Why is Solo Leadership Dangerous?
In the book of Exodus (chapter 18) Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses found his son-in-law in a stressful situation of solo leadership. He was taking care of all of the people delivered out of Egypt all by himself. When asked why he was taking care of the people all by himself Moses gives a Type A Personality response –“Because they come to me.”
Charles Colson in his book The Body: Being Light in Darkness he speaks of the dangers of solo leadership. He says that exalting solo leadership causes leaders to become the “spiritual Lone Ranger.”1 This approach to leadership is not good for anyone. It is counter productive and in many cases self-destructive.
I remember engaging my grandfather in a conversation during a Christmas visit in which I found his discouragement in ministry troubling. Here was a man who had given up a well paying job in his early years to become a Wesleyan pastor. His life had been dedicated and focused in service to the Lord. In our conversation I remember how troubled this elder saint was concerning the “lack of support” he had experienced in his ministry.
Non-support is a recurring subject with those who are leaders. I have come to believe that it is not that the support is not there, it is the organization of support that is absent. This was the case with Moses. Able body servants surrounded him yet he ignored them while doing the tasks all alone.
Men and women who have been called to serve the Lord are finding, in alarming numbers, that they simply cannot carry the load. The drop out rate in the ministry is a strong indicator that all is not well. This dropout rate has gone on for some time.
The results of a Fuller Institute of Church Growth survey as far back as 1991 of one-thousand pastors throughout the US gives an idea of what had been going on in ministry and causes the drop-out of many on church staff.
- 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours per week.
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively.
- 33% say that being in ministry is an OUTRIGHT HAZARD to their families.
- 75% report a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
- 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
- 90% feel they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
- 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they started.
- 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
- 50% have considered leaving ministry in the last 3 months. 2
Here are some other startling statistics provided by PastorCare Network, Raleigh, NC:
- A church that has fired a pastor has a 70% chance that it will do the same to the following pastor.
- 50% of those who go into full-time service drop out in 5 years.
- The vocational life of a pastor is down from 20 years, as reported in l980, to l4 years in l995.
- 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
- 66% of church members expect a minister and his family to live at a higher moral standard than they do.3
Jethro had obviously seen “burnout” a long time before anyone in the 1900’s coined the phrase. Jethro’s conversation with Moses came from a life of experience. Jethro believed leaders should be taught how to take care of the people of God. This skill is not something most leaders automatically know.
Healthy care development is something that must be sought out and organized. This must take place with the life of the leader and those who are led. Solo leadership simply does not work!
1 Charles Colson, The Body, pp. 296-299
2 Fuller Bible Institute
3 This information is provided by PastorCare Network, Raleigh, NC.