God-ordained public service should never be about a person’s desire for power and prestige, but should arise out of a servant’s heart to meet the needs of the people they represent. Jesus modeled this when He washed the feet of His disciples and when He said that the greatest in the Kingdom of God are those who serve (John 13 and Mark 10:43). Of course, we have power-hungry leaders in every sector of society—not just in politics—and this includes the church.
I believe power-hungry people in general are the cause of numerous problems and divisions within the marketplace and church, and we need to be honest with them and speak into their lives when necessary, lest they sabotage great organizations. Since their drive for power to achieve their ends will stop at nothing, more mature leaders need to counter their dangerous ambitions, instead of continually feeding into them. Following are some signs of power-hungry leaders:
(I believe that all leaders, because of our fallen nature, have to deal with some or all of the following issues at times in our lives. But some have totally given in and live out these issues as a lifestyle of choice.)
1. They only relate to other “power” people
Power-hungry people are constantly going to social events, parties, and conferences, and frequently join boards of powerful organizations that will connect them with the most influential people—irrespective of whether they truly have the time and talents, or genuinely want to connect with these people on a human-covenantal level. They are always looking for the next person who can do something to help them climb the social ladders in their spheres of influence, which causes them to use people instead of serve people.
2. They are constantly dropping names and speaking about their accomplishments
There are certain leaders whom I have heard speak several times; every single time they have spoken, either to me in private or in public gatherings, they mention prominent academic institutions where they received their degrees, or drop the names of high-level leaders to whom they have access. After a while it becomes obvious they are attempting to flaunt their power and accomplishments so they can receive accolades or respect from others, instead of it being a sincere attempt to give their audience context for their life narrative.
3. They are in competition with other peer leaders
Power-hungry leaders are always jockeying for position, fighting with other leaders they deem a threat to their influence, or are attempting to marginalize others with faint words of praise or outright gossip and slander. (Immature Christian leaders usually don’t engage in outright slander, but tend to marginalize others subtly when in the company of those they don’t know well.) Essentially, power-hungry leaders will not rest until they become the “Big Dog” in the organization.
4. They are all things to all people
Power-hungry leaders often are like chameleons that adapt to the color of their environment. For example, I have met political leaders who speak as biblical Christians when they are speaking in churches, but when they are with secular humanists they speak about their anti-biblical values.
The only thing power-hungry people value is their own power. When they are with Christians they speak religious lingo, and when they are with secularists they speak secular lingo. I don’t think even they know what they truly believe!
Unfortunately, many sincere Christians get fooled by these people’s surreptitious words and believe anything they hear. After such people are elected, these Christians are shocked by what they really stand for.
5. They are driven by selfish ambition instead of love for people
Though they may work many hours visiting their communities and churches, and being among their people, their ultimate goal is to be in power, not to meet the needs of the people. This is more obvious when it comes to candidates for elected office. But pastors and church leaders have also fallen into this trap and act this out in the context of their own denominations or congregations.
6. They love the praises of men
At the end of the day, power-hungry people live to hear other people sing their praises. They have such low self-esteem that they need to continually feed their egos by being the center of attention at every event, party, and gathering they attend.
Consequently, they are easily insulted when they deem others as not bowing down to kiss their rings sufficiently. They can quickly turn on these people.