Why Being Easily Swayed Hurts Your Leadership and Your People

One thing that I have noticed about the internet is how it is used to move people from passivity into action rather quickly. Take any of a myriad of situations, but most recently the story of Cecil the lion comes to mind. People who otherwise do not follow the international news of wild animals have suddenly taken up the cause of Cecil. 

Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And please, I am not making any statement here about the situation itself or the rights of Cecil or the dentist who shot the lion. But when I am reading of signs that state “Killer” and “I am Cecil” as well as people chanting “Justice for Cecil,” I am seeing how emotions can go from passive to active in just moments. Signs also were taped on Palmer’s office door, including “ROT IN HELL” and “PALMER There’s a deep cavity waiting for you!”

My post today is not about Cecil or dentists who condone shootings of wildlife. But is very interesting to me how easily people are swayed in going from one mindset to another. And it is also interesting to me how this same mentality gets transferred over to our leadership. Like a weather vane, we merely reflect the direction of the cultural winds rather than setting the direction.

What I mean is that I can severely cripple my own leadership and the follower-ship of those I lead when I am easily swayed on an idea or action item. Have you ever worked under someone who seemed to change his or her mind about something as easily as a weather vane changes its direction when the wind alters its course?

They are here on a position, then they are there, then they are taking up a completely different cause.

As leaders, we have to exercise caution – great caution – in carefully thinking through the statements we verbalize and the decisions we make. If leadership is influence, then I must be certain of what I pursue and what I deem first tier.

An example of those easily swayed

This thought came to mind when I was reading The Merged GospelsThis has been a very helpful resource as it creates one narrative of all of the stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and presents them as one story. So where you might find the same event in multiple gospels, The Merged Gospels gives one story with all of the detail from the other accounts. It makes for a intriguing look at Jesus and His ministry.

I was reading about Jesus’ triumphal ride into Jerusalem. The Jews spread their garments in the road, spread palm branches in His path, and cried out…

Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He, even the King of Israel, Who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Peace in Heaven, and hosanna, glory in the highest!” (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 12)

Can you imagine being part of this? The wave of emotion that was being experienced? What an epic event. And this took place the week before Passover, the Jewish spring festival that celebrates how God rescued Israel from the slavery of the Egyptians.

Go forward to just the next week when Passover was held. One week. Here you have Jesus now being betrayed by Judas and arrested. He is tried before Pilate and Pilate finds nothing in Him worthy of guilt. Pilate announces he will release to the Jews either Jesus, who is called the Christ, or Barabbas, who was a robber and a murderer.

To his surprise the people wanted Barabbas released and cry out about Jesus…

Not this man! Away with this Man, and release for us Barabbas! Let Him be crucified! Crucify Him!

From one week to the next, you have the Jews giving praise, adoration, and joy at the coming of the King of Israel, and the next week want Him crucified. One week it was popular to give adoration to Jesus, the next week it was popular to crucify Him.

People merely reflecting the trending emotion of the day.

That really struck me as a I read it. I have read these passages before, but this week they resonated with me in a different manner.

Vision and decisions based on principle, not current trends

My exhortation is a simple one today, and it is this: as a leader, your leadership matters greatly and has more impact than you may understand. And it does our people no favor when our foundational decision making is able to to be changed quickly as new cultural trends unfold or fashionable ideas come of age.

Do not get me wrong – a leader must navigate its people through necessary change at times, but those decisions must be rooted and grounded in principles and not in the latest trends. And that is difficult to manage in our society today, where my new iPhone of last year (which was the latest and greatest) has now been upended by the newer iPhone, complete with innovative technologies that now trickle discontent into my thinking. Suddenly, what I once enjoyed now seems…blah and passé.

The danger of modeling decisions based on current trends

Modeling your decisions on current trends of the day or making decisions based on shallow preparation hurts you and those you follow in two ways:

  1. It erodes trust. People do not like following a leader who is easily swayed in their decisions. It makes people question the direction, grumble, complain, and lose faith that the their leader has what it takes to move them forward.
  2. It plays with your follower’s emotions. If you have ever been part of an environment where the culture was change, then you know how your emotions are led to the highest of heights one day and to the depths of despair the next.

This is why it is important to have a clear vision, mission, and purpose that is clearly communicated so that those become the grid through which we view and make decisions. As leaders, we must do the pre-work, ask the questions, read the literature, ask the counsel, and seek the face of God before a change is made so that we portray ourselves as resolute, confident, and visionary.

To do otherwise is harmful to us and to those who follow us. Look in your rear-view mirror and see who you have left behind.

Those who follow us do notice when we alter our trajectory when yesterday we were following another.

How will you be perceived by those who follow you?

If you have someone who would benefit from this post today, please share it. That would be so appreciated!

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