Leadership Training Programs Are A Waste of Time

Royalty, feudalism, dictatorships and democracy have all had their shot at defining and selling leadership. Each group claims that their way is best. At the top of each socio political pile is a small cadre of privileged and well paid people who pump out orders, threats, offers or seminars. They keep telling us “you can do it too”. They keep seducing us to sacrifice more money and intelligence. They essentially think the world needs more people like them. Then things would go well for everyone else.

I’m calling B.S.

We don’t need more leaders, especially more of the kinds of leaders who have shaped history thus far. For them leaders = power grubbers. They want us to lend them our power and trust them to use it properly. They have handed us a dangerous and divided world. They are politicians, entertainers, religionists, academics, scientists, economists – you name it, scratch a bit below the surface and for the most part you’ll find self serving leaders. Why should I listen to them? Is this the best we can do?

I’m calling B.S.

Leadership is a verb, a set of practices and behaviors. It’s not a person or a program.

Leadership inspires people to lean into their better angels

Leadership embraces power and gives it away. It shares power with others.

Leadership is what we need more of.

Leadership looks like more listening, more initiative and more adaptability.


Leaders are fine as long as they don’t get in the way of progress.

Leaders can help us by starting things and then getting out of the way.

Give me a leadership revolution

Too Many People Not Enough Time

Fifteen years ago I was asked to write a leadership development plan for a non profit organization. We had 110 employees, 25 directors and 400 volunteers serving 10,000-15,000 people each month.

In my institutional naiveté I suggested that instead of developing Leaders we should cultivate and foster leadership practices across the entire organization.

How? By focusing on what leaders do – the actual activities of leaders.

What are those?

Here’s my list: paying attention, initiative, responsibility, listening, action, curiosity, encouragement, follow through, wisdom and love.

Since the job of “Leaders” in my organization was ostensibly to deliver these actions to the 400 volunteers who in turn would deliver them to the 10,000 I had to figure out a way to do that without “using” people up while getting things done because leadership is also very much about getting your work done through other people.

As noble as our goals were, when it came to relational dysfunction, we were just as ruthless as any for profit organization. Our mission drove us to “use” people and then dispense with them. Consequently we suffered high turn over rates on staff and among volunteers.

That frustration sent me on a search to develop a system that enables organizations to consistently “deliver attention” using pre-existing relational networks and hierarchies which I will announce soon

It’s True! You really don’t have time for everyone, but everyone has time for someone.

Real Leaders see to it that everyone pays attention to someone.

 “Attention is the currency of leadership” Ron Heifetz







Silence As A Weapon

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Silence before God is admirable. Spiritual masters and mystics have turned it into an art form. Books that encourage silence such as Practicing the Presence of God have inspired millions of lives.

But silence is also a weapon spiritual leaders use to control people.

Their saying would go more like “Shut up and don’t ask any questions.”

Everyone knew Mark Driscoll was a bully- everyone that is except the people in his church who were afraid to call him out. Why? Have you ever bought a car, a house or entered into a relationship only to find out that what you’d actually bought was a lemon? How anxious were you to own your stupidity, to admit it to others let alone to yourself?

When it dawns on us that we’ve been spiritually manipulated, we’re humiliated, angry and confused. But wait there’s more! As a follower of Jesus it’s like double jeopardy – not only have I been played but now I’m also supposed to take the high ground and forgive the person who violated me.

The bully of course knows this angle and uses it to his/her advantage quite astutely. In fact they depend on you taking the high ground. They bet on it! Their unique case of emotional sickness includes the thrill of seeing how long they can avoid detection. It’s a game and they enjoy watching you spend enormous amounts of time working hard to forgive them.

Speaking of which, forgive my cynicism, I’ve earned it the hard way.

The bully knows full well that the issue isn’t about forgiveness but they aren’t going to tell you that. They’re going to let you waste as much time as possible chasing false leads. If you happen to get too close to exposing the truth they will do everything they can to discredit you or catch you on a “technicality” such as not expressing your criticism with kindness or sharing your frustration with a third party (just like they have done)

Jesus never “worked things out” with his religious opponents, he called them out, pointed them out and warned his followers to watch out for them. There’s an idealized notion of reconciliation that is leveraged by the violators. Victims are made to grovel and beg for an audience while the violators sits in a position of power and for the most part is afforded the benefit of the doubt. Why? Have you ever been a pastor? Have you ever spent years, decades with people trying to help them only to have people flip on you? I have and it sucks. No wonder we afford pastors special grace when there are misunderstandings – we ought to. They have a very difficult job. But when the person in power, pastor or not, uses silence as a weapon then they deserve to be called out in the same way Jesus called out the Pharisees.

I spent 10 years trying to get Driscoll removed from his position of influence in Seattle. I interviewed a number of former Mars Hill insiders for my book Question Mark which details our success and to a person they reported Driscolls’ unwillingness to meet with them face to face. He hid behind his position and used silence as a sacred weapon to punish people who dared to notice that the emperor had no clothes. He used silence to stall hoping people would give up and stop asking the obvious. He used silence to create an environment of fear and intimidation. He was the violator and they were the victims and he has never repented, apologized or owned his abuse with the people he actually harmed. Happily we got rid of him in Seattle but sadly Christian leaders in Phoenix have welcomed him as something of a wounded warrior who was misunderstood. Apparently Driscoll is the victim. Who knew?

