I think leaders have a problem. It’s a problem that is very easy to slip into once anyone steps into leadership. It has many names, the most notable being the “toxic boss syndrome,” but it stems from the problem of being a manipulator. We are all at the risk of falling into this type of behavior because it’s one of the biggest ways the enemy tries to get us to fall. I’m continuing this series on leadership, the past few weeks I’ve been looking at what makes a good leader from the bible. This is designed to help you, because I think that everyone has the capacity and capability to be a leader, and being a leader is hard. We are attacked in every direction, people will start to tear you down to see you fail, and we have the danger of being a manipulator. I think we’ve all at one point in time had to work for a boss or volunteer under a boss, notice that I’m not saying leader. A boss is someone with power over another individual, their primary objective is to use what you have to make them look better. A leader is someone that sees the potential in those under them and provides them with opportunity to rise above, even if it means sending them out of your ministry. This seems backwards, but when we equip leaders that are looking up to us, we help change the world. Imagine what would happen if we never pushed people to do more, to stay complacent in their lives. What a sad world that would be! God calls us to be leaders who speak truth in love, not bosses that manipulate for their own gain.
I love the way the bible will state the most astonishing thoughts and boil it down into a simple statement, I think that’s a love letter God writes to me. So often I try to go the complicated root, trying to decipher deep theology, when God just wants me to read his simple word (Just a side note observation or how awesome God works). Paul writes key insights into the life of the church in the book of Ephesians, and there is a simple verse that shows us how to fight the curse of the manipulator. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Maturity in Christ allows us to break the curse of a manipulator. Our attitudes when we lead should be powered by love and the way we present the truth to those we lead. God has been working in my heart about this idea of presenting the truth in love. All too often I see church leaders both speak nothing but truth and forget to show love, or show love with no regard for spiritual truth. When we combine the truth with love, we guide the people we lead to be all that God has made them to be. I think three key virtues grow out of us once we step into leading this way, and these virtues let us destroy the curse of a manipulator.
Pride is a gigantic struggle that comes with any kind of leadership. It’s a tragedy, especially in ministry, when a leader thinks the change is because of what they’ve done and not the work their team has put in. No one likes a prideful person, leaders that are prideful are forgotten, but humble leaders are remembered forever. This goes back to the fact that a leader should see the people under them, and help them rise to their potential. As a leader this can be scary. We want awesome people to serve and work with us because we value what they have to offer, but when we hold them back from what we know they can be, we become selfish and our ministries become stagnant. Our job should be to promote growth. We need to speak truth in love to the people around us that we lead so they can step into what God has for them. Sometimes this means letting them try new things in your business or ministry, and sometimes it means sending them out. We don’t want to lose good people, but sometimes we need to do what is best for them so God can fully use their life. I never want to hold someone back simply because of my own selfish pride, we need to be leaders that understand the value of those we lead and help them step into their potential speaking truth in love.
When we have the mindset of a manipulator, we begin to tear others down because we feel as if we are entitled to the positions we have been given. We are entitled to nothing. This is a dangerous mindset many leaders have, especially millennials (people in the age range of 18-34) like me. I’ve served in my church for a while, but I never want entitlement to set in. I never want new people to enter the church and feel as if they have to serve a certain period of time to gain “status,” that’s a twisted way to look at things. God calls us to be persistent, running after him and he will direct us where he wants us to go. Hard work will show others that you have what it takes to lead, you need to be willing to do work that others don’t want. This means that we have to speak the truth in love to ourselves, seems bizarre right? Hang with me. As we run closer to Christ, we begin to understand the truth of what it means to lead and in doing so, we are able to see how God loves us for us, not simply because of our status. We need to be persistent rather than entitled, because entitled leaders manipulate others so they can grow higher in status. Be persistent in your serving to gain truth and love.
Good character will speak louder than your words. A manipulator only cares about ourselves and uses others. In Communication studies, Martin Buber has an idea that encapsulates the attitude of a manipulator versus a leader. The I-it versus I-thou is the concept that a manipulator sees people as an object that will help in their own end, the I-it. The leader views people as people, someone capable of thought and individual personalities, the I-thou. We need to remember that people are individuals, their life has value. One who lives with integrity has strong principles and sticks to them, a trait that every leader needs to encompass as they lead individuals. When we tear others down to get ahead, we lose support when we need it most. Every person on earth has value, they are unique and individual, just like you. We need to show integrity so we can be surrounded with people that speak truth in love to us when we need it.
So, what happens if you’ve been reading this and realized you have fallen victim to the curse of a manipulator? There is always hope. That’s the best thing about our God, he gives so many second chances. You need to evaluate why it is you’re leading. Is it for position or status? Or is it because you want to change the world? If you have been pushing others down or holding them back, it’s time to let go. Let go of the pride, the entitlement, and the pushing others down. Understand that your team is the secret to the success you’ve found, that the hard work will demonstrate you are all in, and raise others up to do more than you could even imagine. It will be hard and may require you to apologize to some of those you lead. A strong leader knows when they need to apologize. I’m speaking the truth in love to you, because I think you have the ability to lead many people and lead them to change the world. Be loving to those you lead because once they know you love them, you can speak truth into their lives that will launch them forward into what God has for them. Be humble. Be persistent. Be a leader of integrity. Once you learn to press into these traits, God will help you break the curse of a manipulator.
Speak the truth in love so you can become a leader mature in the body of Christ.