I recently had lunch with Bill. A few years ago he had been asked to serve on the Board of Directors of a large Christian non-profit working with the poor in an American city. He was the only non-Christian and only non-business leader on the Board. As we talked he shared with me how several of the board members were manipulating their position of influence for their own financial gain. When he confronted them, he was asked to resign.
At the heart of leadership is influence and the power that enables the leader to influence others.
Power comes with the job. Leaders have the power to influence (and often determine) what should be done, how it is done, when it is done, and who will do it.
It is exhilarating stuff – even on a small scale. Power boosts the ego. The leader makes a decision and others implement that decision. The larger the organization, the more people are impacted by the decisions of the leader.
As a leader’s power grows, so does the subtle (and not so subtle) temptation to abuse it.
Privileges come with a rise in status and power. At the beginning leaders are grateful for these privileges, but the temptation to expect these privileges comes quickly. From starting out as a humble servant, the temptation is there to become the abusive boss who expects privilege and obedience.
Power is as dangerous as unstable dynamite – not only to those it is used on, but also to those who exercise it.
Lord Acton, the British statesman is remembered for saying “All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
History – including Christian history – is littered with the evidence that proves the accuracy of this statement.
The great majority of Christian leaders begin with the best of intentions, but over time many have been corrupted and destroyed by the power they wield. Why is this so often the case? How can leaders continue to be humble servants? We will answer these questions in upcoming blogs.
Blog also available at Frontiers USA.
Author: Karl Mueller, DAI Senior Consultant for Church and Leadership Services, strengthens international partnerships between ministries around the world and churches in the USA. He joined DAI in 2014 and brings with him 35 years of ministry experience. Karl serves on the boards of African Leadership And Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM) and Community Health Evangelism (CHE).