7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership

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Leadership is hard and every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion. Different opinions. Lots of different opinions. Every hard decision a leader makes excites some and upsets others. At the same time, most of us who have positions of leadership want people to like us personally and in our role as a leader. That leads many leaders into becoming victims of people pleasing. When we fall prey to pleasing people as a goal, we seldom lead people into what is best and are led more by opinion polls than vision.

Every pastor and leader I know agrees that people pleasing is not a good quality for a leader. Talking with hundreds of pastors every year, however, I’d have to say that this has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me. For the pastor, when our aim is to please people, many times we are motivated more by what people want than even what God wants for the church. That’s dangerous. Hopefully I don’t have to build that case.

But what are the people casualties of people pleasing? What are the organizational casualties?

Here are 7 casualties of being a people pleaser:

No one is really ever satisfied – When the leader tries to please everyone the reality is that no one on the team finds that for which they are looking. No one. In an attempt to let everyone win…no one really does.

Tension mounts among the team – People pleasing pits people against one another as the leader attempts to please everyone and team members are conditioned to jockey for positions with the leader aimed at pleasing them. It creates a political atmosphere among the people who should be working together.

Disloyalty is rampant – One would think people pleasing builds loyal supporters, but actually the reverse is more true. People don’t trust a people pleaser, because they quickly learn what the leader says isn’t necessarily the whole truth, but what will keep the leader popular. The people pleaser says what people want to hear more than what needs to be said.

Burnout is common – I’ve observed team members trying to function under a people pleaser. They feel they have the leader’s support, but then it’s pulled from under them as the leader tries to please someone else. It’s tiring.

Frustration abounds – People pleasing leads to fractured teams and fragmented visions. Frustrating.

Mediocrity reigns – Second best under a people pleasing leader becomes the new goal not a consolation. Lackluster results ultimately lower standards. In an effort to please everyone the team compromises what “could be” for what keeps people temporarily happy. (Emphasis on the temporarily.)

Visions stall – Visions are intended to take us places. Noble places we’ve never been. That involves change. And, change is hard. People don’t like change. People pleasers like people to be happy. You see where this one is going?

Be honest. Ever worked for a people pleaser? Ever been one?

What results did you see?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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22 thoughts on “7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership

  1. Helpful post. Thanks. Yes, I'm tempted daily by the desire to look smart and competent. Thanks for reminding me of the consequences of worshipping at that altar.

  2. Thank you again for a practical and helpful post. This was a great reminder of the kind of leader I want to be and my team needs me to be. As a leader, I’m responsible to lead them into a better reality, unify, and be an example as I replace myself. None of that is possible if I give into the temporary “perks” of people pleasing. In the moment, you think they’ll like you more, but in the end, the flip flopping will make them ultimately respect you less.

    Thanks again. Your posts have helped me tremendously.

  3. It seems to me a Leader who is a people pleaser is in fact not a leader at all. They might be the person in charge or whom has authority, but Leadership has focus and purpose. Great Leaders build leaders, encourage, push if necessary (within proper boundaries) and COMMUNICATE. It is my view they are committed to employee development and the ongoing inclusion of it into organizational process.

  4. Thanks for another practical post Ron. Question: On your church leadership team, when you need to make an important decision but the team is divided on what to do, how is the final decision made? Do you allow for the majority to rule, or do you always make the final call? My observation is that many smaller church leadership teams feel there has to be 100% agreement for a final decision to be made, which can kill momentum, moral, etc.

    • It totally depends on the issue and how critical I think it is of a decision. If it's an idea I will often pass. If it's a “strong feel” of mine as leader, I move forward without 100% buy-in, knowing that in time a healthy team will align. And, I could be wrong…and I always make that clear up front and have to be willing to learn from my mistakes just as the team does from their mistakes.thanks!

  5. It is especially frustrating when employees take advantage of a people pleaser. If you know that all you have to do is thow a temper tantrum to get what you want from the people pleaser, then the goal becomes to make the most noise. I have worked for a people pleaser and he and I clashed because someone was taking advantage of him. This was more than one person and my boss rewarded bad behavior rather than checked it.