Pastor, Do You Lead or Control People?

Leadership-controlIn my years leading in business and churches, I have known many people who claim to be leaders, but they are actually nothing more than controllers of people. There is a huge difference in leading and controlling.

In fact, the differences are almost exact opposites.

Here are some characteristics of environments that lead people:

  • Creativity is encouraged, and mistakes are seen as part of the process.
  • People are developed more than programs.
  • Healthy relationships and teams are part of the DNA.
  • Delegation thrives, and people are empowered.
  • Everyone has value on a team.
  • People follow willingly, because they feel respected and valued.
  • Leadership development is part of the DNA.

Here are some characteristics of controlling people:

  • Personal growth is stifled.
  • Creativity and independent thought are discouraged.
  • Followers are kept as a distance from leaders.
  • Leaders insist on their way and are never wrong.
  • People are taken for granted.
  • Positions and policies rule more than relationships.
  • People are employees more than team members.

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Apparently, to some leaders, it appears easier to simply make people do what the leader wants them to do—by force. I’ve had bosses like that. Making people carry out your agenda simplifies things, it seems. But that’s not really leadership.

Leadership is more of an art than that. Leading people effectively means helping people with different skills, talents and interests, even ideas and temperaments, in a way that makes them feel valued and yet accomplishes the established vision and goals.

That’s not easy. That’s not even always fun. But it certainly is true of leadership. The fact is, you can’t truly lead people and control people. The two don’t work well together.

Have you ever worked for a controller?

Be honest with yourself: Are you leading people, or do you claim to be a leader but are really a controller?

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. He is also a church leadership consultant who is passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Prior to ministry, Ron had more than 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner. Follow Ron on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog at

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