Every Christ-follower faces temptations of various kinds.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are encouraged to pray against temptation. Peter reminds us in a passage (1 Peter 5:1-11) directed to leaders that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone (leaders being at the top of his list) to devour. And the enemy does it by tempting us in ways that scuttle our leadership effectiveness and bring us down. Think of Lewis' "Screwtape Letters."
When it comes to leadership temptations, our thoughts might quickly go to money and sex, which are two at the top of most people’s list and are certainly the most obvious temptations.
There are lots of others though!
Here are four temptations to be aware of as a leader, which are not so blatantly obvious as sex and money.
1. The temptation of comparing and competing
From early on we get caught up in the comparing and competing “games.” Who is smarter, better looking, a better athlete, more popular, etc. As leaders we are tempted to compare most everything and anything…size of ministry, salaries, cars, house, responsibilities, fruitfulness, breakthroughs, victories, major achievements. It is a deadly and dangerous game that seldom brings good things. Comparing and competing has been (and still is) one of my biggest temptations. I need to establish my value and worth in what Jesus did for me and who I am in him, and not in what I have accomplished or accumulated! “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all else is sinking sand.”
A number of years ago I came across 1 Corinthians 4:7 in The Message, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?” I like to answer questions that scripture asks. The answer is of course everything I have and am are sheer gifts of grace. And, if I truly believe that, there is no point in comparing and competing with others. It’s a one-way ticket to frustration, pride and discouragement.
2. The temptation of elitism
This is a matter of thinking the rules don’t apply to you. It’s tempting to begin taking liberties because you think you are a cut above the rest; thinking that you deserve more, deserve better. You begin to think that others are there to serve you, to cater to your every need and treat you differently and special. You convince yourself that you have earned it by your successes. You begin to loose a sense of gratitude and instead acquire a sense of greediness for more and more…more attention, more accolades, more success, all the time trying to convince yourself it’s all for the kingdom.
Here is Mark 12:38,39 in NLT, “Here are some of the other things he taught them at this time, Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they love to parade in flowing robes and to have everyone bow to them as they walk in the market places. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and at banquets.” We all need to be careful on this one.
We have rock stars, movie starts, and famous athletes. We hold them up as models and almost worship them. If we are not careful we can do the same things with our Christian pastors and leaders.
3. The temptation of thinking that it’s always, and mostly, about you
It’s about your plans, your goals, your vision, your desires, your hopes, etc. One thing I am learning (and teaching) these days is that leadership is not about the leader, but about Jesus and his plans and purposes for his people. Jesus needs to be in the center (not me) of what is happening. Leadership is not an end but a means to an end and that end is the glory of God and the good of his people.
In his book, “The Catalyst Leader” Brad Lomenick shares seven signs you’re too big for your britches:
1. You feel like you need an entourage everywhere you go;
2. You’re unreachable, using systems and handlers to shield you from others;
3. The only people you make time for are those who can do something for you;
4. You speak and offer advice far more than you ask questions and take notes;
5. You quit laughing, especially at yourself;
6. You feel certain jobs are beneath you and would be offended if someone asked you to perform those tasks;
7. You feel no one’s work ever meets your approval except your own.
4. The temptation of acting independently and unilaterally
The busier you get and the more successful you think you are, the more temptation there is to begin skipping significant time with God, which can lead to not hearing from him, not keeping humble, dependent and being genuinely interested in what others are thinking, feeling and wanting to say to speak into your life or leadership.
Over time you can begin believing your own press clippings, thinking that every idea you have, and every decision you make is always God’s will. You are tempted to stop intentionally asking others for input or advice, assuming that you have an inside track to God and are always right. Leaders need to be very careful of insulating and isolating themselves from the input of others. It is tempting to surround yourself with those who will agree with everything you say or do and only tell you what you want to hear.
Taking it a step further, you may begin believing that anyone who disagrees with you is always wrong and an enemy to be kept at a distance and be leery of. This leads to suspicion, skepticism and a lack of trust. It’s all downhill from there.
What are your biggest temptations as a leader?
Please share a comment.