Seven Yellow flags of a Toxic Leader

October 17, 2022

Yellow Flags and Fake Flowers

Today more than every, the American church needs a smell test for fake leaders. Some way to identify the phoniness. They're fake like the flowers on my friends table (see previous post). They look the part but they can’t pass the smell test. They put up a good front with no real substance behind the facade.

I want to give you 7 yellow flags. Something of a smell test. They are types of behaviors that reveal someone is a phony. The list is not exhausted but it does give you an idea of what to look for if you smell something but are not sure.

Note: I say “yellow flags” because we all do these from time to time. One infraction does not make the person “anathema” it only make them a sinner, like the rest of us. So a yellow flag means caution. It tells us to slow down and look more carefully. Our judgment about a person should be measured and weighed over a extended period of time. Also, yellow flags are always cumulative. Someone hits seven of the eight and we should take note. Lastly, these are sinful behaviors. So if you see yourself in any of them. I suggest you repent and stop the behavior immediately before it becomes problematic. You don’t mess with another man wife and not suffer the consequences. How much more do you heap on your own head for hurting the bride of Christ?

1. Fake Humility

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.” Philippians 2:3 tells us “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

The toxic leader does not count others more significant. In their own estimation, look at what they are doing for the kingdom. Yet they also know it's not christ-like nor socially acceptable to be selfish. So they mimic humility by faking it. Publicly putting themselves down while selectively avoiding platforming or praising anyone who could take there spotlight. Yet few know this and all are afraid to share it. You should watch out for this seemingly humble person. When no one else is watching they will not put other first.

2. Fake Niceness

Who doesn't like a nice and agreeable person. As proverbs tells us beware of the faltering tongue. The toxic leader has learned this one. It seems as if they are trying to win you, like a politician on the campaign trail. They seem sweet. They smile to your face but will throw you under the bus if you get in their way or it suit them to do so.

Such people have read the leadership books. They know the tricks. They pretend to be interested in what your saying. Truth be told they operate on a reciprocal ethic (like those books teach). It's kind of a give to get thing. They're only looking for you to be nice to them, often to feed their fragile ego. If they don’t get the expected result something is wrong with you. You don’t know how the game is played and so they move on to the next person. Like in Poker some of these have a “tell” all you need to do is trigger it. So go ahead and disagree or offer constructive criticism. You will see an entirely different side to this seemingly nice person

3. Fake Sincerity

Have you ever had someone agree with you to your face. Only to find out later they disagreed with you behind your back. It can be frustrating. The toxic leader will not have the courage to disagree with you nor be truthful to your face. Such behavior is seen in more personal relationships than in formal conversations where public opinion is at stake. In public settings such leaders appear bold but use the truth without grace or love. In private settings, they will tell you what you want to hear and then go do what they want anyway.

In Matthew 5:37, Jesus gives us some insight on how to have sincerity in your speech. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Even if the inconsistency is obvious and you confront them 30 times. Every time they will have a excuse. Don’t try to hold them accountable for those lies disguised as oversights. Such people have no intention of being real with you. They will never just let there yes be yes and their no be no. They have no intention of being sincere with you, your just a tool to be used.


The last four flags will be in the next post. This blog is brought to you by The Remnant Radio, a theology broadcast that exists to educates believers on Theology, Church History and the Gifts of the Spirit. If you would like to know more about Remnant Radio. Here is a short video.



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