The Mistake of Loveless Leadership

You can try to lead people that you don’t love, but don’t blame them if they don’t follow.


It’s a mistake I see all of the time… especially in ministry: Pastors who blame church members for not buying into the vision; not following; not being ‘on-board.’ I get it. I’ve done it. Guilty as charged.

Certainly, there’s always a handful of people who resist change of any kind. “Laggards,” as they are affectionately called, are those who are consistently resistant to change; but this group typically only makes up about 15% of the whole. 15 percent! That means 85% of the people in your organization are at the very least open to direction… some, like “early adopters,” are even excited about it!

And yet, though the laggards are few, leaders can often act as though the whole world is refusing to follow.



I believe a big part of the problem related to resistance lies with us as leaders. As I see it, the issue is rarely that people simply refuse to follow… the real issue, I believe, is that people won’t follow a loveless leader.

Let’s admit it: Who wants to follow a leader that doesn’t love his or her people?

When I was working my way through grad school I worked under a manager that hated interruptions, barked orders constantly (often without clarity or context) and frequently went out of his way to humiliate people who failed. He was a loveless leader. It didn’t take long for his team’s performance to plummet so badly that he was ousted by senior leadership.

Bottom line: People won’t follow a loveless leader. They may follow for a season so long as the stock is rising; but they won’t take a bullet for a loveless leader in the heat of battle. That kind of loyalty is reserved for leaders who have proven by their actions that the people in their organization are their most important asset.


It is all too easy in leadership to treat people as a means to an end when in reality people are the end. In leadership, people are always the goal. Without people there are no products to sell and no people to buy them. Without people there is space even for leadership.

Making people the end instead of the means requires shifting our focus away from the programs and products and instead focusing on the people behind them. As leaders we must check in on our people every bit as much as we check up on our metrics. If we don’t know where are people are and what they are dealing with (both personally and professionally) then we cannot lead them well.

People are the point… and they will not follow you if they don’t feel like they matter to you.

The trouble for many leaders is that they want people to rally around their vision when they haven’t first rallied around their people. But leadership doesn’t work that way.

It’s not good enough to simply love what you do… we must love those we do it with and those we do it for.

Don’t try to lead people that you don’t love.



2 thoughts on “The Mistake of Loveless Leadership

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