Toxic Leadership Principles You Probably Didn’t Know You’ve Learned, And How To Unlearn Them

Toxic Leadership Principles You Probably Didn’t Know You’ve Learned, And How To Unlearn Them by Josh Kluge

When was the last time you went in-store to visit your cell phone/internet/cable service provider? Weirdly enough I remember the exact day: October 15th 2017. 

I remember it because that was the day I had a conversation with an employee who said something to me that I think summarizes so many people’s unconscious approach to leadership. He was trying to sell me on packaging a land-line phone & cable TV with my internet and cell-phone services. 

In the middle of his pitch, he paused and said this sentence to me,

“Sorry if I am being short and brash. I really want to be a leader & great leaders are snarky.” I smirked and thought to myself, “If a great leader is those things, then why do you feel the need to apologize for what great leaders do?”

Now I imagine you read that and thought something similar to me. Definitely not a great leadership principle. Although the majority of leaders don’t consciously subscribe to it, there’s definitely still traces of it present in a lot of us. Not because we actively desire to be brash, harsh, snarky, etc., but because we are human and sometimes that’s how things come out. 

So then why does that happen?

Why, when we definitely don’t desire to be a jerk to our people, do moments of “jerkery” take place?

One thing I’ve noticed on my leadership journey is the tone of my interactions is often a reflection of how much of a hurry I am in. Leaders often are this way because they don’t have time to slow down. We’ve got a lot to get done and a short amount of time to do it.

Is this always true? Probably not. But regardless, of whether we have the ability to slow down or not, hurry is often the driving force that causes us to show up in a way that doesn’t reflect who we want to be. 

Why? Could it be that the values of our culture are yet again betraying us?

Whether it’s flight delays, someone driving slower than we want them to, or finding ourselves in the line of the slowest cashier at the grocery store, we hate the very thing our culture has taught us to despise and avoid at all costs: inconvenience. 

We hate being inconvenienced.

We hate being interrupted. If you type into google “American Values” you’ll see screaming at the top of every list “Individualism”.

This definitely isn’t limited to Americans either. I truly think there are beautiful results that individualism yields, but as Star Wars has shown us – there’s always a Darkside of the force.

If you look at the life of Jesus and the life that the Gospels call us to, you can’t separate walking with Jesus from the continual invitation of being interrupted and inconvenienced. In fact, the majority of the stories we see in the Gospels of Jesus’ interactions with people were moments of inconvenient interruptions. 

The crowds that always found Jesus when He was getting away to rest, Nicodemus visiting Jesus late at night, the woman that grabbed the hem of Jesus’ garment, the blind man, the Centurion’s daughter, and the list truly goes on and on. All inconvenient moments.

That’s where most ministry takes place: in the inconvenient moments.

You might be saying, “Well Jesus could anticipate and plan for it. He already knew who He would interact with because He is God.” Although that is true, then why do we see so many interactions where those who were healed and received from Jesus were those that initiated the interaction?

If Jesus knew who He was going to heal, then why didn’t He approach them? Why did He make the woman run after him and grab His garment? Why didn’t He show up at the Centurion’s house & instead made the Centurion come find Him? It seems like Jesus was pulling a classic Jesus move and trying to show us something with His life more than with His words. 

We are called to live lives available to inconvenience. 

So here’s my question to you: Is your plate too full to where you can’t be inconvenienced? Let me ask it a different way. Do you have too many pressing things & tasks that you truly don’t have time to slow down, respond like Jesus, & be present to those He’s placed in front of you?

Hurry will ruin your life. 

Hurry will cause you to show up to the people God’s called you to lead in a way that He hasn’t called you to be. No this doesn’t mean in time crunch moments you need to stop everything to have a 45-minute coffee date with those you lead. But it does mean that in time crunch moments that you are willing to sacrifice things being done a little quicker to see your people experience Jesus through you. 

I’ll close with a story of how I didn’t do this well… 

One Sunday morning, I was running sound back at the sound booth. I was giving one of our interns a chance behind the board to practice by mixing the altar call. She made a mixing decision that was not right for that moment and I pounced on her with a harsh tone and quickly moved in, forcing her away from the soundboard. All so I could move one fader down 5db. 

When I looked over at her I saw a look of shock and rejection. Clearly she felt like she was in trouble and had done something extremely wrong. All of this over the piano being a little louder than I wanted it to be.

Literally it would have taken 5 extra seconds to slow down, kindly get her attention, and ask her to pull down the volume, but now because of a few moments like that, I am having to very intentionally work on ensuring she feels like she belongs and is valued even more.

All because of a fader being 5db higher than I wanted for 5 extra seconds. Would God still have shown up in that altar call with the piano being louder for 5 extra seconds? Yes, duh! 

If we can answer that question so quickly with a yes, then why do we so effortlessly bulldoze, ignore, & blow past people on a regular basis? Could it be because we are in too much of a hurry and refuse to be inconvenienced?

I want to challenge you.

Next time you’re in a hurry and the Lord brings an inconvenient interruption your way, stop & let Him show you the miracle that He wants to unfold right in front of you. It will more than likely feel like you can’t afford to slow down, but I promise you it will be so worth it in the end. 

More than tasks getting done perfectly, ministry is about leading people like Jesus did. Kingdom leaders don’t sacrifice the 1 for the 99. It’s better to lead people to wholeness than to hurt people for a better product. 

What toxic leadership principles have you had to unlearn? Leave a comment or questions below!

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