A Question for All Leaders: Will You Make it Safe? Part 2

In Part 1 of this post series, I introduced the question that is one of the most important ones followers ask of leaders – whether they vocalize it or not. “Will you make it safe for me or will I have to defend myself?”

As I’ve studied the concept, I’ve learned there are three important answers to the question that those you lead must either see explicitly or know implicitly. In this post, I’ll address the first answer.

I think the root of my suggestion is the (quite literally) age-old question of whether it is better for a leader to be loved or feared. And that question likely goes back to one of your high school World History classes and Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, the 16th century Renaissance Italian philosopher. The term “Machiavellianism” is a perjorative that refers to a heavy handed and dishonest leader and which finds its origination in his most famous writing.

In his work, “The Prince,” Machiavelli addresses the question of whether it is better for a leader (the “Prince”) to be loved or feared. His response? “The answer is that one would like to be both the one and the other; but because it is difficult to combine them, it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.”  This quote is often used to defend the argument that Machiavelli advocated leaders keeping followers in a tight grip of control and under the threat of punishment. Yet even he cautioned against “fear that leads to hatred.”

Of course the central thesis of this post series is that there is no such option – love or fear – for the leader who is a follower of Christ. I would even suggest that the two are mutually exclusive. There is love and then more love, service and then more service. Care and then more care.

(It is at this point that you may be tempted to respond thoughtfully – “Duh.” Because it seems to be obvious that a disciple of Christ does not lead from the posture of power, control, manipulation and intimidation. Yet, as I write this, two high-profile pastors of very large churches are under fire for specially just such an approach.)

So a leader who will follow Christ must go beyond simply not leading from a perspective of fear. He or she must provide answers to the followers’ question: “Will you make it safe for me?” Or, stated another way, “Will you work to banish fear as far from our relationship as possible?”

Otherwise, there can’t be relationship, growth, innovation or vision in your ministry.


The Leader's Answer #1: I will make it safe because I will earn your trust over and over 

Your personal integrity is where your leadership effectiveness starts. Always has been, always will be. That is because the leader’s integrity caps the relational trust that is possible. The higher the integrity, the higher the trust. As integrity crumbles, trust goes right along with it.

And, like it or not, trust is a “what have you done for me lately?” proposal. It takes what you do every day to maintain and can be crushed by what you do in a moment.

It means that as leaders we are always teaching, with our actions, with our decisions, with our silence and, occasionally, with our words. It means everything is an example. Often, it’s an example I want to set, sometimes it’s not – and I usually wince later thinking about it.

And if it sounds like a deep commitment, it surely is. When the Lord assigns you to a leadership role it is both a privilege and a responsibility. But the joy is found in the realization that He can and do mighty things through a lay leader, pastor, minister, Sunday School teacher or small group leader who is truly trustworthy. One who loves and is loved.

In the next post, the leader’s second answer to the question, “Will you make it safe?”


  1. […] Part 2, I zeroed in on the first good answer to the question: I will make it safe because I will earn […]