The people in power are typically given the benefit of the doubt while the victims are interrogated as to their “real” motives. Why? Well it is quite the inconvenience to discover that you’ve been duped. We have all invested in communities so when the power brokers in the community begin burning our trust we don’t believe it. We don’t want to know. We blame the victim for trying to disrupt the community. We tell the victim that they are as much to blame as the violator as if there was no real power differential. We shun them using silence as a sacred weapon.

Recently I’ve been on the receiving end of silence as a weapon. I’ve experienced shunning for the first time in my life as a follower of Jesus. I have heard about it but never personally experienced it. It is disgusting to watch leaders who claim Jesus as their inspiration use silence to manipulate and control other followers.

I’ve decided that Jesus was right. The only thing you can do is point them out, call them out, and warn others to watch out.

Based on his behavior, whatever Jesus meant by “loving your enemies” did not include what they refer to in AA as “cosigning on their bullshit”. Apparently you can love your “enemy” while simultaneously working to remove your enemy.

If Mark Driscoll or my current ideological opponent ever decides to to actually repent (something violators rarely do), I’ll be the first to welcome them to the party.

An Open Letter to Pastor Brian Houston, The Hillsong Church Elders and Members

From Doug Murren and Jim Henderson

We recently wrote a book titled Question Markwhy the church welcomes bullies and how to stop it, about the negative influence Mark Driscoll has had on the church in Seattle, the United States and around the world. We were pushed to write this book to give voice to the significant number of people who have been spiritually abused by him over the past 15 years. If Driscoll had truly apologized and repented those of us who have lived through this debacle would have been the first to know. Being a thoughtful person and a sincere follower of Jesus no doubt by this point you have carefully researched the plethora of reports provided not only from first hand accounts which you can find at www.joyfulexiles.com  but also the very public journalistic work of Professor Warren Throckmorten. We would like you to Un-invite Driscoll from your conference and withdraw your tacit endorsement of him. Consider instead the concerns and pain of these three groups of stakeholders in the Driscoll Debacle.

Driscolls closest friends and colleagues.

Sad to say but you would be hard pressed to find one person who actually knows Driscoll who is willing to come to his defense. The only people speaking up for him are pastors of large churches who have had very little personal contact with him. His former friends, co-workers, have been shunned, belittled, castigated in private and had their ministry reputations threatened by Driscoll. They have persistently attempted to reconcile with him to no avail. Since he has stubbornly refused to “listen to the church” they have been forced to take the issue public and are suing him for racketeering charges.

Young believers 

Young people possess the one thing Driscoll needed to control them – idealism, but lacked the one thing they needed to protect themselves – life experience. Driscoll is well on his way to producing more Atheists than Christians. Many of the young people he misled and essentially abandoned will not only walk away from Mars Hill Church, many of them will walk away from Jesus. No one deserves that kind of power not even the guy with the fastest growing church.

People who’ve seen this all before

Brian, I doubt that you’ve heard of me (Doug Murren). I planted and pastored a church of 8,000 in Seattle for 18 years called Eastside Foursquare. Because of my hard earned concern for the people of Seattle, when I heard about Driscolls abuse, I knew I had to say something. I had no idea that when some elders in the church world spoke up, Driscoll would be gone in six months.

I was a young leader when the Shepherding movement came on the scene. I remember Dennis Bennett warning the leaders that at its core this movement would end in abuse. Almost everyone else opted for tolerance. You know how that turned out

Brian in the US it’s estimated that sixty million people (1/5 the population) have been hurt enough that they say they will never come back to church. Mark Driscoll and his stream of churches are adding to this number daily. Any time a leader has 20 former staff publicly state that a leader has abused them you have pay attention.

Driscoll has harmed an an entire city. There are thousands wounded by his leadership era. Repentance as you know does not mean remorse, it means to turn around and clear up the issues. Our concerns are for the victims. Driscoll can take care of himself. By providing Driscoll legitimacy you’re sending a message to our nation and the city of Seattle that their injury is of second concern to you over making a spot for another celebrity pastor.

We beg you to think of the wounded saints. Encourage Driscoll to rectify things and take a break before he receives any further honors. Jim and I will be the first to invest in whatever his next phase is if he goes thorough the process.

Brian, If you choose to ignore our request please exercise the courage to ask Driscoll the following questions in your interview

Mark, why am I unable to find anyone who worked with you for years who is willing to come to your defense? I’m talking about leaders you ordained and who helped you establish Mars Hill as the fastest growing church in America. I’m talking about Paul Petry and Rob Smith and others.

Mark people think I invited you here to either “defend one of my own” or to “burnish my credentials as being merciful” they think the fact that I’m interviewing instead of giving you the “pulpit” is so I can “keep you on message”. Why are people so suspicious of MY motives? What does that tell you about the perception of Christian leaders? Is the media really to blame for all of that?

Why are your ex friends threatening to bring a lawsuit against you for above all things a “racketeering charge”? Did you or didn’t you use $210,000 of church funds to “game” the New York Times Bestseller list? What is all the fuss about the Global Fund? Did you guys raise money for orphans in India and Ethiopia and then divert them to local church planting efforts in Seattle?

Have you ever personally spoken with and apologized to Paul Petry or Rob Smith? Did you personally threaten to tarnish their ministry reputations? Did you or Mars Hill church actually “shun” them?

Thank you Mark, it’s been delightful