When I shared, a few weeks ago, on my list of biggest leadership regrets, it was quite easy to identify my top one – mistakes I made around dual relationships and power. For this reason, I felt compelled to dedicate a podcast to explore this theme more formally and clearly. I approach it here through my reading of the chapter entitled “Power and Wise Boundaries” from the audio version of The Emotionally Healthy Leader.
I discovered over the years that I was not alone. Almost every church, nonprofit organization, and Christian community I know bears deep scars and hurt around this issue. I believe that is because very little teaching and mentorship is done in this area.
Every leader exercises stewardship of power, i.e. we have a capacity to influence others. That power is God-given. When we under-use our power out of fear, a need to be liked, or an aversion to conflict, we hurt people. When we over-use our power to manipulate and push, we also hurt people. Exercising power like Jesus requires we know our shadows and vulnerabilities, and that we build in healthy safeguards.
Every leader also finds themselves in dual relationships, i.e., when we have more than one role in a person’s life. A dual relationship, for example, is when I am a person’s friend, supervisor, spiritual authority, pastor or confidant – at the same time. Without the language and emotional maturity to talk about these complexities (I am not in favor of eliminating dual roles entirely from Christian leadership), they inevitably lead to great pain and hurt.
If you are going to serve as a leader over the long haul, you will confront the complexity of dual relationships and power. And the stakes will be high – for you, for those you lead, and for the advance of the mission of Jesus. I pray this podcast serves you in navigating these challenges well.