How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Power

Sep 15, 2022 | 0 comments

Three management styles to avoid

One day, the disciples of Jesus started bickering about who would be the leader. 

I hear their dialogue in my head. 

Hey guys, guess what? I’m gonna be the leader.” 

“You can’t be the leader, Peter. You’re too pig-headed.”

“I think James is the best choice for the leader.” 

James agrees. 

“James? Posh. James couldn’t lead his way out of a tin can.” 

Mathew pipes in. 

“I’m the only one of us who’s lived a day in the business world. I should be the leader.” 

Judas takes issue with that.

Then Jesus shuts it all down. 

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus said everything we need to know about leadership and power in four concise sentences. 

Organizations today (including most churches and sending organizations) contain the same hierarchical power structures Peter and company were bickering over 2000 years ago. Jesus turns the model upside down.

Building a hierarchy and clinging to power is a vicious cycle: 

To keep my position on the ladder, I must kick down anyone below me to keep them from overtaking me. Meanwhile, I quietly submit to anyone above to keep from getting kicked. 

It’s a kick or be kicked world. 

So Jesus didn’t allow his disciples to make a ladder. 
He showed them a better way.   
Be like Jesus.
Don’t hoard and protect power. Give it away. 

Power dynamics in every organization are complex and nuanced. No one navigates them perfectly. But sometimes we must lead inside those structures. That can be tricky. We need basic management skills. 

A healthy relationship with power as a leader is essential. 

Everything depends on how you treat the people you serve. 

Management is a big subject and has many moving parts. I teach an entire course on how to manage well. Everyone should learn basic management, even if on a small scale. For leaders, good management is crucial. Whether you’re leading a small project, a new ministry, or an entire organization, the skill of managing people is important. We want to manage in a way that is both productive and empowering. We want to complete the work and build up and encourage our team members. 

So, today, let’s explore how to empower as we lead. 

There are three traps many new managers fall into. If you avoid these three traps, you are on a path to productive, empowering leadership. 

Don’t be a micro-manager 

“I will mitigate my insecurity by controlling you. “

We’ve all had micro-managers in our lives. 

—The boss who must sign off on every detail. 
—The manager peering over your shoulder and checking your keystrokes. 
—The ministry leader who wants to know exactly what lesson you’re planning and how much time you spent planning it.

Micro-managers stifle productivity and destroy the culture of an organization. 

Most people don’t wake up in the morning intending to micro-manage. Many micro-manage because they used to do the mechanics of the job themselves. 

For example, you’re asked to teach a class. 
Your manager also used to teach this class. 
Even though you are teaching it now, they want to stay as connected as possible. 
The manager wants you to lesson plan the exact way they did, even if that’s not your style. They also want to approve your lesson plans before you teach. This is micro-managing. 

Micromanagers assume their way is best and they can do it better than everyone else, taking power and creativity away from the team. 

Do this instead: 

Empower others to do their work and let them do it. Provide training, clear communication channels, and accountability. Then let people do their jobs, their way.

Don’t be a hero-manager 

“Here I come to save the day!”

Hero managers differ from micro-managers in that they will let you do your work in whatever way suits you, your strengths, and your workstyle. 

Until you make a mistake. 

When someone missteps, the hero manager puts on a cape and swoops in to save the day. They cannot allow failure. The hero-manager is often someone conscious of the need to look good for donors or for the field director. Sometimes it’s about simple ego.  

The problem with this management style is that it doesn’t allow for the empowerment and growth of the team. People learn by making mistakes! 

Leaders shouldn’t aspire to be heroes. 

Leaders should aspire for everyone else to be all they’re called to be. 

That’s empowerment. 

Do this instead: 

Allow people to fail gently. Build a culture of candor and grace, so when people make mistakes, you instruct, they correct course. This is how your project grows and your team gets stronger – and better.  

Don’t be a buddy-manager 

“I’m gonna be everybody’s friend!”

Friendship at work or with team members is important. I encourage it. But be careful when leading a project. Managers who try to be everyone’s buddy can end up being everyone’s frustration. 

Perhaps you’ve had a buddy-manager. Manager Mike is everyone’s friend and everyone likes him. The problem is when Billy Bob stops doing his job. 

Even though Cathy is more productive and doing more for the organization or the team, Manager Mike fills in where Billy Bob didn’t do his job.  

“Billy Bob is our friend and we need to cut him some slack.” 

The problem is that Cathy, along with everyone else on the team, is tired of carrying Billy Bob’s weight. This is incredibly demotivating for the rest of the team. Buddy-managing may seem like a great way to lead while “getting along with the team”. Buddy-managing is the quickest way to kill team culture.

Do this instead: 

Make clear expectations for everyone. Job descriptions and measurable goals will help everyone know expectations and create a positive peer pressure for accomplishing tasks. Do this during the project planning stage so you, as the leader, can hold everyone accountable to what is agreed upon at the beginning. 

Leadership is hard. 
But you can learn. 

Build positive incentives, clear expectations, and genuine accountability into your team from the beginning. This is leadership that empowers. 

Remember that power is subtle. When you work at avoiding these management styles, you are closer to leading like Jesus.  

Which kind of manager do you tend to be? 


Does this sound familiar? You’ve been pouring yourself out . . . for years and for good Kingdom causes. You’re depleted and if you’re honest, your hope might be tired too. Are you … So low emotionally at the beginning of your sabbatical? Conflicted before your home assignment even begins? Overwhelmed at the thought of your furlough? The Sabbatical Journey Course provides a road map for the tired, the conflicted, the overwhelmed, and those who need a bit of structure to your time off the field to rest, refuel, reequip, and refocus. The early bird price saves you $50 if you purchase by Friday, September 16th! Start your Sabbatical Journey here.

Bernie Anderson

Empowering next-generation leaders, business and non-profit consultant, writer, and speaker.

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