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7 Casualties of Being a People Pleaser in Leadership

Leadership is hard and every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion. Different opinions. Lots of different opinions.

Every hard decision a leader makes excites some and upsets others.

At the same time, most of us who have positions of leadership want people to like us personally and in our role as a leader. We all like to be liked. This leads many leaders, however, into becoming victims of people-pleasing. When pleasing people becomes a goal, we seldom lead people into what is best and are led more by opinions of others than by vision.

Every pastor and leader I know agrees people-pleasing is not a good quality for a leader. Talking with hundreds of pastors every year, however, I’d have to say this has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me. For the pastor, when our aim is to please people, many times we are motivated more by what people want than even what God wants for the church. This is obviously dangerous. Hopefully, I don’t have to build the case here.

But what are the casualties of people pleasing? What are the organizational casualties? How does it ultimately play out among people in the church or organization we are attempting to lead? Knowing these answers may help us be more determined not to allow people-pleasing to be our motivation in leadership.

Here are 7 casualties of being a people pleaser:

No one is really ever satisfied.

When the leader tries to please everyone the reality is no one on the team finds fulfillment in their work. No one. In an attempt to let everyone win – no one really does.

Tension mounts among the team.

People pleasing pits people against one another as the leader attempts to please everyone and team members are conditioned to jockey for positions with the leader aimed at pleasing them. It creates a political atmosphere among the people who should be working together.

Disloyalty is rampant.

One would think people pleasing builds loyal supporters, but actually the reverse is more true. The people-pleaser says what people want to hear more than what needs to be said. Consequently, people don’t trust a people-pleaser, because they quickly learn what the leader says isn’t necessarily the whole truth, but what will keep the leader popular.

Burnout is common.

I’ve observed team members trying to function under a people pleaser. They feel they have the leader’s support, but then it’s pulled from under them as the leader tries to please someone else. It’s tiring.

Frustration abounds.

People-pleasing leads to fractured teams and fragmented visions.

Mediocrity reigns.

Second best under a people-pleasing leader becomes the new goal not a consolation. Lackluster results ultimately lower standards. In an effort to please everyone, the team compromises what “could be” for what keeps people temporarily happy. (Emphasis on the temporarily.)

Visions stall.

Visions are intended to take us places. Noble places we’ve never been. This involves change. Always. And change is hard. Always. People don’t like change. People-pleasers like people to be happy. You see where this one is going?

Be honest. Ever worked for a people pleaser? Ever been one?

What results did you see?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 26 Comments

  • Abayomi says:

    I have been richly blessed by all the leadership and church growth publication received from this commission. It has added immensely to my knowledge virtually in areas of the church growth/planting, organisation and leadership. God will uphold this commission, it is a great vission that has helped many lives discovered their purpose in life in which in am the chief. May God keep you and this commission for more greater exploit in this end time.

  • Alex says:

    Great challenging post, Ron.
    I think that for many, being a people pleaser and leading gingerly is a tough line to keep. As pastors, we have the dilemma to have to lead tenderly, carefully, and work hard at not miscommunication so that we're not misunderstood. This can create a level of pleasing others, often without realizing.

    I am far from being a people pleaser. I wish that in the 21st century we could have a RAW leadership like Jesus and Paul every day did. Unfortunately, If in the process of leading I call one of my board members a son of the devil, or tell him: 'get thee behind me Satan." I would have another problem in my hands.

    Or, if the wrong decision in department is wrongly made, or my Children's Church director's son is backslidden and rebellious towards parents and God – and I tell that parent to "give him up to Satan for the destruction of the flesh and the salvation of his soul," I think I would have another meeting real soon . 🙂

    The point is, we lead a generation today that calls for high tolerance and low understanding along with little to no respect for authority. We're no longer looked upon as an authority, we're more like a leaders with different options or opinions.
    It's a crazy society – but one that needs our leadership desperately.

    My goal is to lead as Jesus lead – but I'll be sure and not call anybody satan or turn any tables messing the place up when they're doing the wrong thing. You know I mean?

    Leading others is best done by example so that when direction is given, they know the way to go. Leading firmly, lovingly, carrying the mission with a vision demonstrating Christ all the way through. Sometimes this brings pain to some while pleasure to others but hardly ever do we get a 100% agreement 🙂 . Thank God he's still on the Throne!

    hope that makes sense, Ron.
    Great post brother!

  • Ronaldy says:

    very good, I will come back for sure to see more surely posts! 🙂

  • cjohnson says:

    As the old saying goes…a friend to all is a friend to none

  • Lon says:

    Helpful post. Thanks. Yes, I'm tempted daily by the desire to look smart and competent. Thanks for reminding me of the consequences of worshipping at that altar.

  • Larry Poole says:

    I really enjoyed this post Ron. One of the biggest things that a leader can learn is learning to say "No."

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Dr.HN Rai says:

    excellent information it will help day to day activity

  • Taka Iguchi says:

    Thank you again for a practical and helpful post. This was a great reminder of the kind of leader I want to be and my team needs me to be. As a leader, I’m responsible to lead them into a better reality, unify, and be an example as I replace myself. None of that is possible if I give into the temporary “perks” of people pleasing. In the moment, you think they’ll like you more, but in the end, the flip flopping will make them ultimately respect you less.

    Thanks again. Your posts have helped me tremendously.

  • It seems to me a Leader who is a people pleaser is in fact not a leader at all. They might be the person in charge or whom has authority, but Leadership has focus and purpose. Great Leaders build leaders, encourage, push if necessary (within proper boundaries) and COMMUNICATE. It is my view they are committed to employee development and the ongoing inclusion of it into organizational process.

  • Thanks for another practical post Ron. Question: On your church leadership team, when you need to make an important decision but the team is divided on what to do, how is the final decision made? Do you allow for the majority to rule, or do you always make the final call? My observation is that many smaller church leadership teams feel there has to be 100% agreement for a final decision to be made, which can kill momentum, moral, etc.

    • ronedmondson says:

      It totally depends on the issue and how critical I think it is of a decision. If it's an idea I will often pass. If it's a “strong feel” of mine as leader, I move forward without 100% buy-in, knowing that in time a healthy team will align. And, I could be wrong…and I always make that clear up front and have to be willing to learn from my mistakes just as the team does from their mistakes.thanks!

  • Dougald says:

    It is especially frustrating when employees take advantage of a people pleaser. If you know that all you have to do is thow a temper tantrum to get what you want from the people pleaser, then the goal becomes to make the most noise. I have worked for a people pleaser and he and I clashed because someone was taking advantage of him. This was more than one person and my boss rewarded bad behavior rather than checked it.