One thing a young leader hopefully learns quickly is that there are those around you smiling while ever so much wanting your spot at the lead of the pack. They know they can do it better than you and behind your back, they make that known and felt. You might not be completely aware, but resentment like that is common in the church. You might have to admit you felt that at one time. I have.
When you are a public leader, the stakes are higher and the politicking is sticky. As a worship leader, I know well, folks who covet what I do or the influence a platform might give me. This is true if you are a youth leader, preacher or even the lead usher. It’s not a safe place in church leadership. You can, unfortunately, be assured that even when you are performing your best work that ministry leadership leaves you exposed to painful pressure. Sometimes this is deserved, but many times it is just the cost of doing business.
There are two ways to look at a situation like this. First, you can overcome it by trying to prove yourself worthy. That works to a point. Just keep leading well over time and it will have an impact on the negative spin others might be spreading behind the scenes. It will not change their minds, however. Second, the way to see this is an opportunity to directly confront these people. Often people with latent and undeveloped leadership potential feel left out. It is sometimes directly the fault of us in leadership. Let me explain.
Human nature says we are entitled to the position once we sit in the chair. Leadership feels great. We do not want to share it for fear of losing the captain chair. Kirk, of “Star Trek” loved that chair and relished leading–green alien women were one perk. The problem is that we become entitled to the perks. In the church, the perks look like kudos and accolades from the congregation. Or, maybe the chance to have the platform–whatever your platform may be. A microphone can be an intoxicating tool. Do we as leaders project being entitled to the chair?
We have to own the team, not the position. We have to live with open hands and not put our personality as the centerpiece of our leadership. The more we do that, the more we can lead others to do the same. It eliminates some of the headaches. People like position and perks. But, if the position means sacrifice, selflessness and humility then many will simply look for another spot to covet. They want the perks, not the pain.
I suggest that the more we as leaders create a culture of sacrifice, selflessness, and humility the more we have the integrity to be in a position and leverage that for the good of all. The position is not leadership. It may have power and prestige and perks. But it is not leadership. Leadership is moving people to live out the mission God has for them–not making them puppets to your vision.
I would gladly let me position go. I have done so before in the past when I knew I could not take a church, ministry or group further. My plan is that someday I need to leave a legacy and I cannot do that if I build things only sustainable by my personality. Real leaders couldn’t care less about the recognition. My challenge to us in any leadership position is to love the team, not the chair. Love the people, not the perks.