I think all leaders have heard the quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” ~ John Dalberg Acton. Perhaps we’ve become that person with power or worked with that person who has lots of power. As a leader, having power, authority, position can help, but at the same time, if not stewarded appropriately, can cause immense harm. Chuck Lawless shares a few warning signs when there is too much focus on power.

Originally published by Chuck Lawless

By definition, leadership has some sense of authority and power associated with it. On the other hand, Albert Mohler has written this warning about leadership and power: “There’s no denying that an effective leader is powerful. At the same time, we instantly recognize that something dangerous has entered the picture when power becomes the focus of attention.”[1] From my interactions with church leaders and my own personal struggles with this issue, here are some ways to recognize when power has become the “focus of attention” for you:

  1. You’re always looking toward that position that will give you more influence. Desiring to influence by itself is not wrong, but some folks desire influence to prove their expertise and their worth . . . and their power. 
  2. You network not for the sake of the kingdom, but for the sake of power. You might say you’re doing it for the kingdom, but you know that’s spiritual camouflage. You just like knowing—and you often want others to know—that you know certain people. 
  3. You want to be on the “inside” of the groups you’re affiliated with. You want to know what others may not know. You want “the scoop” of any details before others get it. That’s wanting power. 
  4. You like being in charge simply because you like being in charge. It may well be that you’re uniquely gifted to lead, but your reasons for leading aren’t simply to use your gifts; in fact, you may not like some of the responsibilities of leadership. You just like the prestige.  
  5. You get jealous when somebody else you think is not qualified gets power. My issue is not that somebody else might be unqualified, as that may indeed be the truth. My issue is that you get jealous over that decision. 
  6. You don’t deal well with being a follower. I sometimes recognize this tendency in me (as well as other tendencies listed here—so I’m writing to myself). When I start only critiquing but never affirming leaders over me, or when I choose to be only verbally supportive of them, I’m moving in the wrong direction. 
  7. You tend to hang out with people who can help solidify your power base. That’s not usually people who can give you nothing but gratitude in return. It’s not the weak, the needy, the hurting. You don’t serve others well if it offers little in return.  

Again, I quote Dr. Mohler: “The Christian leader will respect the role of power in leadership but will never glory in it. . . . The Christian leader will serve by leading and lead by serving, knowing that the power of office and leadership is there to be used, but to be used toward the right ends and in the right manner.”[2] May all of us who lead heed these words.