Not an Island: 7 Dangers of Leading in Isolation

By Ron Edmondson

Not long ago, I sat with a new pastor who is trying to hold a church together long enough to help it build again. The previous pastor left town after a series of bad decisions.

I’m happy to help this new pastor through this crisis. But I also worry about the former pastor who flamed out too early—the one who didn’t finish well. The one who left a church in disarray.

Sadly, I see this all the time. This pastor suffered from the same temptation any pastor faces. His number one problem was, in my opinion, leading in isolation.

No one in his life knew him well enough to recognize when something was wrong and confront him when necessary.

Leading in isolation is displayed in numerous ways to the detriment of the church or organization. Here are seven dangers of leading in isolation.

1. Moral failure

Without accountability, many people will make bad decisions because no one appears to be looking. We’re more susceptible to temptation when we are alone.

2. Burnout

We are made for community. We gain energy from sharing life with other people. When a leader feels alone, the likelihood of burnout, emotional stress, and even depression increases.

3. Disconnected leadership

We are all vulnerable to self-deception at times. Just because there’s no apparent crisis doesn’t mean all is well. A disconnected leader is clueless to the real problems in the organization and is fooled into believing everything (including the leader) is wonderful.

4. Control freak

Insecure leaders don’t want anyone to find out they don’t know all the answers. Rather than asking for help, they try to control every decision and panic when others question them.

5. Limiting other people

The leader in isolation fails to communicate, invest, and release, which keeps other leaders from developing on the team. This leaves the organization unprepared when the leader leaves.

6. Limiting the leader

Isolated leaders never reach their full potential because they refuse to let others help them grow. They also can’t learn from anyone else, so they never benefit from other people’s perspective.

7. A stunted organization

The leader who leads in isolation keeps the organization from being all it can be. The leader sets the bar for how far an organization can go. If the leader is in isolation, the organization will stagnate.

Are you living in isolation? Do you need to get out of the protective shell you’ve made for yourself? Be honest. And ask for help.

I realize many pastors of smaller churches feel they have no option but to lead in isolation. You feel you have no one you can truly trust in your church and you have isolated yourself, for various reasons, from others in the community.

As hard as it may seem, and as great as the risk may appear, you must find a few people to share your struggles with to avoid these dangers. The health and future success of your church depend on it.


RON EDMONDSON (@RonEdmondson) is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Read more from him at RonEdmondson.com.

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