuine friendships all leave one vulnerable to unhealthy addictions: pornography, affairs, gambling, drugs, alcohol or other risky behaviors. The unconscious justification is "I need an outlet to my hectic leadership responsibilities."
Isolation and dark sides go together. Wise leaders have a deliberate strategy for avoiding isolation and the development of healthy habits that minimize the need to feed the dark side - which is simply a way to fill some emotional, spiritual or relational hole.
Running on empty
Many leaders have bought the lie that in order for them to lead well they need to be constantly on the move, running from one important meeting to another, one city or country to another. One cannot run a sprint twenty hours a day, day after day, and not pay the price.
God did not design us to run on empty. It can feel good - after all I am so important that I have this incredibly busy schedule - my input is needed all over the place: balderdash! Busyness may feed our self importance but it is not a necessity of leadership. Wise leaders set a livable pace, building in relational time, think time, rest time, and they say no to tons of good things in order to say yes to the most important things. Run on empty long enough and your leadership will be compromised
Taking short cuts
It is amazing how many leaders run aground on the shoals of ethical issues. After all, I work so hard, I give so much of myself to the organization, I am owed something too! Above all, leaders must model the highest ethical behavior and go the extra mile to avoid any appearance of ethical short cuts.
Arrogance is both the end result of the first four temptations and feeds them further. Arrogance is an attitude that the rules don't belong to me, I am the one with the needed wisdom, as the leader, I am different, and this ministry or company revolves around me.
Many leaders fall to this temptation. In the end it severely compromises their ability to lead because those around them will not give themselves to an arrogant leader - if they have other options.
Leadership is a high calling and for those who lead well a most satisfying job. But we will only be good leaders to the extent that we are healthy leaders. Healthy leaders live lives of significant discipline with a great deal of self knowledge because leadership 101 is avoiding the five temptations that will unravel my leadership!