7 Ways to Discourage and Demoralize Your Staff

When I first started as a youth pastor, the ministry was small and I was solely responsible for every aspect of the program. The first thing I did was recruit some good volunteers and tell them what to do. Our small team did our best to lead the ministry with me at the steering wheel. That was 16 years ago. Over the years, as our youth ministry has increased ten-fold, so have the number of volunteers and staff. My role has changed from lone ranger with a few sidekicks to leader of a growing volunteer force of over 40 people and a paid staff of four. Obviously, this has forced me to re-think the way I lead.

Here is the bottom line of what I've learned: As the team and ministry have grown, it has become even more important for me to exercise my complete authority and control. The bigger the organization, the more selfish I have to be. Whereas in the old days it was easy to play as a team and steer one or two volunteers in the direction I wanted to go, I can no longer deal with each person individually. Now I have to manage a multitude of personalities, life circumstances, and skill sets. This requires sheer force of will and immunity to any sort of criticism or suggestion. It requires a single-minded direction and conformity by everyone serving me. Since my ways affect the ways of the organization, and since I'm in charge, it is more important than ever that I get my way. This is true not only in my context but in every context. And so, with that in mind, I would like to share with you these seven things I've learned to guarantee your success as a leader.

7) Be more concerned with tasks than people. Let's be honest; when working with volunteers, you have very little leverage over them. You can't withhold their pay or put them on academic probation. It isn't that much different in a church setting with paid staff. But there is something you possess that trumps all other plays--the guilt card. So the next time a volunteer or employee tells you they can't make it to the meeting because they have to attend their parent's 50th wedding anniversary, or worse, their own mere 25th wedding anniversary, give them a long stare that says, "You aren't really committed, are you?" Then assign them to the cleanup crew.

6) Make sweeping changes constantly. Nothing says good leadership like making changes just to show you're in charge. Rhythm, consistency, competency and comfort are the enemies of a healthy team. As the leader, you have the power to change midstream. In fact, you should make monumental changes just as people are figuring out how to handle the last request you made. You should change direction more frequently than a remote-control car in the hands of a five-year-old. After all, you want to keep your people on their toes and remind them that they are weak and inexperienced, unlike you.

5) Micromanage everything. The last thing you need is for your staff and volunteers to feel like they are capable of handling something themselves. This uppity attitude is harmful to the proprietary atmosphere you are trying to create. It's far better to watch over and control every aspect of your organization with a magnifying glass and hammer. In the unlikely event someone other than you has a good idea and begins to implement it themselves, interrupt their plan with endless suggestions in order to make the idea seem like yours.

4) Reject personal vulnerability. Perhaps you have a weakness or insecurity. That's the last thing you should mention to anyone. Nobody needs to know you aren't indestructible. Nobody needs to know you have a problem at home, a health concern, or a fear that you don't really know what you are doing. Whatever you do, never let them see you sweat, cry or express doubt. Showing weakness is a sign of weakness.

3) Create an atmosphere of fear. Since the days of the cave man--when Grog ran for his life from the hungry raptor--fear has been saving lives. Humans are biologically wired with adrenaline for a reason. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing your staff tremble when you walk into the room or ask to speak to them. If they aren't shaking, you aren't leading.

2) Criticize publicly whenever possible. If you really want to demonstrate that you are the head honcho, make sure that you criticize and correct in full view. Calling people out for their failures in front of others will breed the type of humiliation that undermines any threat of revolt. Publicly humiliating someone in front of their peers is particularly effective. After all, nobody wants to be next.

1) Make personal ambition your primary mission (and cover it with insider's culture talk). This is an art form and the highest form of leadership. Determine to what extent you will go to make it to the top, and then create language to make it seem like this is everyone's mission. Manipulate the process to make your ideas the only way the organization can possibly succeed. Stomp out anything that doesn't serve your personal interests. Be sure to steal the limelight so that the higher-ups will see your face at every turn of success. Be watchful about letting other, equally effective, ideas sneak their way into your mission, and cover your tracks by finding obscure outside experts and statistics to back your opinions.  Then develop insider's language that make you seem smarter than everyone else. It works on House of Cards; it will work for you.

These are the things I've learned as I've grown as a leader. Now that I'm a pretty big deal, I know what I'm talking about. I'm certain you will find these tips helpful as you climb the ladder to the pinnacle of leadership success.