Discussion of the case study – The Shadow of the Leader
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Course: Leading Healthy Church Culture
Truly a story of pride coming before a fall.
A. Taking Your Eyes off the Lord
So, what is going on with Robert Abella? A member of the audiences comments that he has taken his eyes off the Lord. He started out wanting to make a difference. Another member of the audience thinks that he would say that was the Lord’s calling in his life and he was the chosen of the Lord and thus special. The Lord is speaking to me and through me. Ture, these things are necessary in ministry to be successful but yet the control among leaders is almost always due to fear; trying to deal with fear and thus fear gives way to control. Looking from the outside in, it is very obvious that this person is in trouble spiritually. He probably wouldn’t describe it that way himself. Part of the difficulty we see in leaders is a real latten danger particularly in the Christian church as we have tended to combine spiritual leadership with positional leadership. When this happens the people in those positions become rather untouchable. That is a recipe for a toxic kind of a situation. Has anyone seen this in their own observation? A member of the audiences thinks that this is a very universal thing that has been happening through the history of mankind. Part of it is concerned with the desire of the Israelites demanding a king. We want leadership, we want the Robert Abellas to come and show us that they are making it where we can’t. So, it is a fuel and we don’t build accountability in. The people want a leader and the leader wants to be a leader. It starts out noble with people doing great things. When we force people into a leadership role, we do things to justify it and raise ourselves above the rules.
You mentioned the embezzlement that may have caused him to move toward this control motif. What else do you think may have pushed him toward this? His insecurity and self-doubt was increasing and thought perhaps that he had to work harder to prove that he was secure and deserved to be in the position that he was in. We now have all these tools that work on batteries and often they need recharging. We are like that where our battery is the community and Robert was getting away from community; he was getting a lot of stokes in being called to speak in different places. He was being called away from the community that he originally invested in. As his battery ran down, he replaced it with fake batteries and other things. I think that is a problem that all of us run into in losing the community in keeping a certain focus.
Another person explained in a conversation they had with their pastor once, asking him who holds him accountable. He explained that there was a board that oversaw his working and leadership. Later, we realized and learned that he was very fearful in answering that question; he was challenged by the question.
B. The Dark Side of Leadership
So back to the Case Study; there was some illusion to his childhood in growing up with his father. Do you suppose that impacted him as an adult? Another member of the audience said, I know that I was very fearful of my daughters as they were growing up and I was very controlling in regards to that. There is a book called the ‘Dark Side of Leadership,’ it is a fascinating book that contends that most high impact leaders are driven people. That would drive Christian leaders to be effective, impacting, fruitful and productive and if not dealt with, those issues that drive them to be successful in their pastoring a church, to have a successful ministry, etc. If those issues are not dealt with, then those very things that caused them to be successful will derail them later on in their ministry lives. It is sad news and it has happened to so many. For pastors, part of our motif in the Christian church today is about success. There is this driving attitude in pastoring the church to be that person who is out there, being well known and successful. But the medicine it takes to get there is same medicine that will kill you if you don’t learn how to deal with it. Studies show that with high impact leaders there is a typical pattern that exists. They often come from backgrounds with three common elements: absence father, a dominant mother and a traumatic experience in late puberty or early adolescent life. The problem here, this is the very same profile of most criminals that are in prison. It has to do with how you are going to focus on and follow your energy. For all the good motivation behind so many Christian leaders; the fact there is a dark side to those people like Dr. Abella who start out with this sense of calling and ambition. All these elements that is championed and cheered by those who are looking for a leader. If that person doesn’t stay in community, that person isn’t mindful as there needs to be that voice from without. Otherwise, we get to feeling that we are untouchable and spiritual, even though we are not. These are some of the real pitfalls we see in leaders worldwide.
I have a film clip that I would like to get some feedback on. It is taken from a film from 1962; I hope you can see it. It is fifty years old this year; it was a very raw story called, ‘the One Who Flew over the Coot Coo’s Nest. It is a story of a mental ward that was run by nurse Ratchet. Power and control had become her favorite tool to break the spirit of the patients that she was committed to care for and help. Following that clip is a scene where patients wanted to watch the World Series in Base Ball, but there were rules against this. You will see a very young Jack Nickerson in the film; he is attempted to encourage the patients to vote for permission to watch this World Series
Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima