In my line of work I hear a lot about the importance of “vision-casting” and “vision-driven” leadership. Some even argue that “driving” the vision of a church is the primary job of a pastor or church leader.
It is often said that vision leaks. Do you know what else leaks? Toilets.
Here’s the thing, vision has the potential and the power to influence leaders in an intoxicating manner. This is especially true with church leaders. After all, church leaders are “called by God”, given a “vision”, and “set apart” for the unique task of leading God’s people. In this way, church leadership is the perfect venue for the reinforcement of the grandiose self, which includes both overt and covert narcissism. The recent emphasis on church growth, coupled with a growing interest in the applicability of business and leadership theory in church settings has produced an unprecedented fascination with “vision-driven” leadership within the church. Although vision is an important factor of leadership, it may also manipulate leadership behaviors. If left unchecked, the unexamined passions of a leader may enslave followers via egocentric manipulation disguised as “vision casting.” A “covert narcissist” may use a sense of calling and the vehicle of “vision” in order to reinforce his or her sense of self-importance. In this way, narcissism slowly creeps into the life of the leader until it controls every other aspect of the organization. Again, this is especially true in church settings, which offer a leader plenty of opportunities to stand at the center of attention while simultaneously feigning humility and deflecting praise.
*This post is a modification of this article: Serrano, C. (2014). Intoxicating Leadership: Leading Under the Influence. Virtual Conference on Moral Leadership, Regent University