There’s a difference between strong leadership, and unchecked power. The latter shows up as unchecked pride, unchecked ambition, and unchecked emotion. This kind of leadership gone astray creates burdens on those one is supposed to be leading. Someone who isn’t accountable, or only accountable in theory to anyone else becomes unable to be confronted and ultimately, ineffective.
Pride builds walls – our reputation becomes the one thing that we strive to maintain and build, and we serve it instead of our cause, or in the case of Christian leadership, our Lord. We don’t honor God or uphold others when we put ourselves first.
Being controlled by ambition blinds one to the ultimate goal, always looking for what we personally gain out of a situation instead of doing what is right and just and leads others to greatness as well. Ambition without kindness and respect puts others down on our way “up.”
Emotion may show up as anger, jealousy, fear, or just a negative attitude in general that puts others down. For the type of leader who seeks power and honor, when something happens that’s not according to plan, or that threatens to mar the leader’s reputation, it is more than a reflection – it is a threat to that person. As a result, tactics like extreme harshness and manipulation involving others’ emotions may be used not as a way to try to fix the situation – but simply as a way to control others, and perhaps “punish” them.
What does the opposite look like? Matthew 23:11 says, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” And that is not an act; it has to be genuine. Grace will show through as much as truth. A balance will appear that honors the Word of God. This person will be the kind of role model that naturally draws others to want to be like them. The results of this person’s work are effective, motivating, and inspiring to others.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences – for example, if someone is caught stealing, leadership has every right to cut them off from handling money or participating in a program. There are times when some would benefit from a stern reprimand. There are times when employees are rightfully fired. But there is a right and pure way to do so, and while it may never be an easy decision to carry out, there are times when simply being a good leader won’t ensure all those under him or her are going to follow suit.
How does a leader maintain the necessary balance and obtain the necessary wisdom to measure up? Having accountability is key – and it starts with asking the Lord to show us our true hearts and reveal the places we need to let him work on us. Then the accountability moves on toward the leader’s closest advisors (perhaps appointed by others, perhaps a mix of those chosen and those appointed) and circle of trusted friends. Finally, leaders with an “open door policy” welcome the feedback of not only those they lead in actual positions, but also those that they serve – while not all feedback may need to be acted on or may not be acted on as the person wishes, it is important for a good leader to hear others out and expose a heart that seeks what is good, true, and pure in all situations.