4 Ways to Stop Being a People-Pleasing Pastor

After a post about people-pleasing, I received the following email from someone who wants to stop being a people-pleasing pastor:

Ron,

Have just finished your blog post “7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership“. I recognize I am a People Pleaser Pastor. How do I turn the tide on this? How do I stop? I am seeing tension mounting on the team. There is frustration on our staff and it is even spilling over to our spouses, and my vision has hit a brick wall. I really want to move away from this but I am finding it most difficult.

Signed,

One frustrated pastor

Here was my reply:

Frustrated Pastor,

I’m impressed with your boldness and honesty.

Here are a few thoughts:

Get firm again on the vision you are trying to accomplish

What happens to some pastors is that people-pleasing becomes more important to them than accomplishing the vision God has given them. All of us tend to do what we value most. You must begin to value the vision more than making people happy.

So, make sure your vision is God-honoring and God-ordained. We want to make sure whatever we do honors Him and gives Him glory. But get firm on accomplishing this.

The vision is what should hold your feet to the fire. If it detracts or doesn’t line up with the vision God has given you, you shouldn’t be as enthusiastic about it – regardless of who brings it to you. This doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other things, but you can clearly say, “I’m sorry, but right now I’m chasing this vision God has given me.

Imagine the pressure Moses was under as a leader to please the people, but he had to hold to the vision God had given him and not cave to the pressure to always please people.

Get buy-in with a team towards reaching the vision

Make sure your team understands the vision and they are committed to seeing it to completion.

You need a group of supporters around you committed to the same defined vision you have. Make sure these people will protect your back should the need arise. We all need people who can and will back us up when we are tempted to give in and be a people pleaser.

Be honest with them about your propensity to cave to pressure from others. Give them permission to speak into your life when they see you pleasing people more than accomplishing the vision.

Assign responsibility and timelines

Give people real responsibility towards accomplishing the vision and measurable timelines toward achievement. This is hard for some pastors, but you have to release responsibility for decisions made. This keeps tasks moving forward and therefore makes it easier and more palatable when you have to say no to other things. It’s hard to argue with success.

I often find it’s sometimes easier for someone closer to a task to say no to something new. For example, if a group wants us to start a new mission somewhere outside our focus area, the people who currently lead our mission efforts are often better at protecting the vision we’ve already set in place than I am if they are moving forward with their current plans.

I also give people on my team the right to tell me when I’m veering from the vision we have before us. You will be less likely to cave to people pressure if you know things are on track to reach the vision.

Discipline yourself

The reality is, if you recognize people-pleasing is a weakness in your leadership, you’ll have to discipline yourself away from it. This will take time. When you sense you are making a decision purely to please others, give yourself a gut check. Tie a string around your finger if needed, but by practice and consistency, consistently recall the bigger picture.

When needed, call in the trusted advisors again. Renew the passion for the vision again. Slowly, over time, you’ll find yourself better able to say no when needed so you can better realize the vision God has placed on your heart.

I’m praying for you frustrated pastor/s. You can stop being a people-pleasing pastor. I’m believing you can do it. God has called you to it. He will equip you accordingly as you surrender to His will.

I have more thoughts like this in my book The Mythical Leader. And if you need a coach or consultant, keep me in mind.

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Ron Edmondson

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