Using power with integrity

Fred Smith gives three vignettes on power.

By Fred Smith

It is interesting to think of power in its many facets. For a few minutes, let's consider three of the faces of power. Competent leaders understand how power works, how to manage its use and how to discipline its effects.


 Flattery subtly used has immense power.

While addressing a large group of supporters for a Christian college, I said that one gift of some leaders of large Christian organizations is their ability to make the irresponsible comfortable. How else, I said, could large Christian organizations be as ineffective as they are? As an example, I pointed out that some of the largest churches in this country are larger than all the early church was, except they aren't turning their city upside down, much less the country.

I tried not to be meanspirited, using my criticism as medicine for a disease rather than a dagger for destruction. Scripture says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."

A popular minister immediately followed me and removed the sting by flattering the assembly. He indicated that they were the kind of people the world needs and if everyone were as good as they, there would be no problems. When he got through talking about the "dear, sweet people," I understood for the first time the power of subtle flattery.


Respected church consultant Lyle Schaller has said that if a pastor does not have a passion for the mission, he can forget the rest of leadership. A passion to make a worthwhile difference is indispensable to effectiveness. Passion and vision need to work together. Passion energizes vision, and vision disciplines the passion. The clearer the vision, the greater the passion. The closer we get to the goal, the more it demands of us and the more it means to us.


Power comes in many forms. It can be coercive or constructive. Power is necessary to get things done. It is the gasoline for the engine. Power can be used negatively to induce fear or positively as an affirming influence. There is both human power and spiritual power. Either can be used correctly or abused. Our character determines our use of power.

Here are a few examples of power a leader may use:

• The power of responsibility—conferred by authority or title.

• The power of persuasion—the ability to move an organization.

• The power of a charismatic personality—which can unite an effort.

• The power of a great vision .

• The power of verbalization—the ability to express an idea in

simple terms so people are moved to act.

Power correctly used is always a means and never an end. The able leader harnesses power as a tool on the road to accomplishment — it is never the destination.