Why good leadership pisses you off-whether or not they’re right or wrong

I’m evangelical. I make no qualms about that. It’s who I am and is the place I’m most comfortable in. So when I see evangelical leaders, like Mark Driscoll for example, get lambasted in the media I have this guttural reaction to defend them despite our theological differences (like Driscoll’s cheesy and weak Calvinistic theology). I think one of the main reasons for this reaction-beyond my ties to this identity-is because there’s a leadership component, perhaps even an analog exampled by God, that’s necessary to have in order to do things right. This means people are going to be pissed, they’re going to get hurt, but at some point if there’s someone leading and people following AND they’re doing a good job then they have to get to this point. Let’s explore this space of effective leadership.

The good leadership Point of Exhaustion

A good leader pisses off those who follow at some point because good leadership has to lead to, well, a point. This looks and feels like an abrupt. Stop. But good leaders make it clear this is the leader’s place, the leader’s decision, the leader’s responsibility. (Yeah, I know. It’s intentional.)

The Place of the Follower Who Gets Pissed Off

These points are rare but are where good leaders get to lead to and reveal the defining lines of their achievements. But, achievements are structural they’re not just the leader’s. This means everyone who follows is stopped, exhausted or stripped of power, and obligated to the bidding of the leader because this point is beyond any one person’s domain(s), and in a sense beyond the leader’s power too. In other words, without the work that lead up to this point, this point wouldn’t even be possible. Successful organizations of people accomplish what they intend and that success always breaks down to experiences.

Experiences are a limited power. Experiences must be sustained. Experiences break down people.

Followers will get pissed, feel guilty, scared, there’s a plethora of feelings that may be involved in getting what an organization wants done done, but this is the costs of having accomplished an intentional state of things. Then why is anybody upset if it’s all for the accomplishment?

In this area of a hard stop, where the leader takes control and followers have no more say is where love and heartbreak can seem like the same thing. It’s a place of experience where there’s a reason for pain and suffering, a purpose in the madness, and things only make brutal sense in this place of experience. Let me repeat. Things make the most sense of life in and with and by experience or experiences. But from the outside, without experience, it looks like pain, evil, suffering, rudeness, power, unfairness, or limits.

The Father as our best Example

God the Father has never stopped promising he would rectify the world. He’s made it clear there are reasons, reasons for the pain and suffering, reasons why there are goods and evils we don’t’ get. In the case of our common salvation he accomplished this by his Son, and it is sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit and the obedience of his Church. But his leadership in this respect is offensive, counter intuitive, and from the outside doesn’t make sense.

The fundamental problem is in people’s questions. They ask how can God accomplish salvation in Christ, he died on a Roman cross as a poor insignificant itinerate preacher? But the question is not how. Asking the how question only reveals a right intuition that the solution should have no conflict or be unconfused but the solution should come from the what question. What is God that he would send his Son and accomplish salvation as he did?

So back to our organizational example’s earlier for just a bit. It is people and leaders and what and who they are that accomplish things and the limits of those accomplishments reflect, echo, cohere, or correspond to them. Now back to Jesus…

The cross is a peculiar place to stop and reflect at because it’s confusing, offensive, brutal. But for those inside being saved by the Father, it is a clear place we get to see the powers of sin, death, and evil lose their powers. It is the ultimate accomplishment. (Well, the resurrection is technically.) And those who follow will have to go through this point and be made into and out of all the things that Jesus as Lord implies.

Good leaders who accomplish their goals will lead people to their limits, and it will be frustrating; but great leaders help their followers see these accomplishments for what they are: experiences to be noticed, known, and sustained into new areas where success has yet to be experienced.

Pray, read, and thank God he has reasons. Ask him to show you the circumstances, the scriptures, and experiences to know what he is accomplishing in your life. All have access to his leadership. He is not a God of partiality. And you, as a future good leader, go piss people off but do it right.

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