I saw this quote from Pastor Greg Surratt from Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina and it stirred some thoughts in my heart. “There’s a difference between leading from woundedness and leading from brokenness.” What are those differences? I’ve seen both in action, even within myself.
[Before you dismiss this as a leadership blog for people who lead in churches and organizations, remember that leadership doesn’t always carry a formal title. For most of us leadership comes with the title of parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or best friend; which means that most of us lead others in some capacity. So this blog is for all of us!]
A person who has been wounded may seek to lead others as a means of control. What does that mean? The best example I can offer you is from my own life. Growing up, I was mocked and made fun of by a lot of people because I was overweight and a little socially awkward. The teasing and insults were relentless. Not from everyone, but from a particular group of people. The sad thing is that I desperately wanted their approval because they were popular kids at our school, but the harder I tried, the more the jokes and insults were hurled. I eventually grew out of the socially awkward, overweight phase of my childhood, but by then it was too late to break out of the mold that my peers had stuffed me into. I had to move away to start afresh.
Here’s where it gets to the point. I moved to from Mississippi to Colorado, and was quickly put in leadership positions within my church. Because of the pain of my past, I led from a wounded disposition. I wanted people to like me so I aspired to leadership and modeled myself after people that were well liked. I tried to lead people in a way that would make me more likeable. I used leadership as a way to protect myself from further hurt. If people liked me, then there wouldn’t be anymore pain. Plus, I needed to be validated. All those years of feeling worthless left a deficit in my being that needed to be repaid. Don’t get me wrong, I had other motives for leading. I loved Jesus, I loved his church, I loved people, but not at the expense of my own feelings of security. Eventually what happened is I surrounded myself with people who I thought were safe to lead. They were great people, they liked me, and I had no fear that any of them would hurt me. I was using people instead of leading them. But the worst part is I did all of this unconsciously. I had no idea that this is what I was doing. God had to take me through some really difficult circumstances to open my eyes to this reality.
When we lead from woundedness, we use people. The wounded leader will protect his or her heart from further hurt at all costs. Often that means surrounding yourself with men and women who are weaker personalities and won’t hold your authority accountable. Many times they do this by drawing other wounded people to their cause. This does two things. It sets the wounded leader up as a savior, fulfilling his or her need for purpose, and it creates a toxic loyalty in the followers because they’re looking for a savior who understands their plight. Wounded leaders almost never handle criticism well. There’s always a “Yeah, but” whenever their opinions are challenged. They focus on building an army of like-minded people instead of shepherding people of diverse opinions. And the most dangerous part is the wounded leader often has no awareness of the problem and is not open to the suggestion that he or she is wrong. Often it takes a Divine intervention to open the eyes of the wounded leader.
On the other hand, the broken leader is humble. He or she leads from a disposition of humility and meekness. Humility doesn’t mean you never consider your needs, and meekness doesn’t mean you’re powerless. A humble leader understands that his or her needs will be met because they trust God to meet them as they put the needs of others first. A meek leader understands that he or she may have the authority and power to correct an injustice committed against them, but they instead defer to God as their defender. They don’t see people as a means to protect themselves, but as people who need protecting. Broken leaders welcome criticism as an opportunity to grow. They don’t mind shepherding people who are full of different opinions. Broken leaders set their people free to serve in their giftedness. They are not intimidated by people with superior skills; in fact they rejoice in seeing others succeed where they are weak and seek to learn from them.
What kind of leader are you? Are you the kind of leader who needs to be constantly affirmed by those around you? Do you need to be in control? Do people with superior skills intimidate you? If so, you are likely a wounded leader. What should you do? You should repent from the idolatry of protecting yourself above all else. You should find a person who exemplifies the qualities of a broken leader and place yourself under their leadership. Ask him or her to mentor you. And ask the Holy Spirit to begin a healing process in your heart that will redeem those areas of your life where you have been wounded. The danger of continuing in a wounded disposition is that you risk hurting many more people along they way than the number of those that ever hurt you.