I fall prey to this temptation when the greatest day of my life is the day I become President, not the day my organization made great progress forward. I am the victim of this temptation when it is more important for me to be President than it is for my organization to change to meet the needs of a changing world. The drive has been to get ahead, to succeed, so, now that I’m here, I’ve succeeded and I need to do everything I can to stay here.

We see this when younger people are not given opportunities to have a voice in the organization or are not allowed to move into leadership and when older leaders fail to prepare successors. We also see this when leaders seek to move their organizations forward while looking backward.

This is not only a CEO problem. We frequently see it in directors who have arrived at their pinnacle in life:  POWER!, and don’t intend to give it up. They cut off all developing leadership, build a coalition of supporters and control every decision.

They have confused their purpose with their power and the seek  position over purpose, which means their status is more important than their results. This grows right of a major character flaw:  the need to be SOMEBODY!

If you are driven by a need to be somebody, you may well fall prey to the temptation of POSITION OVER PURPOSE. You can’t wash the feet of others because you can’t let them wash your feet. You can never be a slave leader to others unless you first become a slave to God by finding your significance in Him, not what you do.


This is the temptation to be popular rather than to lead. In this temptation, the CEO has such a deep need for approval that he cannot hold others accountable. Such a leader has a follower who is ineffective, whose ineffectiveness deeply disturbs the leader, and whose ineffectiveness deeply hinders the business, yet the leader does nothing. Because to do something—to hold that follower accountable—will cost the leader approval.

This temptation grows directly out of a major character flaw:  the need for approval.

You will never be able to resist the temptation to put people over purpose until you have overcome the need for approval.

Now, in fairness, I know there’s another reason this can happen, and that’s because we sometimes have to take the person we can get rather than the quality we want. Frequently we are shut up to the person who can raise funds, whether he is gifted and experienced for the task or not.

Or we’re the victims of an entitlement culture that says I should have a position in the home office when I return to because I am faithful and loyal. Or, we’re the victims of supporting entities that will believe any self-protecting lie they’re told. Or we’re the victim of interfering board members who mistake effective governance for personal power and love to play the CEO game.

In every one of these cases as a slave leader, you are called to wash feet. And you can never become a slave leader to others unless you became a slave to God by holding your followers accountable as He holds you accountable. Otherwise, you will continue to put PEOPLE OVER PURPOSE.


This is the temptation to put peace ahead of purpose by never allowing any conflict on your leadership team.

Differences of opinion are neither welcomed or tolerated in team meetings. Every agenda is tightly controlled so the only things on at are what you want on it. If any disagreement threatens to break forth, you quickly step into cut if off and bring harmony to the meeting, so you never allow the issues to be discussed. Sometimes that is wise—but all the time, and that is fear.

This temptation, like the rest, reflects a deep character flaw:  the need for harmony.