The “Controlling Leader” Syndrome

The “controlling leader” labels may be valid for many leaders who hold people in bondage to their own agendas. Millions of believers are held captive by controlling leaders. Such a condition if foreign to the kingdom – God is never a controlling leader. He is a Father, and the kingdom is a spiritual family.

The kingdom leader will be given this label, however, by people with out of control behaviors at work in their own lives. That is, people who demand to be in control because they always feel out of control inside will have a “problem with authority” at the point of submission. They lack the experience or capability of submitting to leaders because they must maintain control of every situation in order to feel safe inside. Unfortunately, they never feel safe because their lives are out of control.

Kingdom Leaders Assignment

The kingdom leader is always submitted to a higher purpose, living by purpose and assignment; so when people who lack submission meet a kingdom leader and encounter their submission to assignment, they interpret that submission as control.

A kingdom leader doesn’t control people or situations but assures that someone else doesn’t control them. The kingdom leader is responsible for the assignment and ensures the assignment isn’t changed or redefined by other people. The kingdom leader represents the King, not to own people or control people, lording it over them, but to ensure that the people assigned to the purpose he is leading, people involved in fulfilling that purpose, maintain God’s definition of the purpose.

Of course, this means the kingdom leader has a broader perspective and understanding of the assignment than nearly everyone else involved, that “explaining the whole vision” isn’t possible when people insist upon knowing everything before committing to doing anything.

The kingdom leader will discover that people who have a problem with authority have that problem because they are out of control. They will project upon the leader a sense of being “controlling” when that leader stands his ground about altering the nature, focus, definition, and measurements of the assignment for which he is responsible.

People with out of control behaviors seek to compensation for their need to feel in control. They will characterize reality in order to feel in control of reality – necessary since they have out of control fear and dread for which they compensate with aggression, anger, and anxiety. The bottom line will always be: when I feel in control, I feel safe. They are not. And, they project this same syndrome upon God.

Kingdom Leaders Submit to God

The kingdom leader cannot allow the assignment to be controlled by other people’s fears. No amount of compromise will satisfy the bottomless pit of their fear, and the whole enterprise will be dumbed down to the level of their immaturity.

You cannot live or lead in bondage to other people’s emotions.

People with control issues are always testing the fence to see it is strong. This appears to be something other than what it is: that is, the action and activity counters the feelings that motivate it because it is a compensation or coping mechanism for their out of control syndrome. The will run at the fence, bang their heads on the fence, attempt to climb over the fence when the reality is they feel more secure when the fence is strong.

I have introduced people like this to ministry roles to which they were unaccustomed with terrible results. Feeling forced into something new revealed deep insecurities because they had no experience in this that made them feel in control. They were forced to trust someone else’s leadership, and they went wild with overcompensation. Little things suddenly seemed like threats, and their lack of trust went ballistic. Without any logic – logic has little to do with it – they began to scream with terror about “controlling leadership” as if being asked to submit to a strategy of personal transformation and preparation threatened their very existence. So, they ran as they have been running and will continue to run until God send a fish to vomit them where they belong.

Even then, they will pout when God saves a city because they were not in control. God is the ultimate “controlling leader” in their minds. [Remember Jonah.]

Kingdom Leaders Are Misunderstood

No amount of teaching will clarify the vision or the leadership of that vision well enough to protect the leader from being misunderstood. In this case, good people, looking on, will not understand why people with out of control behaviors can’t get along with their leaders. Good people looking on will assume the leader should find a way to get along; they will say, “Surely there’s a way to make this work. Let’s work this out so these good people can be part of the vision.” They can’t see the out of control behaviors because the relationship they have with these people isn’t challenging their trust levels. The kingdom leader is.

The kingdom leader will be misunderstood when he insists upon maintaining the definition of assignment, priority of assignment, and implementation of assignment.

Jesus was misunderstood by His own disciples. The leaders who shared His spiritual experiences and witnessed how He ministered were the ones who sought to change His approach to ministry because they continued to fear the people, leaders, and traditions. (Simon Peter had this problem even much later on and Paul confronted him for fearing the leaders from Jerusalem who came to critique their ministry to non-Jews.)

Jesus maintained the priority, focus, implementation, and strategy of His assignment when no one else could figure out what in the world He was doing. People all around Him would say, Go to Jerusalem if you want to influence the nation. Stop talking in parables if you wish the people to get the message. Can’t we find a way to work with Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians if we are gonna establish kingdom? Wouldn’t it be great if You just fed them unlimited amounts of fish sandwiches every day for lunch so we could have a big crowd following us every day?

The kingdom leader must lead strong, confident, emerging leaders without sacrificing or compromising the assignment he has received from God. He must not do so with controlling intimidation and manipulation, yet he must not allow anyone else to usurp the assignment for their own purposes.

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