“People cannot be managed. Inventories can be managed, but people must be led. “

H. Ross Perot, Founder

Electronic Data Systems

How do you engage others to follow you? How do you effectively bring people together, who have a mindset of their own, to work together toward a common goal? What are you doing to motivate others? Or have you recently discovered you are losing your effectiveness to lead your followership because you have the wrong motives?

Psychologists have been able to demonstrate that one’s expectation clearly has an effect on our perception when it comes to leading others. Our expectation, or “set” is the basis for the following statement, “He sees only what he wants to see.” Do you, as a pastor, find yourself overlooking what you are not expecting from yourself as you lead your organization?”

I remember observing a group of 2nd grade elementary students who were placed in a Gifted and Talented class purposely separated from their classmates. The expectation of the teacher, and the persona of the class, was they were deemed ‘smart’ kids and the expectations were higher for them than the other students in the same grade. This group of children that was expected by their teacher to do very well will do better than a group of children identical in every way except that they are expected to excel. This is known as the Pygmalion effect, and it has been observed not only in schools, but in businesses and the professional world as well. Thus, the teachers “set” is above average achievement expectation for these children.

Not only will our expectations, or “set” affect our perceptions; it also affects our beliefs. That is why people with strong religious beliefs can step into the world and see hope, while others look into the world and see hopelessness and despair. It has been said “religious people see religion everywhere.” By creating a positive “expectation” of success for ourselves and a positive self-image, we increase the likelihood of personal success and this positive thinking can exude over to your organization.


Today’s church leaders must create new concepts within the organization. Remember this important point; management works within the system, leadership works on the system. You can manage “things”; but you lead people. The fundamental aspect to leadership is putting first things first in our leadership style before management: “Am I doing the right thing?” before “Am I doing things right.” James Allen, author of the classic As a Man Thinketh states “From the state of a man’s heart proceed the conditions of his life; his thoughts blossom into deeds, and his deeds bear the fruitage of character and destiny.”


Leadership style consists of the behavior pattern of a person who attempts to lead others.

It includes both directive (task) behaviors and supportive (relationship) behaviors . Directive behaviors help group members accomplish goals by giving directions, establishing goals and methods of evaluation, setting time lines, defining roles, and showing how the goals, of the organization, to be achieved. Directive behavior is a one way communication. Supportive behaviors help group members feel comfortable about themselves, their coworkers, and their personal situation. Supportive behaviors involve two-way communication. Supportive behaviors are typically job related.

An important strength of personal leadership is the ability to look at a problem, not in a segmented or mechanical manner, but at an issue that needs to be fixed as being a part of a living, synergistic whole with value and purpose. It’s looking at what’s surrounding the problem, what’s connected to it, what can influence it, and the potential outcome, that will allow you to expose what type of leader you are. Let’s take a look at your personal leadership style.


If we learned anything from Enron, Bernard Madoff, and the Fannie Mae mortgage crisis, it was that driving ambition that ignores the greater good is potentially self-destructive. Thus effective leaders, and managers, must be able to balance their individual goals with those of their coworkers and organization. Misuse of power sets a bad example and it forces the abuse downward, thus effecting the entire organization. Misuse of leadership power depends on the personality of the leader and how they perceive themselves in the organization. Narcissistic Charismatic Leaders (NCLs) promote grandiose visions, and their attempts to influence can lead to abuse of power; information is distorted and critical feedback rejected.  Followers of this type of leader often comply with NCLs’ requests and believe in the requests, often for personal survival, colluding with NCLs and sharing their delusional belief system.

When performance is weakened NCLs blame followers, who tend to accept blame, resulting in low self esteem and critical spirit. Leaders can learn to interrupt and prevent these cycles by self monitoring, self-confrontation, and awareness of the feelings they have effected in followers by self-correction, appropriate leadership, counseling, and looking inwardly at their own motivation rather than automatically casting blame on followers.



Leadership power does not come from the ability to force others to follow commands, but ultimately power within the organization comes from people who voluntarily agree to comply with a leader’s wishes or proposals. Some of the potential sources of power, and the propensity for abuse are: Formal Authority: A certain degree of power comes from a formal position within the organization. If a pastor or church leader has the authority to hire, fire, promote, or compensate the employee has a reason to comply with the leaders wishes. A leaders motivation, under a formal authority concept, is to have control over employees and coworkers without consulting others (church board) for control. This is also referred to as ‘expert power’ defining a person perceived as one with greater skill or knowledge about the business of the church and tasks to be performed. Unfortunately a leaders perception of their own value and importance is greater than follower recognition.

