Aug 31, 2011

The Blindness of an Angry Leader

I used to live next to an angry man when I was a young child in Huntington Beach. He was known as “Captain Bob” and dressed, swore and drank like a sailor. He spent his retirement combing the beaches and decorating his house with the treasures he found. His house was amazing. It was a literal jungle with ponds, harpoons, anchors and a bamboo forest. All of my friends and I loved to play in his “Jungle Cruise” like backyard imagining we were soldiers at war in the thickets of Vietnam. Our admittance into his jungle sanctuary was rarely allowed but, when it did happen, we knew we could only be there until he got into one of his infamous drunken moods. When that occurred, the very air he exhaled would become fueled with the fire from his rage. 

We all knew he was an angry person, but he was able to keep it somewhat at bay during his first couple of glasses of Jack and Coke. Yet, when his fourth delivered its full effect upon him, out popped the demon. He usually began yelling at his wife or kicking his cats. His teenage sons would try and calm him down, but they would get slapped upside their head.  That was our key to run home as fast as we could. For even though we would play war in the backyard jungle against a pretend enemy, none of us could handle the reality of an enraged man at war with his family.  

I’m sure all of us have people in our lives that we know have an anger issue. Some of them don’t have a drinking problem, like the Captain, but they still carry their anger before them. Many of these angry individuals have learned to be highly successful and have accomplished an extensive resume of great accomplishments. However, being a strong leader with a healthy ego is not the same thing as being a person with considerable anger who uses fear and manipulation to obtain their goals.

Currently, I am completing my Doctorate thesis on church leadership.  One of the facets of this project is to develop a clear understanding of dysfunctional leaders with the hope to develop a plan to bring health, forgiveness, and restoration back into their lives. Outside of a simple lack of skills and incompetence, there are classic temptations that leaders, if they succumb, will fail. Those, as most can guess, are the temptations of money, sex, and power. 

Under the umbrella of those main trouble spots lie emotional reactions, root causes, hurt, and blatant dysfunctions that can erode the fabric of a leader’s integrity. Four of those that appear to be prominent in church leaders are jealousy, guilt, shame, and anger. This week I have been studying the dark side of leaders who suffer with anger and would like to share my top ten favorite insights on this subject. Let me know what you of them.  

1. They have a debt problem. Not a financial one, per se, but a serious belief/feeling that someone owes them. Perhaps, their father left them as a child, certain accomplishments in sports were not obtained, or a career change, not of their own doing, hindered them from becoming what they believe they are entitled to. 

2. They struggle with intimacy. The very understanding of the word intimacy means vulnerability. Those with great anger are not willing to be vulnerable to anyone. That would show weakness. Being weak opens up the door for someone to take advantage of them, break a trust, let them down, or see them for who they really are. 

3. They blame a person not they system. Rather than look in the mirror of the system of which they have developed, they will find a person to place all of the blame upon. This person becomes a scapegoat of their own broken system.

4. They expect their employees to constantly have a “What Would Their Boss Do” mindset. Personal growth, creativity, leading of the Spirit, and even heartfelt convictions are to take second place to the mold placed upon them by their leader. This has a tendency to be played out but never discussed. 

5. They deny they have an anger problem. In fact, they might readily argue that if they indeed have this problem, others would have told them about it.

6. They are left in the dark because no one is willing to tell them the truth. Part of the reason no one tells them the truth is out of learned behavior. Perhaps, they once told the truth and had a body appendage removed as a result. By observation of how others on the staff treat the leader provide clues as to how to behave. Fear is a great immobilizer. 

7. They will not give grace to people who fail. Failure, especially of those who pose a threat or show great competency, will be given minimal grace. They can become “dead” to the leaders or written off as a pathetic underling. 

8. They fantasize about arguing with those who anger them. Having constant mental conversations that “tell off” certain people frequent their minds. Or they may spend a lot of time developing sharp and cutting phrases in which to annihilate people they believe owe them. 

9. They attract employees who are more concerned with making their bosses happy than doing what is best for the organization. These employees become enablers, as well, and, if confronted with such an accusation, might respond with the belief that making their boss happy is what is best for the organization. 

10. They deal with anger toward others primarily by sniping them (making sarcastic comments/attacking them in public), throwing the kitchen sink at them (bring up many problems not pertaining to the issue at hand), or simply blame them for everything.  Then, they build up their army of devotees to join the “casting out” of the person they believe to be in debt to them. 


(The above list is formulated from many books, blogs, and podcasts that I’ve been studying as of late. There are actually dozens of more facts to mention, but these are the ones that have stood out to me today. I’ll post my sources soon ... a lot of which comes from Andy Stanley, Leadership Network, Out of Ur, etc.)