Many of my associates agree with me that there seem to be a higher percentage of unhealthy/dysfunctional leaders in the ministry arena than in other leadership arenas. I suspect that there are several reasons for our inability to deal with many of these situations and it goes to a central principle: Many dysfunctional leaders have an advantage over those they lead.

One: How do you question God's "call" for even someone who is dysfunctional? Of course, just because they have a call does not mean we should allow them to accommodate that "call" in our ministry organization or church. But such God talk is a powerful inhibitor to dealing with unhealthy leaders. It amazes me constantly how often boards know that they have a problematic leader on their hands but simply don't deal with it. 

Two: Dysfunctional leaders often don't play fair which leaves the rest of us at a disadvantage. I have seen cases where pastors are at odds with their boards but threaten to take the issues public with the congregation which is a threat to split the church. Most leaders won't go there - they are in a lose/lose situation and the senior leader is not playing fair. 

Three: Dysfunctional leaders are often very strong individuals who need to have their own way and whose strong personality literally intimidates those who might disagree. I call these folks "forces of nature" and most people will back down in the face of that pressure. Wherever you have a pattern of intimidation by a senior leader in order to get their way it needs to be dealt with because it is not fair play.

Four: Dysfunctional leaders are often very good at talking and debating. Most of the population is not leaving them at a huge disadvantage in trying to have a conversation when there are differences of opinion. Monopolizing the conversation is a means of retaining control of the agenda and the outcome.

Five: Dysfunctional leaders often use the "I know what the ministry needs" language which suggests that those around him/her have lesser ability to discern what is good and right. This is why God designed church leadership as a team, not an individual. 

These five tendencies give dysfunctional leaders an advantage over others whether other staff or boards. Unless they are called on it! And they should be. Don't let this kind of behavior in ministry leadership go unchallenged. It is unhealthy, about the leader, and will lead to unhealthy consequences.
  • Sep 19, 2013
  • Category: News
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