(BTW, before I start I trust no one will think that I am talking about anyone at IWU or any Wesleyan church leaders in this post.)
1. I thank the Lord that I didn't stay Dean of the seminary long enough for everyone to throw a party in celebration that I was leaving. I thank the Lord for that!
It's natural for there to be some grumbling about leaders. It would be a VERY rare leadership situation for EVERYONE to completely affirm everything you do. Hopefully most pastors don't get too upset when they get a few no votes. My Dad used to say that quote: "You can please some of the people all of the time. You can please all of the people some of the time. But you can't please all of the people all of the time."
But I've been around long enough now to see some situations where a pastor or leader just stayed too long. It's a tough situation. It can take years to get a weak leader transitioned out. You can imagine how hard it is to get a strong leader to move on.
It's even harder when boards or voters are Christ-like, because they will want the leader to have every possible chance to redeem themselves. Christ-like people don't have a "kick-them-out" attitude, which makes them putty in the hands of a strong-willed or crafty leader, who may actually enjoy crushing people.
I can't judge Mark Driscoll, so let me make it clear that I am only using his story as an illustration. But going with the stories, see how long it took to dislodge him. If the story is true, how many employees were mistreated before he was finally dislodged? There can be many noble casualties before a beach is finally taken.
Then everyone celebrates, and we finally hear the stories. When a leader who has overstayed is out, how everyone breathes a final sigh of relief. Hopefully an organization is not beyond recovery by then! And after the bad leader is gone, the people celebrate. When President Mobuto of Zaire was finally dead, how everyone rejoiced! This is a reminder to anyone drunk with their own power. There will come a time when they are powerless to control the story. Then how the truth will resound!
2. The autocrat rarely sees it him or herself. After all, it is a divine right to rule, right? But here are some signs that an organization needs to finally get up the courage to move a leader along:
- There are stories of employees who were mistreated that stretch out over time. Especially of concern are those who tried to help the leader, to speak redemptively into their life, but who were then summarily fired or manipulated out. The extent of the abuse may only become painfully clear after the leader is gone.
- They cannot stomach disagreement. Everyone must either agree with them or hit the road. Even more, the bad leader may want to destroy the opposition with false accusations and slander. Think Haman. If Mordecai won't bow, he must be eliminated.
- They have a form of righteousness, but it is really about their own advancement. They may sound like they are standing up for the mission or the truth or the right, but it is really a subtle form of self-promotion. They use conflict and crises as an opportunity to thrust themselves into the spotlight.
- You may have heard the saying not to wrestle with a pig--you both get dirty but the pig likes it. Some autocrats love a fight. This is part of why they can last so long. The people or board know that the battle will be fierce, the mud will be thick, and there will be casualties. Every i must be dotted and every t crossed because there will be no surrender, submission, or relent until everything is wasted and Hitler takes his own life in a bunker.
- They are often ladder climbers. But if they are unable to climb any further, they may end up stuck on the rung they have reached--which is a real bummer for that organization! Now they not only cannot ascend, they will become frustrated at being stuck where they are. That is bad news for those who are stuck with them.
- There is a point where a bad leader puts an organization in jeopardy. All leaders have weaknesses. As a skilled leader, Wayne Schmidt surrounded me with a support team that could offset mine. But at some point, a leader's weakness can put a church or organization in danger. At that point, the people or the board must have the courage to exit the leader. Certainly with grace, but it must be done for love's sake.