Seven Yellow Flags of a Toxic Leader (Part Two)

by Oct 17, 2022Christian Living, Ecclesiology0 comments

In the previous post we looked at the first three yellow flags. Flags that point in the direction of someone being a toxic leader. Here are the last four flags.

4. Fake Faith

A toxic person can learn to talk the talk. They typically have been in christian circles long enough to learn the faith lingo. So they know what to say. They can know “The Faith” and even teach sound doctrine. The crazy part is the way they make themselves sound like they are full of faith. Yet watch what happens when they are frustrated. Frustrating situations have a way of showing the cracks in our character (we all have them). But a real life crisis will reveal the real you. So look for what comes out of them when a real crisis hits. Their self-centered and tender ego doesn’t rely on God. Depending on the type of crisis, they will try to control the situation or spin the narrative. If its more personal in nature they will turn to people and expect help. If they don’t get the help they think they deserve they often play the victim while plotting revenge.

James 1:1-4 teaches us real faith brings stability and serenity in trials. A real believer can have a song of joy in their heart while all hell comes against them. The joy comes from knowing that God is deepening our character and capacity to know him through the trials. Also in james 2:17 reminds us that “faith without works is dead”. We cant be a person of faith without showing the fruit of faith. If they are all talk then their faith is phony, as fake as my five year old’s superman costume. (Superman pajamas and an old ratty red towel is not a costume but don’t tell him that)

5. Fake Repentance

Toxic leaders don’t apologize. Yet these people do understand that repentance is part of the christian process. So they have learned the art of the non-apology. When they do apologies it is shallow and full of christian spin.

They don’t apologies for a very specific reason it would wound their fragile ego. This in one reason such leaders don’t like to apologize. They may not even realize the shallow nature of their repentance. It hurts them to perceive themselves as flawed and imperfect. In their minds, any harm they do is collateral damage and not something they should be held personally responsible.

At first, when such leaders are not apologetic. People take this as strong leadership but soon the offenses begin to build up and resentment begins to fill the workspace. They may fool people with their half-hearted often side-handed apologies but only for a time. Typically people will begin to realize the blame is being covertly put back on them. The begin to hear in the apology that they are made to shoulder sum or all of the responsibility for the wrong committed.

We are all sinners and conflict is inevitable. That is why part of life together involves confession and forgiveness. The cross is not just our means of forgiveness between God and us but also between other Christians. When leaders don’t lean into that but seek to appear above it all that’s a yellow flag.

6. Fake Thankfulness

In the gospel, we are all given something we don’t deserve. We deserve hell and judgment. We get Jesus and life eternal. If this is at the heart of the gospel then two things must be true of all Christians 1.) we ought to be thankful 2.) we cant be entitled.

What if the IOS system in your brain ran on the assumption that you were entitled to every good thing you got. What if you assumed you deserved everything you got. How could you be thankful? This is a big problem with toxic christian leaders.

Toxic people aren’t thankful. They have learned to fake a thankful spirit because no one likes a selfish and arrogance Christ follower. They will pretend to be thankful but deep down they feel entitled to what was given them. Slowly expectations are raised and if not delivered on they become resentful that those around them haven’t given them everything they feel, they truly deserve. Leaving those around them scratching there heads, and often conditioning those around them to all expectation no mater the sacrifice. Such leaders create a staff of people pleasers with one carnal rule, keep the leader happy. All because of a lose of thankfulness. It is little wonder why the Puritans summarize the doctrine of sanctification under the heading of “Thankfulness”. Entitlement is not just a character flaw it may be evidence that don’t get the gospel or have not grown very much as a christian.

Toxic leaders are often entitled. As leaders they have grown to believe that everything is owed to them because they are the talent. They deserve special treatment (And sometimes special exceptions) because of who they are and what they think they do for the kingdom. Yet a church could go years without detecting the truth. Especially if all is going well for them and the people around them serve their purpose. It is when the tide changes as they always do the leader will often heap unrealistic expectations on other while excusing themselves.

7. Fake Promises

Toxic leaders often make promises but have no follow through. Promises are not bad if you intend on keeping them. Sometimes plans change and promises are broken but the toxic leader promises with little or no intention of follow through. Proverbs 25:14, states “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” Growing up in Georgia, I have seen my number of droughts. I remembers spending summers on the farm and how happy my granddad looked to see rain clouds. His livelihood was connected to the rain. When the rain clouds never actually produce any rain he would get visibly frustrated. Likewise, when someone makes lofty promises and does not follow through it can make the follower very frustrated. Depending on the promise, the person’s livelihood could be jeopardize. Toxic leader will often use promises to manipulate people into following their agenda. They use the promise of employment or future ministry opportunities to keep someone on the hook.

The abuse of hope is problematic in the church. It is a common tactic for motivating ministry minded followers. I have seen it destroy people’s faith and confidence in the church. While it is up to us to guard our hearts (Pro. 4:23) fake promises can destroy as much as they can motivate. First, We avoid fake promises by holding people accountable for the promises they make to you. One time a leader made a fantastical promise to me. I pulled out my phone and asked if I can film him making that promise. He declined. At the time he was a little offend but soon realizing how fantastic the promise. Later we talked, and it became a teachable moment for his leadership style. The promises of man should never be used to motivate. Only the promises of God have the power to motivate for they alone are Yes and Amen in Christ. Another way we guard our heart is by knowing when to stop having our trust used against us. At some point, we must say enough is enough and stop believing someone’s word. Instead we hold their word with a grain of salt and for they have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. Don’t keep giving people chance after chance expecting them to finally follow through when they have consistently failed you in the past.


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