7 Signs of a Weak Leader

Have you ever known a weak leader? They’re usually easy to spot.

Weak Leader

A youth pastor emailed me. He’s frustrated his pastor continually caves into the pressures of a few leaders in the church. They are not supportive of the youth ministry, even though it’s the fastest growing area of the church.

The complaint they have? The ministry is costing far more than it brings into the church. Young people are coming to the church in growing numbers, but without their parents. Young people don’t usually contribute to the church, so it’s causing an issue with some of the deacons.

The pastor was involved and supportive in the expansion of youth ministries and the church is financially sound, but a few deacons consider it an “unprofitable” ministry.

The pastor’s solution? Cut back on the youth ministry expenditures to keep the deacons happy.

I’d love to tell you this is an isolated issue, but I’ve written about these type of situations before. Obviously, I don’t have all the facts, but based on what I do know, it sounds like the pastor is a weak leader.

And, I hate labeling a pastor weak on anything. Certainly I’ve been weak on many things. Preaching. Shepherding. Staff development. And, yes, leading. You name it—I’ve been weak.

But, we have to label the problem before we can hope to find solutions.

Have you ever known a weak leader? They’re usually easy to spot.

Here are seven signs of a weak leader:

Runs from conflict. They avoid it at any cost. They usually say what you want to hear. They are passive-aggressive. They cave to the loudest voices. They disappear when trouble develops. You’ll never see them in the crowd when there’s a controversy looming. They hide better than they engage when people are upset about something or things aren’t going so well.

Hides all flaws. They have a lot of excuses—and, they often pretend to know it all. They don’t want you to know the “real” them—the them which may be lacking in some area. They will “try to” make you think they have it together more than they really do—and, you might believe it—for a while. These leaders are often afraid if they appear to be weak (how ironic) you may not respect them—or they might even lose their job.

(Of course, wise leaders learn to build a team which can bring strength around their weaknesses.)

Can’t accept criticism. They don’t take well to correction. They pout. Get angry, perhaps—may even seek revenge.

Quick to pass blame. They can never admit a personal mistake. They are consummate fault-finders. It’s always someone else’s error. It’s the economy, or the culture, or the lack of volunteers. They keep people under their authority by labeling others with the faults of the organization. In fact, according to a weak leader, you probably couldn’t do “it” without them.

Leads by control. They want you to believe they’ve “got this.” They don’t, but it feels better to them than the alternative. They keep people under their authority, never empower and seldom delegate, because they are afraid of losing their power position.

Shies away from difficult decisions. They can’t make the hard calls. They can’t lead in a new direction because the opposition will be too strong for them. They stay in the safe zone—sameness is their friend.

Appeases critics and complainers. The louder you are the more likely a weak leader will cave to your demands. They don’t want you to be unhappy—especially with them.

I sound rather harsh towards a weak leader—don’t I? But, as I said, I’ve been—and sometimes can be—that leader. I share this as a check for our own leadership. We need strong, capable leadership—especially among our people of faith. Let’s lead. Let’s lead well. Let’s “stand firm” and “let nothing move us” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

What would you suggest this youth leader do?

Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.
  • Charles

    Thank you for this article. This has come up time and again. While I have advocated addressing things timely to maintain a strong church family, I have heard of others NOT addressing issues and losing their faith in the leadership. This just confirms my need to remain transparent, open and honest about the Word, Him and His son at every turn.

  • Rick Ratzlaff

    Quit. He’s a round peg in a square hole that God did not design for him. He’s assumed he’s a leader.
    Or study Eph deeplyly, realize who he is in Christ. Read his Biblle several time a year to gain discernment. Be a man of prayer (extra ordinary) the lift your chin and realize that IF God has made something clear, speak in “truth and grace”.
    Respect your elder and what they have to say. They may have years of understanding, and see a bigger picture.
    Become close to one of the most disenchous and use him as a sounding board or mentor.

    Take challenges with courage and all the above, and let the results be Gods responsiblity. Admit quickly and clearly if and WHEN you screw up.

  • Amber Mccoy

    I am saddened that someone assumes the answer is to quit. By quiting, that person would also be quiting on the youth that have trusted them to lead them, not to give up when funding is slim. You pray, and work through it. You believe God for funding. If there are differences between you and a leader (such as funding) to the point that your heart grows bitter, and you feel your heart is no longer giving its all, then you may want to consider relocating. But only because, you feel you aren’t able to give your all to the youth, when someone else could, not because of money.

    • Matthew 10:14? “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”

      • Amber Mccoy

        That is referring to ministering to someone or a group and they reject you. In this case, we’re talking about someone ministering to a youth group. If the youth group is growing and receiving, should you reject them because of funding? Something out of their control? That is more of what I’m referring to.

  • ToBNamedL8r

    I would consider asking the senior pastor if that is to be the basis for all staffing and spending decision (what finances it brings in) and ask how much ministry to widows and orphans brings in. If there is no conviction from that then I would consider the cost of remaining in a money oriented body and the effects on the youth I would leave behind vs seeking another position in a spirit led ministry.. God might have you to stay to be His voice. Stand for what you know is right. Seek God’s face as to what to do after that.

  • Autumn

    I have attended a church for nearly 8 years . For 5 to 6 years I volunteered, at first just cooking for up to 80 to 100 servings for the hungry of our set dish (recipe). Then of course that led to volunteering keeping the kitchen clean .Then polishing the pews, pulpits, pastor’s pew,altars and chairs window sills, cabinets and doors . Decorated the windows according to what season it was, washing the glass before and after taking decorations up. One time when I was cleaning out the cupboards and refrigerator there was found many outdated food and rotten food. Put them in a big plastic bag and showed the Pastor and he said to throw it all out, I offered to make a list of what was in the bag so others would know what happened to items but he said it wasn’t necessary. Then it was time again to use a new code for the door into the church . The pastor hemmed and hawed about giving me it but finally came out after a month or so and said “people cant find things” and “things are missing” “so he couldn’t give it to me any longer”. Nothing more was ever said . It makes me very uncomfortable going there, as I am unwanted and unwelcomed by the pastor and whoever else is behind this . Would you stay away ?

    • Malcolm

      Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9. Seek to make peace with the Pastor ask him where things should be kept. Come humbly and ask other leaders where things should be kept. Communicate your heart to serve and always remember you are serving the Lord and not men. You should not stay away. That is the work of the enemy and he seeks to move you away from the Lord’s service through some “church hurt”. I try to keep my feelings out of service or even were I may be used and realize Jesus is on the Throne and it will all work out for the good. Blessed are the peacemakers…seek to restore peace in these relationships. Hope that helps.

  • Janne

    Don’t know a whole lot about christian leadership, but sounds a whole lot like solution would be in using less worldly wisdom and ask more of God’s wisdom. Sounds also some leaders in this are maybe relying too much in their own intellect and efforts instead of putting their faith and trust in THE LORD. Maybe some would even need born again, meaning understanding divine financials instead of running a business like people of the world. Also should we remember that Jesus is the head, not even the leaders of church. The more we give the control to Lord Jesus and let Him be the Head and allow Holy Spirit to control our leadership and everything, there is the key to a “successful” church and impacting the world around us. I mean, a truly born again pastor or a leader would not have problems like this, because he listens to God and walks by the Spirit. Let’s not become leaders before we learn to be mature christians ourselves, would we?

    God bless!