Something Every Leader Must Know – About Some People You Are Trying to Lead

This is something every leader must know – about some of the people you are trying to lead.

Sadly, many of us learn it the hard way.

The reality is leaders often try to please everyone. We live for the approval of others. Many leaders (lots of pastors I know) can fall into a trap of being “people pleasers”. We try to say yes to everyone and dread the word no.

Only to find out that we simply can’t please everyone. Some people never seem to be happy.

But here is something you must understand as a leader. Some people don’t like your leadership or don’t like you as a leader – not because you are a bad leader – not because you did anything wrong – and not because you said no instead of yes.

But rather…

Sometimes people don’t like their life.

And not liking their life causes them not to like you or your leadership.

Your leadership simply gets blamed by default.

It’s a hard lesson, but learning it keeps you from feeling defeated when unhealthy people do unhealthy things and blame it on your leadership. It protects you (somewhat) when hurt people hurt others. They’ve been injured by others and now they blame everyone around them. You are in the leading position, so you are often the recipient of the greatest blame.

I saw it in retail. I saw it as a small business owner. I saw it serving in an elected office. I saw it as a pastor.

Some people simply have been dealt a bad set of cards in life. Maybe they were the dealer and maybe they were the recipient, but it left them struggling in their view of life. And leaders are often the recipients of their emotional response.

Learning when this is the case will make you a better leader.

This by no means you ignore or don’t try to lead unhealthy people. It does mean understanding the reality that you can’t lead people as effectively who are unhealthy personally, either emotionally or spiritually – without first addressing the part of them which is unhealthy. That’s why much of leadership is helping people get better, so the organization can get better, and so your leadership can get better. It’s why the greatest part of leading people is loving and serving people – even those who are sometimes difficult to love and serve.

Let me close with a very personal example. I once had a mean church member. (I’ve actually had more than one, but this one was one of the meanest.) He was cruel in words and behavior to me and many on our staff. I finally decided to approach and challenge him. I knew there had to be something else there. I learned he had been injured years ago in a relationship and never got over it. With this information it changed our conversations. I began to minister to him in his pain. I can’t say he was a “new” person, but he was “less mean” in our interactions. I received far fewer nasty emails. I actually enjoyed a smile and a brief compliment from him a few times. But it began with the understanding of where he was struggling with his life.

Have you ever tried to lead people who were unhealthy and took it out on others?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • David says:

    "You can’t lead people effectively who are unhealthy personally, either emotionally or spiritually."

    I am the unhealthy person… If you can't lead someone who's unhealthy where are they supposed to go to for help? Some people don't have the inner strength most pastors possess and getting over things doesn't come so natural or spiritual. I guess my question is… why not give hope to those who don't like their life…I don't like mine and I'm trying to make choices that change that… not all of us are blaming leadership, but desperately need that leadership.

    • ronedmondson says:

      That's why I said part of a leader's job is helping people get better so the team and organization can get better. A leader has to make hard determinations whether or not, if someone gets better they are a fit for the team and if they can get better. If so, then finding ways to help that person get healthy becomes a huge objective for the leader.Some of the most loyal, faithful, best people on my teams have been those who were once unhealthy.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • Julie says:

    I think you wrote this reminder for me friend. Thanks for your wisdom and your willingness to write the words.

  • Ray says:

    Ron, you put words to something I've felt time an again. As a pastor who moonlights as a politician (councilman), there are just some people who are cantankerous and miserable about everything it seems. I'm not talking about disagreements on issues, but as you put it, those who don't like their life. This is a liberating truth I will pass on but an opportunity to share the Hope that is in us too. Thanks!

  • J.M. Sifuentes says:

    Yes, That´s right. thank you so much, Ron. Always helpful. I´m just living this on these past weeks. You don´t know how much God is using you to help many of us in the ministry. Our prayers and gratitude to you, form Monterrey, Mexico.

  • Joshua Burke says:

    I have to say that I've been on all three sides of this. I've worked for "unhealthy" leadership and I've been the "unhealthy" leader and I've been the healthy leader who got blamed for everyone's issues.

    For me, the turning point was realizing that everyone is someone's problem person, myself included. If you happen to be in leadership at that time it gets more complicated but the basic rule applies.

    Using this bit of wisdom I can ask myself where I'm at on the continuum. Am I creating a problem for someone else? Am I exposing an unwelcome opportunity for growth for another person? Am I the problem?

    When we can get over ourselves to the point that we realize that no matter how spiritual, how close in relationship we get with God, how learned or how gentle, meek, mild, bold, sassy, powerful or exhausted we get we will always have the potential to be someone's problem person. When we get there we can forgive others and ourselves and move into real leadership. Leadership by "failing forward" making mistakes until the right things happen.

    It takes a BIG load off of your shoulders and reduces the expectations you unwittingly place on others. In a sense it removes the power of "position" or rank from the equation and we can all have a chuckle at our common human frailties and shortcomings for a moment.

    Thanks for the great article 🙂

  • Alex Penduck says:

    Needed this today Ron, thank you. Got a couple of really ugly emails this week from former member you laid into myself and my wife and about everything we have ever done wrong and treated them. It drained my bucket, but you've just filled it back up again!

  • Jason says:

    What if you, the leader, are the one who is unhealthy personally, emotionally, or spiritually?

    • ronedmondson says:

      Then admit it and get help immediately. All leaders find themselves there at times. Great leaders, ones who survive, recognize it and address it.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • jeffscurlock says:

    Ron, Great word that was short, to the point and right. Most leaders deal with situations just like you described and then feel like a failure because everyone doesn't like them. In the church world it makes it harder because other people blame you as well when one person is unhappy. I have dealt with these kinds of situations and afte twenty-seven years of pastoral leadership I'm still learning. Thanks for the reminder. As you can see I put a link to this post on my web site.
    Jeff Scurlock <a href="http://www.jeffscurlock.com” target=”_blank”>www.jeffscurlock.com

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  • Harrison Wilder says:

    Absolutely. Asyou know, a pastor can feel a dual responsibility to effectively lead toward a vision and help people heal from their experiences. It's harder to just pass someone over because their issues hurt others or slow down the ship. I think the key here is getting a commitment from someone to allow you to help them before committing to invest in them and empower them as a leader. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of time at the expense of others and the vision.

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