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On the other hand, a considerable number from the ranks of the leaders did believe. But because of the Pharisees, they didn’t come out in the open with it. They were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God’s glory.” John 12:42-43

Jesus was an effective leader because he was anchored to his mission.  He did not seek approval from others.  He didn’t act in a way that was designed to “please” his disciples.  He didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.  He told them the truth.  He didn’t get upset when people doubted him, and he was not concerned with the happiness of others.  He was concerned with teaching and professing the truth.  And, that mission could not have integrity if his actions were governed by seeking approval from others.

Have you ever felt so certain about something that no matter what anyone said, you were at peace with it?  I have.  It is awesome!  The decisions to marry my wife, have a child or start a business come to mind.  All are scary decisions and will likely attract some criticism, and that makes them all the more awesome if you know this is your mission!  There are always going to be a lot of opinions, but sometimes when we don’t care what those are because we know what is right, it is such a freeing experience!

When it comes to doing the right thing, a leader must have a backbone of steel.  Now, don’t confuse this with only having a backbone of steel.  That could also lead to just pure stubbornness that does not allow for correction.  That is not a good trait, rather it can be a very punitive weakness for any person, let alone a leader.  The backbone of steel must be to do what is right even if it is hard or easily misunderstood.  Leaders must seek, discover, and disclose the truth.

I think our culture more or less accepts that caring about what others think is a weakness.  I have never heard anyone describe an effective leader as being effective because they are preoccupied with what other people think.  In fact, being preoccupied with what people think can be paralyzing!  I could almost see it as a mental handicap that would cause someone to live a completely empty life without any purpose whatsoever.  Being a people pleaser is not a mission, it is a symptom of some spiritual healing that needs to happen.  You can’t achieve anything worth doing and make everyone happy at the same time.

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a follower of hip-hop (since I am a CPA, I am sure that surprises you).  But, I saw this quote one time from a hip-hop artist named “Lecrae”.  He said, “If we live for people’s acceptance, we will die from their rejection.”  Isn’t that so true?  This concept goes way beyond effective leadership.  It is applicable to all of us.  However, it makes it impossible for a leader to be effective if they are more concerned with pleasing people than being on mission.

I am not saying that you should not try to make people feel good or be kind to people.  Not at all.  What I am saying is that you should not compromise the truth or your purpose just to make sure you gain someone’s approval.

If you want to achieve anything in this life that matters, you can bet the farm on lots of criticism coming your way.  And, you have to be courageous.  You can’t let it bother you.  You can let it help you grow and reflect on it, but you can’t let it distract you away from your mission.  Criticism can have a very positive effect on some and a very negative effect on others.  All of that depends on the attitude of the receiver.  Which one will you be?

When you decide on something of any substance, someone will not like it.  You can take that to the bank.  I do subscribe with trying to build consensus and listening to others around you for wise counsel.  Building consensus, getting counsel, and considering other points of view is a very godly thing to do.  But, in the end, you must make a decision that will be open to criticism.

There is an alternative.  Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism.  Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”   For some reason that doesn’t sound very appealing to me, and it certainly was not how Jesus led.

If you have a deep need to get the approval of others, I would strongly encourage you NOT to take on a leadership position.  You will only end up making bad decisions and ultimately hurting others.  You must take this need and push it down below the priority of doing the right thing and achieving the mission.  If you can’t do that, don’t lead.

Again, there is nothing bad about making others happy, but when it becomes a priority then it becomes a problem.  People usually take advantage of people-pleasers.  Sorry, that’s human nature.

Rather than telling people the truth, people-pleasers want to make people happy and tell them things they want to hear (even if they are false).

The Credo Way #7 is: “We seek the truth and call it like we see it.  We have the courage it takes to do the right things.”  Telling people things that are false (yes, even your children) only ends up hurting them more deeply in the long-run, and it will at some point cause them to question your integrity.  I believe in being sensitive to people’s feelings, but the truth is really the best medicine for most people.  At Credo, when we came up with The Credo Way, we talked about integrity as of course being important, and The Credo Way #7 is how we embody how integrity can be lived out and actionable in a firm like ours.

You can’t be effective and accomplish your mission (a leader without a mission is an oxymoron, in my opinion) and always be a people-pleaser. Like Leonard Raven Hill said, “If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.”

Read that again and think about it.   That’s a powerful statement! 

Don’t change your beliefs or your mission because it offends someone.  Don’t tell someone something that will end up hurting them in the end.  That’s not integrity and that’s not being a nice person.  Rather, that’s selfish and cowardly.

People don’t accuse Jesus of being mean or callous.  Quite the opposite, actually.  It is generally accepted in all major religions that Jesus was a peaceful, wonderful teacher.  But, he told the truth and stayed on mission.  So, you can still do this and be loved by others.  If you’re not loved by others, it’s more likely that they don’t trust what you say rather than they don’t like to hear the truths you tell.

Jesus was an effective leader because he told the truth and had internal anchors that kept him from deviating off course.  He told the truth to help and enlighten.  He told the truth out of love, just like we all love our own children and need to be truthful with them.

We could learn a lot about effective leadership by imitating the way Jesus handled his desire for approval.

Dan Lucas
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