Yesterday, the news reported that the trigger-happy dictator from North Korea has executed around 340 people since 2011. Most of the victims were high-level leaders including multiple defense ministers and an education minister with a bad-attitude (it must have been a really bad attitude). The consensus is that he continues to use fear and death as a means of maintaining control and proving his strength as a leader. Think about every picture that is released of him. Who are the people in the background? He is almost always surrounded by military leaders with stern faces.
When I first read this story, I was quick to judge the North Korean Dictator as an evil guy with a terrible leadership style. But then–as is often the case with God–the Lord began to remind me of a few things I’ve done.
As a parent, I’ve disciplined out of anger, and used punishment to instill fear in my children. There have been numerous examples of situations where I wasn’t trying to train my kids in the way they should go. Instead, my kids had done something I didn’t like, and I wanted them to feel my wrath. In those moments, I was a dictator parent.
As a businessman, I’ve used the disciplinary process to scare people into submission. I’ve written people up or given them verbal warnings because I’m angry. There have been occasions where I did not communicate clearly, and then punished an employee because they didn’t follow through in the way I wanted them to. In those moments, I was a dictator boss.
As a husband, yes even as a husband, I’ve made similar mistakes. I’d rather not tell you about the situations in which I’ve made my wife cry–situations in which I was a jerk. You’ll just have to trust me, there have been times when I’ve been a dictator husband.
Although not nearly to the same extent, whenever we as a leaders use threats of punishment, emotional manipulation or anger as our primary means of motivation, we are showing the same terrible leadership exhibited by the North Korean dictator. The scary part, is bad leadership is our default. None of us are good leaders by nature. It takes God’s grace and Holy Spirit motivated intentionality to move past dictatorial style leadership, to showing the same patience and kindness God exhibits toward us.
Remember, God is slow to anger (Ps.86:15) and is patient toward us (2 Peter 3:9). It is his kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom.2:4). As intentional Christians, we are to reflect these characteristics in our leadership styles.
As parents, we should be disciplinarians and not punishment driven executioners. Discipline trains a child, punishment, well, it punishes.
As leaders in the workplace, we should develop and maintain mature relationships with coworkers built on good communication, clearly defined expectations, consistent accountability and effective encouragement. Instead of punishing them or responding in anger, we shape coworkers into those who act the way we want them to act.
As spouses–husbands and wives who submit to one another (Eph.5:21)–we should help one another grow in character and faith.
We are not on our own. God is with us, and will help us be intentional in these ways.