Control of Budgets and Resources: Those granted authority to control resources within an organization, having budget authority, allocation of team member office space or other corporate style ‘perks’ has attained a source of power. These positions can be abused and a powerful source of control over employees as the pastor/leader can take advantage of their position by gaining control over key resources. If you are a control freak your reputation of being territorial can be perceived as a misuse of power and sets a bad precedence. If you have ever considered removing a level of accountability i.e.: Deacon, Elder, Trustees oversight, you are exercising control of budgets and resources without responsibility.

Control of Information: Information held by any leader depends on things like their position, office location, social network, and special skills. Controlling access to specific information (finances and church debt) can vest a person with substantial power and it could be difficult to terminate an employee who has the keys to the information cabinet. Possession of important information could also be used to aid and strengthen a leaders position in gaining more control without oversight. The potential for abuse is prevalent and should be monitored. Trust can be removed within the eyes of the organization if you abuse your position.

Friends and Allies: Having a close relationship and close ties with decision makers increases the likelihood that they will act on your behalf in a favorable way. In the corporate world managers often hire and promote their friends for key positions over more qualified candidates. Church leaders who hire friends, family, and college buddies are perceived to be placing confidants around them to ‘protect their back’ and provide cover in the event of conflict occurring within the organization. Is nepotism really something you want to be known for? Be aware of how this is perceived by your coworkers and the congregation members because of the lack of trust created by this maneuver. This is also referred to as ‘reward power’ which recognizes a selfendowed ability to bestow rewards to other people because of their favor with upper management.



Any leadership practice in the church, when taken to extremes, can become destructive.  By challenging the status quo to promote new ideas, innovation and progressive change, taken to extremes, can create turmoil, confusion, unrest, and resentment. Therefore your power to lead can cause others to surrender their personal convictions. An obsession with being seen as a self anointed role model can push you into seclusion for fear of being found out or cause you to be more concerned with how your coworkers and the public perceives you than the substance of your ability to genuinely lead others. Constantly worrying about your own personal recognition and accolades can turn you into an unhappy person.

It is exhilarating being a leader, gratifying to lead people toward a common goal, and improve the overall efficiency of your organization. What inner satisfaction can be derived to have scores of people hang on your every word. It is empowering to chart the path, give others orders, and have people willing to stand beside you as you tackle the next assignment. Beware-it is easy to become seduced by your own power and importance. Evil doers throughout history have been seduced by their own ambitions for personal accolades. They were bloated by their own exaggerated sense of self and used the gifts of leadership to pursue sinister deeds. Do not become guilty of abusing your position of leadership.  You must ask yourself this very penetrating question: “Are you guilty of misusing your position of leadership in the church?” If you answered yes…”How can you overcome the ‘anointed one’ complex of abusing your authority?”



You can resolve the results of conflicts and contradictions of leadership only if you establish for yourself an ethical set of standards of which you agree to uphold. You can avoid excessive pride only if you recognize that you are human and need the accountability of others.  You must establish a fundamental “set” of values and a system of personal principles to serve others above yourself. Developing yourself as a leader begins with key convictions and a personal creed to give yourself a point of reference for navigating the problematic storms of the church organizational life. No one else can do it for you.  When you clarify the principles that will govern your life and determine the type of person you want to be, you give purpose to your daily decisions. Leaders without integrity are only putting on an act. Leadership is an earned privilege, not a demanded right and you cannot lead others until you learn to lead yourself.  There is one scripture which states that leadership is not about you…”Don’t praise yourself; let others do t.” (Prov. 27:2.)


Allen, P. (1979), As a Man Thinketh, (p. 83).Vol 2. Mindart, Bountiful, Utah.

Brickley, J.B. (2001). Managerial Economics and Organizational Architecture. (p. 507). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Bugental, D.E. (1964). A study of attempted and successful social influence in small groups as a function of goalrelevant skills, Dissertation Abstracts, 25, 660.

Northouse, P.G. (2007). Leadership Theory and Practice, (p. 5). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

Russell, P. (1979). The Brain Book, (p 213). New York: Hawthorn.

Sankowsky, Daniel (1995). The Charismatic leader as narcissist: understanding the abuse of power. Organizational Dynamics, (pp. 57-71). Vol. 23 (4).

Michael B. Russell, MA, MBA, DSL, MLIS is a licensed Consultant working strategically with religious and non-profit organizations. He holds an earned Doctorate from Regent University School of Business and Leadership. He can be reached at mike@mrains.net or 479-268-4471.

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