Leadership & making enemies

So, I’m reading the psalms and I’m struck–over and over–by how many times David references his “adversaries” or “foes.”


The guy attracted enemies like One Direction attracts adolescent girls.

By the way, these weren’t just people writing snarky Tweets about him. Numerous people–some even within his own inner circle–wanted David dead. He spent a big chunk of his life running for his life. Why? Was he that unlikable?

David did his share of bone-headed things. But I’m convinced much of the opposition he faced came simply because he was a bold leader. As such, he had a big red target on his chest. Lead anything and you will be in the cross hairs.

We are brutal to our leaders. We scrutinize and second-guess them. We blame them for anything and everything. A leader’s days consist of fending off all sorts of criticism and antagonism (both overt and subtle). Couple humanity’s inveterate self-centeredness with our Adamic aversion to submitting to authority and it’s no wonder we make life hell for anyone who would try to lead us. We are less drawn to leaders who will take us where we need to go, and more drawn to those who promise us everything we want: a chicken in every pot, a free cell phone, national identity & pride, sermons that tickle ears, etc.

For all these reasons leadership (in any setting) isn’t for the thin-skinned or easily discouraged. It isn’t for harmonizers and people-pleasers. Every tough leadership decision affects (and upsets) people. Understand this if you lead: the moment you implement discomforting change,  your loyal “followers” will turn on you like a pack of jackals on a weary wildebeast.

The one way a leader can avoid having adversaries (or at least large numbers of them ) is to become irrelevant. Stop speaking truth. Be vague and ambiguous. Speak out of both sides of your mouth.

Want to push tensions out into the future? Shrink your vision. Go passive. Agree with everyone. Grab your clipboard and walk fast. Act busy. Be elusive. Duck into situations and slip out of them unobtrusively. Put off every hard decision as long as possible. Never rock the boat or question the status quo.

The only problem is…this isn’t leading.

David’s leadership secret–if you want to call it that–seems to be this: Instead of trying to placate the masses, he played to an audience of One.

Agree or disagree: If a leader isn’t ruffling feathers, he/she probably isn’t leading. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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