I believe that leaders who are driven rather than led are dangerous. Driven leaders are primarily out to make much of themselves rather than making much of Jesus and his kingdom. They may be unaware that they are driven rather than led; that it’s really all about them and not about others or the kingdom.

Observation and experience has taught me that there are many leaders in key leadership roles who are driven by unhealthy and harmful motives due to insecurity, fear and the need to prove something to God and others.  These unhealthy inward motives drive them more than the love of Jesus and the love for Jesus drives them.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:14,15 (ESV)

Many of these leaders are doing good things and making great contributions. They may be responsible for large organizations or movements, plant mega churches and are often very bright, gifted and have enormous energy and capacity. It is, however, a cause for grave concern as to their ability to sustain their pace and reach their goals without causing great danger to themselves and those they lead.

These driven leaders may well be alluded to in 1 Corinthians 3:10-13 (ESV):

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”

Fellow leader, will it be work of the gold, silver and precious stones kind, or the wood, hay and straw kind?

In 1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV) Paul wrote: “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Might the purposes of the heart be the motives of the heart…the why behind the what? Is the leader being led and empowered by God or is the leader being driven by selfish and/or self-centered motives?

Here are some differences between being led as opposed to being driven:

  1. Leaders who are led are Christ-focused. Leaders who are driven are self-focused.
  2. Leaders who are led do things for God’s glory. Leaders who are driven do things for self-glory. “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” John 7:18 (ESV)
  3. Leaders who are led are satisfied with what God is doing and have biblical contentment. Leaders who are driven never seem to see enough or have enough; they always want more and live in a constant state of competiveness and restlessness.
  4. Leaders who are led are characterized by godly ambition. Leaders who are driven are characterized by selfish ambition. 
  5. Leaders who are led move at a challenging and stretching pace that results in glory to God. Leaders who are driven move at a harmful and unsustainable pace which can eventually bring exhaustion and burnout to themselves and to those they lead.

How would you know if you are led or driven?

Ask yourself these critical questions:

  1. Is your deepest gratification in Jesus or are you only gratified by more and more accomplishments and superior achievements?
  2. Are you constantly preoccupied with, and often find yourself thinking about, the outward symbols of success? The house you live in, the car you drive, the amount of internet traffic you attract, the important people you know and who know you, your financial bottom line?
  3. Are you caught up in the endless pursuit of expansion…more, faster, bigger and better than everyone else? “Success exposes a leader to the pressure of people and thus tempts him to hold on to his gains by means of fleshly methods and practices, and to let himself be ruled wholly by the dictatorial demands of incessant expansion.” Charles Spurgeon
  4. Are you often tempted (and give in to the temptation) to embellish or exaggerate what’s happening to make yourself look or feel more important?
  5. Are you all about results but little about the people you travel with and who are on your team? Is it, in reality, all about you and little or nothing about them?
  6. Are you better described as competitive rather than contented?
  7. Would the adjective that most describes you be angry rather than peaceful and joyful?
  8. Are you insanely busy most of the time or do you practice Sabbath as a life principle?

Study the life of the Apostle Paul and you will see a man who transitioned from being driven to being led by Jesus! Philippians 3 is a great place to start–where he compares being led and driven and shares the transformation he experienced.