By Jerrie Barber
Do you know a toxic elder, preacher, deacon, or Bible teacher (male or female)? Toxic leaders exhibit attitudes and behaviors such as these: They know everything, refuse to listen, gossip, betray confidences, criticize constantly, label everyone who disagrees with them a false prophet, attend church activities irregularly, act independently even though they belong to a group that should function as a unit, do the work of others without being asked, and habitually finish tasks late or not at all.
And yet toxic leaders stay in their positions with no coaching, correction, or removal. Why? Because they do something else well, give more money than most, or have relatives we don’t want to upset.
But if we expect to have a healthy church, some things cannot be tolerated. Have you ever heard comments like these? “I know he beats his wife, but he teaches a good Bible class.” “I know he bullies the rest of the elders, but he’s a successful businessman.” “I know she doesn’t prepare her class lessons and often fails to show up, but we don’t want to offend her family.”
Seth Godin says, “Here’s how you end up with a bully in a position of authority at an organization: Someone points out that the bully is a real problem. And the boss says, ‘I know he’s a bully, but he’s really productive and we can’t afford to replace him.’ And here’s how you end up with a naysayer, or a toxic co-worker: Someone points out that people are afraid to work with this person. And the boss says, ‘I know, but we really need her expertise.’
“And, person by person, trait by trait, we build a broken organization because we believe that function trumps cooperation, inspiration and care. Until it doesn’t, and then, all we’ve got left is a mess.”
In other words, if a situation is chronic, it’s because everybody likes it the way it is more than what it would take to change it. How much harm will a toxic person do before we finally call him or her to be accountable?