My good friend, Charles Stone, has written about one of the hidden temptations of leadership: the tendency to people-please. I know that I fought this as a pastor and continue to fight it as a leader today. On the one hand, your job is to love and serve God’s people. This means putting aside preference and living in community with people with whom you disagree, people different than you. And at the same time, you wear a title and carry responsibility before God. So you must lead and lead well. Charles is a thoughtful writer. His book, 7 Ministry Killers was one of the best books on leadership I’ve ever read. And he’s back with a new one, People-Pleasing Pastors. Here is one of the questions I asked him:
The job of a pastor, by nature, is to bring people together, to lead a diverse group of volunteers and staff. So how does the pastor avoid a people-pleasing mentality when, by the function of his job, he has to at least satisfy those he serves?
It is important to realize that all people pleasing is not wrong or sinful. We are to love others with Christ’s love and often that means pleasing them (i.e., being kind, compassionate, caring, and forgiving). Yet at the same time, leaders must lead. Leading requires leading people and churches/ministries to change. People don’t mind change, as long as it doesn’t affect them. But when change is necessary, we sometimes must go in directions that won’t please everybody. Unless we lead with courage (and effect change) and are willing to NOT please everyone, we will end up pleasing no one and in turn become miserable ourselves.