Day 18: Downfalls of a Leader
Matthew 23:1-12 (ESV)
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
No wonder that Jesus drew the anger of religious leaders in the days leading up to his death. He called it like he saw it. You’ve heard Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Dan Black shares a story on the 4 downfalls of a Christian Leader and they might surprise you. Take some time to read this:
4 Potential Downfalls of a Christian Leader “I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church. Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.” – 3 John 1:9-11
Leaders can come crashing down for a number of reasons. The above passage gives four reasons why this leader will eventually not be the leader. The four potential downfalls of this leader are focusing on self, gossiping, not hospitable, and hostile to others. Leaders need to guard themselves from these and other potential downfalls. Here is the dangers of these behaviors and what could happen if the behavior is not changed:
Focuses on self– The danger with focusing on self is that you turn your attention from your people and focus that time on yourself. A leader that does not take the time and energy to focus on their team will soon be in trouble. If fact, pride often develops if a leader is self focused. This is what happened with Diotrephes, he was prideful and loved to be the leader. He took his eyes off the people and focused on himself. He was so focused on himself that he was the leader but did not have anything to do with his followers.
Gossiping– The danger of gossiping is that you will have a team: Who does not trust the leader, be afraid of rumors or what is being said behind everyone’s back, not be united as one team, and everyone is blocked from moving forward. Small gossip can lead to the team or even the company from falling. A leader who is gossiping about the company or other people will soon find themselves without followers and with nothing. Diotrephes was making evil accusations against other believers. His only concern was to have power over the people and to get his own way.
Not hospitable– If a leader is not hospitable then they will never build true and deep relationships with other people. Being hospitable shows that you care for others and have their best interest in mind. Being hospitable to your team will encourage and uplift them. Diotrephes not only was not hospitable but he told his followers not to help others. Not being hospitable shows the lack of deep relationships that could have been built between their church and others.
Hostile to others– The danger with being hostile is that the door to open and honest communication would be closed. If a leader is hostile then the followers would be scared to be honest or open about a situation. Often the ideas of the followers are good but followers will not open up if they think the leader might come down in a hostile way. Diotrephes was hostile by throwing other Christians out of the church just for trying to serve others. If I had to guess I would say that Diotrephes threw others out of the church if he was confronted or he did not get his way. Anything that would endanger his leadership would have been a threat to him.
But we don’t need to be influenced by these four downfalls. We can avoid falling in to these negative behaviors. We can learn a lot of what not to do as a leader through Diotrephes’s example. Every leader should guard themselves from the dangers of these downfalls. Here are some ways a leader can protect themselves from these and other potential downfalls:
- Have people that hold you accountable.
- Share your struggles with others.
- Know your beliefs and values.
- Draw close to God by staying in the Word and prayer.
- Know yourself.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses.
- Have a balanced life.
- Nurture and refresh yourself.
Jim Collins, in his work, “How The Mighty Fall”, shares some similar themes among companies that fail:
- Hubris born of success
- Undisciplined pursuit of more
- Denial of risk and peril
- Grasping for salvation
- Capitulation to irrelevance or death
Do you practice what you preach? Are you self-focused or others focused? Are you content to serve? I want to do better at this and just tonight I prayed for the Lord’s help to do just that.
Rev. Andy Bales
President/CEO of Union Rescue Mission