The Sign of a Toxic Leader

October 17, 2022

Matthew 7:15

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves."

Some initial observations of Jesus’ words.
Everyone knows Jesus’ description of bad leaders (false prophets). They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The imagery is evocative. Jesus pulls from the prophets where wolves are a common metaphor for the wicked who prey on God's flock (Ezek 22:27, Zeph 3:3). Let’s look at the description Jesus gives this leader.

1.) Inwardly a wolf’s heart
The name wolf identifies an inner nature. People that look normal but have a wolf’s heart. The wolf is bold, opportunistic and ruthless in contrast to its victim, the sheep, which is naive, trusting and vulnerable (Mt 10:16).

3.) Outwardly a sheep’s appearance
The wolf is covered in sheep's clothing. Wolves in sheep’s clothing will likely be very good at blending in and being accepted. They have sheep‘s clothing that means they know how to win people over and appear like the real thing.

The text gives us the clear sign of a toxic leaders. Bad toxic leaders are phoniness. They are phonies, deep fakes of real leaders. Since they are faking it, they lack authenticity and have to copy the behaviors of others just to gets them what they want.

Knowing the Fake
Onetime my wife and I were invited to a friends house for dinner. In the middle of the dining room was an exquisite flower arrangement. The Daisies were perfectly shaped and the tulips appeared bright and alive. It was a beautiful sight to behold. The arrangement made for the perfect centerpiece. Although I enjoyed its beauty, I was not surprised. The husband was a florets. I complimented him on the work. He chuckled and insisted I smell them. I did but they had no sent. I smelt nothing. It was then I realized they weren't real. The Flowers were fake. His wife had made them. They looked good but were complete phonies. In the end, they could not pass the smell test.

In Matthew 7:17-20, Jesus talked about how trees can’t be fake. Behind Jesus’ statement is the common sense assumption that apple trees make apples. If you pick from an apple tree you expect apples. The nature of the tree can’t change. An apple tree cant produce oranges. It’s fruit will reveal what it is by nature. Good trees produce good fruit. People unlike trees can be shifty. They can be unhealthy and try to staple fake ‘good’ fruit on their branches. Yet even with all the fake fruit and shiftiness no one can get away from their hearts true nature. It will come out in little ways. People will take note of the inconsistency. The observant will see the staples. Jesus states this truth, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:20) Jesus’ point is that the wolf’s inner nature no matter how hard they hide it, will show itself in unguarded behavior (Mt 7:15-16). It will be phony behavior, no matter how skilled they are at faking it.

Phoniness or being fake is the first sign of a Toxic leader. In the next blog we will look at the seven warning signs that exposes this phoniness. They seven signs are something of a smell test for such leaders.


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