How to Stop Being a People Pleasing Pastor or Leader

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I received this email after a recent post:

Ron,

Have just finished your blog post “7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership“. I recognize I am a People Pleaser Pastor. How do I turn the tide on this? How do I stop? I am seeing tension mounting on the team. There is frustration on our staff and it is even spilling over to our spouses, and my vision has hit a brick wall. I really want to move away from this but I am finding it most difficult.

Signed,

One frustrated pastor

Here is my reply:

Frustrated Pastor,

I’m impressed with your boldness and honesty.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

Get firm again on the vision you are trying to accomplish – It appears you have one, but people pleasing must be more important to you than accomplishing that vision. Not trying to sound harsh, but that’s the reality. We tend to do what we value most. You must begin to value the vision more than making people happy. Make sure it’s God-honoring and God-ordained. When you are leading a church, obviously you want to do the will of God. He gives us latitude I believe, but we want to make sure whatever we do honors Him and gives Him glory.

That vision, though, is what should hold your feet to the fire. If it detracts or doesn’t line up with the vision God has given you, you shouldn’t be as enthusiastic about it…regardless of who brings it to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other things, but you can clearly say…”I’m sorry, but right now I’m chasing this vision God has given me.” Imagine the pressure Moses was under as a leader to please the people, but he had to hold to the vision God had given him and not cave to the pressure to always please people.

Get buy in with a team towards reaching the vision – You need a team around you committed to the same defined vision you have. Be careful who you surround yourself with here. Make sure they are people who are not self-serving, can see a bigger picture, and will protect your back should it come to that. You’ll need others, however, that can back you up when you’re tempted to give in and be a people pleaser.

When you recruit them, make sure they understand the vision and are committed to seeing it to completion. Be honest with your propensity to cave to pressure from others. Share with them your desire to complete the vision and given them permission to speak into your life when they see you pleasing people more than accomplishing the vision.

Assign responsibility and timelines – Give people real responsibility towards accomplishing the vision and measurable timelines toward achievement. This is hard for some pastors, but you have to release responsibility for decisions made. This process is vital, because it keeps tasks moving forward and therefore makes it easier and more palatable when you have to say no to other things. It’s hard to argue with success.

I often find it’s sometimes easier for someone closer to a task to say no to something new. For example, if a group wants us to start a new mission somewhere outside our focus area, the people who currently lead our mission efforts are often better at protecting the vision we’ve already set in place than I am. If I let those who lead in a specific area of ministry help make the decisions in their area, we will protect the vision more often.

Allow these same people to hold you accountable to sticking to these determined goals and objectives. You will be less likely to cave to people pressure if you know things are on track to reach the vision. I give people on my team the right to tell me when I’m veering from the vision we have before us.

Discipline yourself – The reality is that if you recognize people pleasing is a weakness in your leadership, you’ll have to discipline yourself away from it. This will take time. It probably has been a weakness for a while now, so don’t expect it to disappear immediately. When you sense you are making a decision purely to please others, give yourself a gut check. Put it in your schema. Tie a string around your finger if needed, but by practice and consistency, recall the bigger picture.

When needed, call in the trusted advisors again. Renew the passion for the vision again. Slowly, over time, you’ll find yourself better able to say no when needed so you can better realize the vision God has placed on your heart.

Those are my initial suggestions. I’m praying for you frustrated pastor, but I’m believing that you can do it. God has called you to it. He will equip you accordingly as you surrender to His will.

Ron

Ever been a people pleaser? What suggestions do you have?

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

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12 thoughts on “How to Stop Being a People Pleasing Pastor or Leader

  1. People pleasing is symptom of a deeper issue of trusting God with the shape He has designed you with. Confidence in yourself, in how He has equipped you for the vision all gets stronger when you align yourself and the call you have received with God 1st. Our being called to God first in our vital-vertical relationship with Him, when it is out of holy alignment, and you are not called to God 1st, people pleasing happens easily. Staying in a vital-vertical relationship truly does trump people pleasing, because your first relationship is vertically with God and then you relate horizontically with others out of that confidence. I know this is good wisdom, I was one, a people pleaser, I am no longer one, I am called to God 1st. A good song to get in your spirit is Audience Of One: http://youtu.be/DVka7lxxt5s By Big Daddie Weave. Because truly, this is the only audience that matters because it is going to be your last ever audience and you want to hear more than anything: Well done good and faithful servant.
    Twitter: kmac4him

  2. Thanks for another great post! The thoughts that I have, or suggestions I have for getting away from people pleasing are this: Fear God more and don't have any fear of people, Stay focused on pleasing God more than people, be strong and resist the temptation to give into people's wants that are contrary to God's vision for you and your church.

  3. This is great advice, Ron. It seems people pleasing would be a struggle for a lot of leaders. But if they can stay true to the vision God has given them, peace will follow.

    I like your point about letting those who are leading a certain project make decisions about it. This can be a blessing for the pastor if he has chosen reliable leaders. As you said, they are closest to the project, and can stay on track easier than someone who isn't as involved.

  4. Thanks for the great advice Ron. While I feel I have made strides on this (I was a serious people pleaser from way back), I will occasionally want to revert back. We are going to two services starting October and part of me wants to scream, "No! We are going back to one and crowd in" all due to some who are don't like it and my own people pleasing remnant. Need to remind myself of these principles.

    • We just swapped services. I was told it would kill me. It didn't. It has proven to be the best decision. I've made here.  Thanks!Ron Edmondson