From Kanye West to Donald Trump, our society not only tolerates narcissism, it thrives on it. The truth is that in pop culture, narcissism is funny. In the church, not so much.
God is calling the leaders of His church to a different, higher standard. Many times, those who serve in leadership capacities have narcissistic tendencies. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the servant leadership that Jesus modeled for us.
To help you determine if you might need to adjust your leadership trajectory back toward servanthood and away from selfishness, here are five warning signs of narcissistic leadership:
1. Exudes Self-Importance
Leaders that cannot see their organization functioning without them at the helm are at risk of becoming narcissistic. Look at Moses. Multiple books of the Bible are centered on his leadership journey, but when Deuteronomy 34 rolls around, his death gets four verses before the story turns to Joshua. Matt Chandler once said, “The man goes in the ground and the message moves on.” The leadership of your church is its greatest asset but also its greatest liability. The degree to which a leaders is self-important determines that scale.
What about you? Do you feel like if you left your position tomorrow, your church could not survive? Remember that Jesus is the senior pastor of your church. He is the one who ultimately provides and directs.
2. Acts Entitled
Narcissistic leaders feel they are the exception, not the rule. Human resource guidelines that apply to everyone else don’t apply to them. When everyone else is hustling on a project, they’ve got an important meeting. The narcissistic leader’s family time is protected more than the rest of the staff. Scripture teaches that leaders should be exceptions, but not for their own gain. Biblical leaders are exceptional servants, taking the harder road even when the easier path is open to them.
Be honest. Do you hold yourself to a different standard than other staff? Do you expect to be treated differently or better because of your position?
3. Uses Generalizations
Narcissistic leaders exaggerate to achieve their goals. They say “always” and “never” to enhance their perspective. Just enough facts root their generalization in reality. They use the shield of positional authority to shut down opinions. Generalizations can do more emotional damage to team members than almost anything a leader can use. A leader’s words are powerful, and they can be poison.
Think back on your recent interactions with staff or congregants. Have there been any conflicts rooted in the use of generalizations and damaging words? Who might you need to apologize to?