Actually, it’s cool for leaders to be tyrants!

"Tyrant Leadership" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Tyrant Leadership” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

😉 Buy a print of this cartoon for your boss HERE! 😉

I don’t think it’s cool. I’ve been an overbearing leader. I’ve lorded it over others. And I’ve been lorded over by others. I’ve served leaders who were without question tyrants.

But they were adored. Why? Because I think culturally it’s cool to be a strong, authoritative leader, especially if you have a charismatic personality or an eccentric lifestyle.

If you can convince people you are serving a greater good, then you aren’t really the tyrant. The vision is! You simply persuade people that the vision we are all serving demands our allegiance, loyalty and service. That way, when you are cruel to other people, they understand and accept that you are simply trying to help them voluntarily sacrifice for the greater good.

Steve Jobs was a notorious tyrant. But I’m working on my Mac and have my iPhone with me right now while listening to my iPod in the background. Some believe that we wouldn’t have successes like Apple without tyrants like Jobs. We tolerate the tyrant to enjoy the tradeoff.

Hey! In business, I can see how being an authoritative leader is perhaps necessary and effective. But the product better be worth it; pay me and pay me well; and there is a line that if you cross it I’m out of here!

But this same attitude has slipped into the church. Well, not slipped but paraded. I know the Christian tyrants I’ve served believed with all sincerity that they were loving people while abusing them because we were all serving the greater good. To them it wasn’t abuse but strong leadership meeting weak-willed employees who lacked vision and discipline. Some of these leaders were just plain aggressive with obviously forceful tendencies. But most were passive aggressive with soft voices and slippery ways. I’ve received phone calls and emails from lots of Christian leaders lately, and for many of them the condescension in their words is unmistakable but familiar. For such leaders, their favorite verses come from the Old Testament, or where Jesus clears out the Temple, or when Christ returns with a bloody sword to vanquish his critics.

But it goes both ways, as this saying of Jesus indicates. We recognize tyrants as our leaders. They fit our expectations of what a leader is. We are enamored by charismatic leaders. Some of us even enjoy it when they show us special attention, even if it is mean, because this will help us grow and manifest the vision. We might even call their authoritative leadership an “anointing” and project on them the same attributes we ascribe to God who can just with the wave of his hand let us live or send us to our deaths.

I claim that the story of Jesus teaches that he served people because he didn’t have an agenda he expected people to serve under him. He encouraged people to love and serve. That in itself is the goal, purpose, and meaning of life. That alone is vision enough.

(Disclaimer: The character in the cartoon is no one in particular, but Everyman, the generic look of the new leader.)

SHOP

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10 Responses

  1. Lydia says:

    “That way, when you are cruel to other people, they understand and accept that you are simply trying to help them voluntarily sacrifice for the greater good.”

    People need to recognize it for what it really is: collectivist thinking.. Stalin was the master of the “greater good”. Except for the oligarchy, the individual is never important. The collective is what is important. The irony is astounding. But people believe it.

    To dissent means you think you are more important that the “group” because everything is defined that way.

    I actually had a mega church pastor tell me that once:” What makes you think you are more important than this church”? Simply because I warned him about something bad going on. Evidently he knew already and was part of hiding it. Silly me.

  2. esbee says:

    Thanks for this insight into how and why people do what they do so wrong in the name of God. It reminds me that there is nothing new under the sun. I imagine there was a naked prophet who lived long ago, (not mentioned in the OT) using a stylus and calf skin or parchment, who drew cartoons about God and his struggles with the Israelites. (“All we want is a king, just like all the others have!”) (Oh God, why have you given us such bad kings! We suffer so!) I bet someday in a cave somewhere archeologists are going to find some rolls of parchment with peculiar little sketches on them!

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “If you can convince people you are serving a greater good, then you aren’t really the tyrant. The vision is! You simply persuade people that the vision we are all serving demands our allegiance, loyalty and service. That way, when you are cruel to other people, they understand and accept that you are simply trying to help them voluntarily sacrifice for the greater good.”

    Citizen Robespierre and Comrade Pol Pot would agree 1000%.

    The headless bodies in the quicklime pits outside Paris and the skulls and bones covering Cambodia’s Killing Fields, not so much.

    Which is why my alarm bells go off at any Utopian Vision of an Activist.

  4. David said: “But this same attitude has slipped into the church. Well, not slipped but paraded. I know the Christian tyrants I’ve served believed with all sincerity that they were loving people while abusing them because we were all serving the greater good.” Yes, agreed: ‘not slipped’ but: ‘paraded’! Exactly. After all, ‘the way things get done’!

    It is curious when checking the webstats for my website, Church Exiters.com one of the most popular articles is the one that asks this question:

    “Why are toxic leaders permitted to remain in power in a church for an unobstructed season of time?”

    This question can equally be asked of Christian organizations and Christian ‘ministries’.
    I continue to ponder the following:

    “It is unfortunate when no one challenges either the spiritual leader or the system that produces such leaders. It may be assumed that God has ordained both the system and the leader, so anyone who sees things differently is considered to be tampering with Kingdom principles.”

    Also, we need to consider the fact that:

    “It takes courage to assess where problems lie, especially in spiritual communities. Since we would rather believe that things are okay, that they will simply sort themselves out eventually, or that God will sovereignly intervene without our personal involvement, things will remain the same.”

    But, the harsh reality is:

    “Avoidance and denial of issues has never been an answer. Putting hope in ‘the eventual sorting out of things, on their own, over time,’ may really be an issue of procrastination, rather than of trust.”

    Spiritual abuse is a very real issue in the Christian community today. It wreaks havoc in the lives of God’s people. Spiritual abuse–and why the Christian community puts up with it–needs to be understood and confronted head on!

  5. Well… that is as succinct a summary of the problem as I’ve ever read.

  6. Books have been written and will be written on this subject.

    Toxic leadership, in my experience, is allowed to continue because the ones or the groups that have placed them in leadership are afraid to admit that they have made a bad mistake, so they either rationalize or ignore, hoping things will get better. After all, the trains “ran on time” in Germany. What more would citizens desire than trains that ran on time. There is no concern about what was on the trains.

    Right now those in power are making money on coal and oil, so we are working on an infrastructure that will move it smoothly and with the most profit, no matter what it does to the environment. I traveled recently to China and appreciated the mask I had taken along with me. If and when it gets that bad in America, maybe, just maybe, there will be some regret. More than likely there just be a sense of betrayal.

    I have had two supervisors that were tryants or worse. They served their term and moved on. Fortunately they were not given bigger roles in the organization. But no one ever apologized or helped the victims.

  7. Pat Pope says:

    I was in a church led by a very authoritarian leader, and let me tell you, it takes a long time for the tide to turn even after that leader is gone. Many admired what they viewed as strong leadership and the fact that they never had to worry about anything. They will rebel against leadership that they view as not being strong. Some people actually see the authoritarian leader as someone who kept the whole enterprise going and they never had to worry about anything–kinda like a parent who meets all your needs. Problem is, when that person is gone, the deficiencies of the organization are revealed. Many people are incapable of leading because they were never taught or empowered to do so. Chaos ensues because they continue to look for that one strong leader that they feel will be the answer, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to step up to the plate. I even had one person tell me, “We’re not used to thinking for ourselves.” What a sad commentary.

  8. David, As I recall, there seemed to be about 7 comments after this post. I am not seeing any of them now. Is there a reason that they have all disappeared?

  9. OK, now so can I. I couldn’t see them and the number at the top was a zero ‘0’. And that is after refreshing it a number of times. Go figure.