Pastoral Leadership — Control vs. Influence

Twenty-six years ago Henri Nouwen wrote in his book In The Name of Jesus, “It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people.” What powerful and provocative thoughts!  

Jesus modeled a leadership style using both high control and high influence.

I’ve worked for 26 different bosses in my professional career spanning four decades (17 while in the Coast Guard). Thank God most have been men with exceptional leadership skills and abilities…and that only one made Captain Bligh look like a lightweight. That one stinker was the Captain of a ship I served on. He taught me more about abusive leadership practices than all the others combined. In fact, his mean spirited and intentional abuse of authority prompted me to become a life-long student of the topic of balancing control and influence.

Jesus modeled a leadership style using both high control and high influence. Knowing our fleshly desires to control, in Mark 10:42-44 Jesus sets the bar high for our servant leadership of others. Yet, as in Jesus’ ministry, there are times and situations where high control methods become essential. Despite those times and situations, where do we typically find ourselves on a spectrum of control versus influence? Do we fall in Nouwen’s “easier to control people” pitfall?

In my training breakout session for the Sojourn Network Fall Intensive: The Soul of Eldership, we unpacked this question along with the following topics:

  1. Types of power (control)

  2. Types of influence

  3. Effects of teams led by high power and high influence leaders

  4. Pointers for striving to lead by influence

The case study below presents a real life leadership team scenario that many of you may have experienced. Download it. Read it. And use it with your teams. 

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