Sometimes when you are serving on a staff team you get an awkward request from your pastor. There is no logic. It is not part of the comprehensive, strategic plan combed through on the last planning day. The simple inquiry comes out of nowhere. You wonder, “What is he thinking?” You analyze the situation as pragmatically as possible, especially since you are a creative person who needs to compensate for the intuitive process that is your norm. Then, a light bulb turns on in your head. Could my pastor actually be as insecure as I am? Could he at times be even more insecure than I?
Now, you work for this effective leader who has more books and degrees wrapping his office walls than Barnes and Nobles. You observe how he is loved deeply because members grow from the challenge of his teaching and leadership. You never imagined that there are moments when he might actually need your approval more than you need his. This confident person knows you can see him from a vantage point that is unfiltered by edited sermons, and unflattering off the lights of the Sunday services. This in and of itself is enough to strike a tinge of fear in him.
You have seen him tired, worn, and hurt. Actually, you may not have noticed. You are too busy seeking attention and approval to move your ministry department forward to think that this person is of the human race. You might still cower from an out-of-character moment last year where the critique of your work was beyond harsh. Or, you might simply be too into yourself to understand that while you stay up late worrying about you, he wonders how much you really support him. Now, multiply that by every leader and influencer he interfaces with and his sleep-to-insomnia ratio is higher than yours. Bank on that. The church weighs on him. But, more than you can know.
So, this request comes in out of the blue, it seems. You ponder your angle. If I could go back, I would make sure I handled these moments much better. Sometimes, your leader simply needs to know you are willing to just do it, regardless. No questions. And, us creatives always have questions, so restraint truly is something that we have to plan to do. A gifted, confident leader still needs to not only trust your talents, but trust your intentions. While these cannot fairly be tested, it serves no one to not think we all are a bit more human than we care to admit. With all the “spiritual” babble we easily revert to, we often mask the real need to connect emotionally.
I will say that unhealthy pastors can really be a chore and even hurtful. Micromanagement is ineffective. And, being a diva is unbecoming to senior leaders. Really. All of these exist and some out there are nodding their heads. Here is what I believe to be true. Sometimes, those of us who are the “middle of the pack” can make more of a difference than we realize to our leader. We need not enable, but we can be secure ourselves to a point of earning not just trust in our competence, but trust in being safe emotionally. To have an emotionally safe staff leader is golden for the pastor. And, that requires intentional behavior.
On the other hand, healthy leaders are a gift. You will likely not have to be on egg shells every day. He might be insecure as the rest of the human race, but if healthy he will not remind you of that by his behavior on a daily basis. Even so, treating your leader as human is not having kid gloves on every issue. It simply means you bring out the best in him by not being selfishly entitled. Help share the load. That’s your job. And, when you sense it goes further than that, show some charity. The logic of a plan has to be executed with heart–even in the direction of your leader. Do that in your department and you are likely to not simply earn points, but do your best work!