Good and Bad Leaders

Another Post I wrote: When Leaders Fail At Leading: What Next?

Got talking about leaders again last night and it revisited the entire issue all over again. I never stop struggling with this issue and I don’t know why. Sometimes I think it’s because I’m power hungry and want to be in positions that were never meant to exist. Other times I keep revisiting it because I’m always thrown into positions of leadership and I want to make sure that I’m doing things right.

I find that we usually make the distinction between good and bad leaders by how they make decisions and control those that follow them. A good leader makes good decisions and controls the public, church or whoever else in a positive manor and a bad leader the opposite. That is always how we do it. The problem with this is that the basis of good and bad leadership is based on control, which I’m learning is usually a breeding ground for trouble. Why do we assume leaders are those that make decisions for other people? That’s the consensus I see in politics and in the church. We want to ‘vote’ or choose someone to be our leader that will make great decisions for us. Is it so we don’t have to? Is it so we have someone to blame when things go wrong? I’m starting to wonder if leadership in the Kingdom is to look drastically different then what we see elsewhere and usually from what we want.

A leader is one who leads not by making decisions that affects everyone whether they like it or not but one who lives a life that people follow. One position gives power and the other one gives responsibility. One position says that the leader can affect everyone and anyone by their decisions and the other one let’s their decisions speak for themselves. This could be a problem with our concepts of democracy. Really we are choosing someone to make decisions and change the world for us for a four year term. We aren’t looking for someone to model a right and worthy life. We’d rather them tell us what to do.

This is the kind of leader that I’d love to see in the church (and hey why not the country too). Not a leader who is voted into power and then gets to make decisions and steer the ship whatever way he likes. Not a leader who is so concerned with losing power that they have to fight to keep it. Not a leader who insists on his authority because people are starting to doubt him. Instead, a leader that simply lives like Jesus and people follow them because of it. A leader who leads by influence and not authority. A leader who doesn’t try to control all those around them but instead love them, be himself/herself and allow them to decide on their own if they will follow.

9 thoughts on “Good and Bad Leaders”

  1. You write: “The problem with this is that the basis of good and bad leadership is based on control, which Im learning is usually a breeding ground for trouble.”

    This has not been my experience at all. Good leadership inspires; it doesn’t control. Bad leadership diminishes, perhaps, but only controls if we let it.

    I find that often leaders are more controlled by those in the position to follow (or not follow). You can only lead if someone tags along behind you.

  2. Hey Pete.

    I wasn’t saying that’s what I beleive, I was saying that is the pattern that I see in leadership and where we put them into our lives. We want leaders to control us because its easier. We want to make one decision to have a ‘king’ and then let them make our decisions for us.

    So as a public we usually consider good leaders to be ones who make good decisions for us and bad ones who make bad decisions for us, where I’m saying exactly what you are that good leaders should be the ones that inspire us, not control us.

  3. I see what you mean. And yes, I do see that tendency in some folks. Interesting, within this group of folks I see two extremes. Some folks want to hand over all decision making to leaders so they can complain about the outcome. Others hand over the decision making then engage in hero worship regardless of the outcome.

  4. nathan … this is great. you are onto something. kingdom leadership is going to ( have to ) look different. lambrick park church is on the horns of this dilemma as we type … today is my last day on staff.

    a small core desire a king ( to be like other nations? ) and my style is quite different. mike todd ( waving or drowning ) takes the influence concelt another level … he talks about currency. Bono has currency, and uses it well. Michael Jordan had influence, and may have squandered it, missed opportunity to take vast resources and create currency. it is great to be able to lead from earned relational influence and currency … and not from positional power ( bases ). keep on thinking on this.

  5. nathan … this popped up on one of our staff members’ blog ( James Kingsley aka Jimmy K is also moving back to London in May 2008 … you guys should really meet ).


    kind of explains my previous post re: a certain style of leadership vs “big dawg” …

  6. I think it’s a mistake to assume that all forms of leadership can or should be the same.

    Importing either business or governmental leadership styles into the kingdom misses the point of what happens in God’s kingdom. I definitely like what you’re onto in that regard Nathan.

    But, I do believe that life is full of situations where you need leaders to actually decide things, often on behalf on others. Israel asked for a king, yes, but they already had a leader, they had a Judge. Leadership wasn’t the issue there in my view. Having a Judge didn’t match up well to the pretige of a King like their peers had.
    More of an original “keeping up with the Jones'” going on I think.

  7. I DO agree with much that was said, and I have to say beautifully put my friend. altho in my experience it is not that the leaders or the followers that all ways want a leader with absolute power for “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”(John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton) but simply people want a leader who can point the way, and not walk the path for them. Also that it’s not the leaders lust for power but their way of leading them. For a bad leader will often take the path of least resistance to gain power and respect(which is often lost). While the good leader will take a path that slowly leads them to their position and often they did not desire the position but were just a strong enough person to point out the flaws in the designed and planned lives that have been put in place by those who have little care for the peoples welfare.
    When ever I hear of a great leader or a leader doomed to fail I am automatically thrown into a conversation that will never have a simple answer, but through these long and drawn out conversations I have found that there are many broad and yet ever so narrow views on leadership put forth by people who are so content on having others lead their lives for them, instead of living life as it should be. As in my eye that way on life is one with many chooses not a pre made choose handed to ones self and so readily accepted that most have little to no time to consider it for them self’s and how it will affect theirs and every one else’s lives.
    well these were my thoughts and I am so glade that I am not the only one who sits at home thinking about this in the dark while others play in their beautiful ignorance, so thank you for putting that out there. =)

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