Helping the Controlling Leader

So, how do you help a Controller Leader?  I’m convinced that many a church split had its beginnings when lay and staff members mustered up the courage and confronted a controller leader.  Remember, controller leaders are characterized by the following:

  • Often with powerful and dramatic conversion stories, they can become very strong and dominant leaders.
  • They will have a propensity toward good versus bad thought patterns, with little middle ground within which they allow themselves or others to move around.
  • They tend to be leaders who are “yes or no”, “with me or against me”, “black or white”, “all or nothing”.  “Follow me… do as I do… or leave the church.”   Thus, they annihilate other’s thoughts, feelings, emotions and opinions.
  • While their life seems to be brought into Biblical conformity on the outside, internally they lack relational and emotional maturity.
  • They fail to see the individuality of each and every believer and their valuable contribution to the church, so they demand conformity for all.
  • They take the top position within the church, where the Deacon and Elder Boards virtually become bland followers of “God’s anointed”, thus becoming unilateral autocratic leaders.

Helping the controller leader involves several key elements:

  1. They need to be approached by a team that is respected by the leader.  This type of intervention has the best chance of getting the leaders attention if they are loving and compassionate in their approach.  The leader may be on his best behavior when there is a group who appeals in a respectful manner.
  2. They must be clear as to what they want to accomplish.  The Bible teaches plurality of leaders in the form of Elders where the controller leader is one of several.  The goal of the intervention is to create a leadership structure where there is shared and others are respected not annihilated.
  3. They need to be mentored by someone older and wiser that can help them see another perspective that integrates good and bad within themselves and others.  I would suggest that the mentorship team include a therapist or psychologist who can help the leader see how their need for control is tied to a childhood that was out of control.
  4. At the very heart of their need to control is the need for predictability.  This helps them relax and feel less anxious. A part of their growth is to learn to tolerate the unknown, allow others to minister and lead in their own way and allow differing opinions. Only when the controller address his or her anxious core… can they begin to let go.
  5. They need to learn to grieve the losses and pain that they endured as a child instead of thinking they magically disappeared when they accepted Christ. Although a new creature in Christ positionally, practically speaking their chaotic history was not erased.  The relational and emotional pain is still with them.
  6. Only when they begin to see empathy for themselves will they begin to have empathy for others.  This in turn will allow them to become better leaders.

Thanks for listening.


Milan and Kay

Next week we will begin to discuss how to help the Victim Leader.