Why would someone use leadership for self-affirmation and self-advancement?
Consider 5 possible reasons leaders might use leadership for themselves.
Before you consider the 5 warnings
Let me begin by recognizing that strong leaders are easily misunderstood and often wrongly judged as self-seeking and self-promoting. Sometimes these leaders are guilty as charged.
A leader who is unwilling to admit that he sometimes battles this temptation is probably not one you should follow. But be aware that people often wrongly project evil motives on leaders because they feel threatened by them or jealous of them.
I’ve experienced the full spectrum in my role as a leader over the past 30 years. I’ve been both guilty as charged and wrongly accused.
I believe leaders are more vulnerable to selfish motives when they’re younger and more likely to be falsely accused when they’re older and more recognized for their leadership.
Carefully consider 5 possible causes behind misdirected leadership.
1. Desire to make a difference
Good leaders strongly desire to make a significant difference in a world driven by hype and distorted notions of success. Leaders who fall for misguided measures of success could become discouraged and tempted to seek self-validation by fishing for affirmations from those they lead.
2. Feelings of inadequacy
Even the strongest leaders battle feelings of inadequacy. The magnitude of the task can be daunting. Who is equal to such a task? Inadequacy can easily become a basis for self-serving agendas. This is a subtle but dangerous temptation for leaders.
3. Unrealistic diversity and expectations
The pressures of pastoral leadership are complicated by widespread confusion about a pastor’s role. Is a pastor a shepherd who tends a flock or an entrepreneur leading a business and marketing a product? Pastors are expected to be spiritual teachers, overseers, biblical scholars, administrators, CEOs, financial advisors, professional counselors and friends.
If a pastor tries to be effective in all of these areas, insecurity and inadequacy only intensify and possibly result in higher needs for affirmation.
4. Unstable backgrounds
Careful consideration should be given to the potential leader’s upbringing before he is appointed to a leadership role. Relationships with parents form the basis for one’s identity and security and future relationships.
If a man, for example, had a father who continuously degraded him, he will be more vulnerable to using leadership as a means of building self-esteem. In principle, this relates to the prohibition in I Timothy 3:6.
5. Fear of being wrong
No one likes to be wrong, but some people attach their egos to their need to be right. For such people, being right is a matter of identity. Leaders sometimes assume that if they let others see them sweat or find out they’re wrong about something, the people won’t respect their leadership. If you feel you always have to be right, stay away from leadership roles! If you say, “It’s just that I typically end up being right,” Repent!
Insecure leaders threaten team
Leadership roles should not be given to those who evidence insecurity. Insecure people hinder unified team leadership. Insecure people wear their sensitivities on their sleeves, are easily offended and attach their egos to their ideas. They will sacrifice team to promote a self-serving agenda.
How can we protect ourselves from these threats to good leadership?