Toxic to Terrific
The Apostle Paul exhorted his protégé Timothy to “be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
With that in mind, I would like to tell a military story as a lead-in to the differences between toxic and terrific leaders.
I’m not much of a “war movie” fan. However, at the suggestion of my husband, I did view the first episode of the critically acclaimed Band of Brothers World War II mini-series.
Have you seen it?
It focuses on the real life experiences of “Easy Company” and the first episode centers on their training phase under their original commanding officer, Captain Sobel. Sobel succeeds admirably in his efforts to get the men physically fit but his manner is extremely off-putting and unnecessarily offensive.
Morale in the unit hits rock bottom. All the non-commissioned officers resign to protest his leadership!
Eventually, despite his ability to train the unit, Sobel’s inability to secure the trust of his men leads to his reassignment and loss of command.
Today’s Army identifies this type of individual as a “toxic leader” and says that such leadership demonstrates three characteristics:
1. An apparent lack of concern for the well-being of subordinates.
2. A personality or interpersonal technique the negatively affects organizational climate.
3. A conviction by subordinates that the leader is motivated primarily by self-interest.
In short, a toxic leader keeps everyone demoralized, uses fear and put-downs to “motivate”, and cares about no-one and nothing except their own personal success.
On the other hand, we can look to Scripture for examples of terrific leaders. Read the loving letters of Paul to his son in the faith, Timothy. Paul served as Timothy’s “supervisor” and never hesitated to direct Timothy. Yet Paul’s concern for Timothy’s well-being and Paul’s commitment to the mission of the gospel and not merely his own ministry, shine through.
So, Pastor, you can give yourself a quick leadership assessment with just three simple questions:
1. Do I really care about the well-being of my paid staff and lay leaders?
2. Do my paid staff and lay leaders appear to be energized and enthused?
3. Do I seek every means possible to train, nourish, protect and promote my paid staff and lay leaders?
If you can honestly answer “yes” to all three of those questions – and if the reality supports your answer – you are far down the road to serving as a terrific rather than toxic leader.
[i] As defined by retired Army Col. George Reed in his article published in 2004 by Military Review.