I’m a nerd. I love reading periodicals about leadership and strategy from consulting firms like McKinsey & Company. Their recent article on “When to Change How You Lead” was packed with challenging insights, but this quote jumped out to me:
“As I think about the organizations, leaders, and CEOs I’ve worked with, I sometimes ask myself where have I seen things go catastrophically wrong. More often than not, it has been because of arrogance. People who’ve stopped listening, stopped being open… As I think about the greatest failures, many of them resulted from lack of humility, of openness, listening, willingness to question yourself. Many leaders fell into the trap of believing that they were invincible, invulnerable, and infallible.
“Yet these leaders weren’t always arrogant. Over time, they lost certain traits that they had once had. They lost their openness, willingness to listen, to probe, to hear different perspectives, to challenge themselves, to question themselves. I think humility is all too easy to lose once you have become senior and are in a position of power.” -Mary Meaney, McKinsey partner
In my work with The Unstuck Group, I have the opportunity to get up close and personal with many church leaders. Without a doubt, the “arrogance” factor is a huge red flag for me.
I’ve seen way too many leaders fall because the pastor was unwilling to listen to people around them. They assumed they had all the answers. They were the sole person permitted to define the vision and strategy, and they carried the unnecessary burden of that responsibility. They lacked accountability. Everything was built on their personality and their power. Unfortunately, I’ve seen everything described above in CEOs demonstrated by church leaders as well.
On the other hand, I’ve been around church leaders of very large churches who have learned to embrace humility. In fact, just this week a ministry colleague and I were talking about a senior pastor of a church that reaches tens of thousands of people every week. Both of us have had private interactions with this leader on several occasions. He’s the antithesis of arrogance. He is real. He is vulnerable. He’s continually learning. He’s receptive to the course corrections offered by others. He leans on the team around him. And, God continues to bless his leadership and the ministry of the church.
By the way, this isn’t just a megachurch syndrome. Any person in a position of authority can fall victim to the arrogance trap. Me included. For pastors, the size of the church doesn’t matter. I’ve seen arrogant pastors leading small churches, too.
Pride can do cruel things to any one of us, but it’s particularly damaging when a leader–particularly a pastor–succumbs to it.
I pray we continue to check our spirit, receive healthy coaching and model humble leadership. Arrogance has no place in leadership…and certainly not in the church.