Healthy Leaders


Leadership and Power (from Abusive Leadership)

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

An abusive leader is one who tends to centralize authority and derive power from position, control of rewards, and coercion. In contrast, a servant leader gives authority away to others, encourages participation in decision making, relies on others’ knowledge and initiation for completion of tasks, and depends on love and respect for influence.

Leaders have a choice: they can hold onto their power and use it purely for selfish ends, or they can give their power away to others. Paradoxically, leaders become more powerful when they give their own power away. They don’t lose anything – in fact, everyone benefits! 

Leadership power is not a fixed and limited sum (like a pie that can be cut into only so many pieces) to be hoarded and grudgingly divided up only when absolutely necessary. A leader’s power is not reduced when he empowers others. Organizationally, power actually expands and multiplies when it is shared with others. When people have responsibility and genuine influence, their commitment to the organization and its success drastically increases. The key to unleashing an organization’s potential to excel is putting the power in the hands of the people who perform the work. Thus, leaders must trust and respect their constituents, and they must know their people well enough to empower them appropriately. Jesus is our ultimate Model for this; He did not wait until His disciples were perfect before He gave them authority (Matt. 10:1; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; etc.). Thus, servant leaders who take the power that flows to them and connect it to others become power generators from which their constituents draw strength. 

People who have authoritarian leaders will not feel empowered, but distrusted and used. Consequently, they will tend to do what is expected of them only as long as the leader is personally present to supervise them. Moreover, they will usually be discontented with the close, autocratic style of leadership and feelings of hostility will arise. However, people who have servant leaders tend to do what is expected of them even when the leader is absent – since the people have been genuinely empowered with personal responsibility and authority, resulting in a high level of personal ownership – and they will have more positive feelings towards their leader.

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