I have often heard religious people say “god told me to do…” and worse are the religious leaders who say “god told me YOU should do…” and expect unquestioned and total compliance.
I have seen this in practice in some churches, it is not healthy or desirable. I would go as far in saying that if you see a religious or church leader/pastor behaving like this, leave that organisation or at least investigate the true motivations of such a person.
I am a man of faith, but I have an issue with “god told me to” or “god has told YOU to…” statements. I think they’re dangerous and an excuse to do your own thing regardless of how irrational it is.
A friend once said “God has given you a brain so use it”, I agree with this statement. We have all been given the ability to freely think through things and come up with rational or logical decisions. Whether we choose to do that is a another question.
Do I believe that God is concerned with our daily lives? Yes.
Can God interact with us? Yes
Have we been given the ability to think and make decisions for ourselves? Yes.
Should we have to give up/surrender free will or logic or critical thinking just because someone tells you (or you tell yourself) “god says so”? NO.
It was not that long ago when people who said they heard the voice of god were institutionalised.
Recently, someone made a great statement “blind faith equals stupidity” and I agree entirely.
It is a dangerous situation when people in positions of authority make absolute statements like “God said…” and that people will follow blindly without thinking for themselves.
Being a person of faith does not mean that you should become someone who cannot think for yourself.
Questioning is not wrong – but some will be threatened by it.
Doubt can be a good thing – it can lead you on a journey of discovery.
Thinking is to be encouraged – it will help you grow in understanding.
If you disagree with something, investigate it, hunt for the truth (whatever that is). Don’t just take someone else’s interpretation, misunderstanding or manipulative personal agenda as truth absolute.
Faith is a choice, make your choice an investigated one.
Excellence is achievable perfection is not, so seek excellence.
Striving for that which is unachievable will ultimately demoralize and crush the seeker. The expectation of perfection is a cruel master as nothing will ever be good enough. Sometimes “good enough” is actually good enough.
To often the standards that we set for ourselves are so high they lead to a permanent sense of failure, but what is worse is when we expect perfection of others.
Is it wrong to have high standards? Not at all, but, the standards have to be achievable, there has to be an ongoing celebration of achievements along the path. The level of the standards should always rise, but for some there is a point to which they will not be able to improve. This does not mean that person (or yourself) should be rejected, what it means that they (you) should encourage people still on the journey to get to the standard you have achieved. Become the encourager of those who can progress further.
As a leader you should expect that some people will be better than you, will be able to achieve more than you, set higher goals and visions and achieve them. Do not let your own insecurity hold others back from achieving great things! Cheer them on. (Dangerous Leaders)
A perfectionist will hold onto tasks to try to see perfection achieved and doing so will never allow for the task to be completed at all.
Perfection is a dead-end road where failure is the only way out. Seek excellence for that is a continuing journey.
To hold leaders and leadership in too high regard will lead to disappointment.
What happens when egocentric leaders meet needy people? Potentially a train wreck of use and abuse on all levels. When a self serving person is in a leadership position they are in a dangerous place and the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being of the followers are at risk. The leader will do all within them to protect their position because their ego and self-esteem have been tied together with the position.
The danger that is faced is not just for the follower, the leader is building a folly for themselves that will (not could) fall down at any stage.
The follower with low self-esteem or is wanting constant approval will be encouraged by the egocentric leader to do more, give more, give up more, not for the purpose of the organisation but because it gives a sense of having people serve them, it is all about power and control. Then needy follower will feel that they are being “useful” or “important” without being encourage to improve their own lives or situations.
This is all done in very subtle ways where even the leader may not be aware of what is going on.
So what can be done to protect the follower and inform the leader that they need help too?
- Remember that the cause, purpose or vision is bigger than you (well at least it should be).
- It is not about power and glory: You are in the position because there is a need in the community that requires attention or fixing.
- Get help, to change an egocentric lifestyle or leadership style will require the assistance of others, may be even professional help.
- Swallow your pride
- If you need to resign, or step down while you get it sorted, do it
- Become accountable to someone outside of your organisation
- You need assistance too, again this may need to be professional assistance
- Talk to friends and family not attached to the organisation, ask for their honest opinions and LISTEN to them
- Take a big step and say “no”.
- Learn where your boundaries are and where they should be
- Take time out for yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it
- Know this: YOU are important, YOU matter, and YOUR opinions count
Getting your priorities in order is individual and although people may suggest what they should be, only the individual should organise their own.
Good leadership will always respect the individual, embrace the different opinions of others, it will respect boundaries while challenging the status quo.
Surviving Leadership – for the follower.
As a leader it is vital to provide an environment to develop the capability of those who follow, even if it means them becoming greater and more successful than you the leader. People who follow will work for a cause, they can and will even make great sacrifices (voluntarily) for a great cause, but the cause should never be replaced by a person. The “cult of personality” has no place in leadership.
Leader remember this… You are not important, the cause is; get over yourself and work for the cause be prepared to get your own hands dirty and work. Never put rules or guidelines in place for others that you are not prepared to stick to yourself.
What environment does a follower need to be healthy?
- The follower must always be able to think for themselves.
- Must have the ability to question
- Must be free to choose who they follow
- The follower always has the freedom to say “no” without prejudice
- Follower does not mean “slave”
- The follower is free to leave
- The follower is able to (and does) question the leadership
- The follower may be right in what they think and say
- The follower may not have the same priorities as the leadership
- The follower deserves to be , and should be listened to
- The follower has the ability to see the big picture
- Never underestimate the ability of the follower
- Respect the boundaries of others
A leader is not there to manipulate commitment out of the followers or to coerce the followers into things they would rather not do. They are there to champion the cause, the purpose the organisation exists for. The leader needs to put their own personal agenda aside to focus on the bigger picture and vision.
Do you seek to be “used” for a purpose or by an organisation?
Don’t! Because you will be.
Rather, seek to be a volunteer. There is a fine line that is often crossed between used and abused.
To the leaders…
A leader should be living the example of what is required, if the leader(ship) is just demanding the people under them to constantly… do more, work harder, give more (time and/or money), and promotes themselves and their own organisation as more important than the people they are leading, then there is a serious problem with the leadership.
A vision should be challenging, it will involve committed people to achieve it, but, to negate the values of others or to constantly challenge the commitment of the followers because they are not as focused on the goal as the leader is, is to put undue stress, conflict and guilt onto the very people who can help to achieve the vision.
It is important to recognise that people have lives and priorities beyond just one organisation. Just because the leader is living for one purpose or cause only, does not mean that the followers should.
- Know your boundaries. If you haven’t defined them make that a priority.
- Accept “no” as an answer and don’t be offended or saddened by it.
- Keep your expectations of others realistic.
- Be accountable to someone outside of your organisation.
- Be genuinely grateful for any assistance.
- Never put pressure on people to commit, let them choose in there own time.
- If people opt out, thank them for any work they have done.
To the followers…
Let me remind you not all leaders are good leaders and there are many “wolves in sheep’s clothing” out there, so take care
There is a fine line between used and abused and people, leaders and organisations have often crossed it. The difference between used and abused is similar as it is between being a servant or being a slave.
It is good to serve, that is, it is good to offer your abilities freely to another. But when you are a slave you lose all self determination, it has been taken from you either by force or by manipulation.
- Know your boundaries.
- Know what your limits are,
- What are you willing to freely give?
- What are you free to give?
- Know when to say no.
Be a volunteer and serve where you are gifted to serve. Take care to look after yourself and your family, because if you don’t no one else will.