Monday, May 25, 2015

Signs that leaders are leading from a posture of fear and insecurity

We often do not realize it when our leader is leading from a posture of fear but there are symptoms that give it away. It is dysfunctional and it feels bad but we often do not understand what is going on. Here are some of the symptoms of a leader who is leading from a place of fear. 

One: They demand loyalty to themselves rather than to the mission of the organization. Leaders who lack self confidence require their staff to be loyal to them - usually meaning that their staff agree with their views - rather than loyalty to the organization and its mission. They are intimidated by independent voices who speak their minds and if they perceive that the loyalty as they define it is not present they often marginalize those voices.

Two: They try to keep people from talking to others about issues they feel strongly about. When pastors, for instance tell staff that they cannot talk to board members or board members to staff or staff to congregants it is a sign of fear rather than a sign of confidence. Whenever leaders seek to limit the conversation of others (beyond appropriate channels) they are operating out of fear rather than health. Prohibiting open conversation is usually a precursor to an unraveling of leadership.

Three: They display an underlying anger that erupts in inappropriate language, statements, requirements or rules. People who live with fear or insecurity often try to control the environment around them with threats, anger, strong statements that intimidate or rules that are meant to keep their staff in line. When it does not feel good, it probably is not good. When it feels intimidating or coming from a place of fear, it probably is. When it does not feel healthy it probably is not healthy.

Four: Those who disagree are let go or marginalized and the reasons for departures, voluntary or involuntary are disguised. Truth is usually a victim to insecurity and fear. There is an inordinate desire to control the message and to spin the reasons for departures in the name of being graceful for those who are leaving but usually to protect the insecure leader responsible for the departure of the staff member. 

Five: There is a culture of fear on staff. Anytime, fear becomes the culture and people are not allowed to talk with one another or others it is a sign of an insecure leader. No secure leader creates an environment of fear or intimidation. None. Where there is fear among the staff in general there is a dysfunctional and usually a fearful leader. 

Six: Candid feedback to the leader is not allowed or appreciated. Only insecure or fearful leaders create an environment where candid and honest feedback is limited, controlled or not allowed/appreciated. It says more about the leader than it does about the staff. It comes from fear and insecurity rather than security and freedom.

Seven: A leader's board and senior staff must toe the line of the leader. Some years ago, our organization made a decision that irritated a senior pastor within the denomination. He forced his board (through intimidation) to agree with him and to withhold all support of our organization in the face of irrefutable evidence that we had reasons for our decision. But no pushback was allowed and he forced his board to go along with him. When a board or senior staff must toe the line of the leader, it is usually a sign of control, fear and insecurity.

My question is why such behaviors are not seen for what they are in the ministry arena and why staff and boards allow this kind of behavior? It demonstrates naivete on the part of boards and usually fear on the part of staff who are put in an impossible situation. Don't be fooled and don't get sucked into a dysfunctional leaders stuff. It is poison and it is foolishness. Too many board members get sucked into the dysfunction.

Posted from Knoxville, Tennessee


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