Skip to main content

I was a pushy follower, not a loving leader

by Ex-Pastor Dan ~

Starting Over

I am currently a senior at Columbia Southern University in their Environmental Science & Management program. Although most of my classes deal with science, I have to take two Management courses this semester to meet the requirements of my degree. In the course entitled Leadership, we have been studying great leaders and exploring the question – what makes a great leader? With my past in mind, I have been thinking a lot about what makes a truly great leader; had I ever known one? I know for sure that I was a terrible leader and sat under terrible leaders in the churches I went to and served in. For a recent essay, I was assigned the task of comparing two different styles of leadership: The leader who leads with Love and the leader who leads by inducing Fear. Wow, did that ever hit home! I not only sat under Fear Leaders, I knew that I had been one myself. I also was aware that I knew nothing about Love Leading until a very few years ago, after I became an EX-Christian, humanist/atheist. Below I have printed a slightly revised version of my essay. I had to “de-church” it for the business school professor, but for this audience I am able to share the unfiltered and ugly truth of my life as a Christian leader. We pick up the essay somewhere in the middle:

…the "attitude" of the follower is a great gauge of the Leadership "success" of the one at the helm. I have been in leadership roles for decades: Husband, Father, Teacher, Pastor, Division Manager, Business Owner, President of two small Corporations. Until recently, I would consider myself a whopping failure as a leader in all of these endeavors. Certain life lessons (Astreja would call these ‘clue by fours’) have forced me to examine my life and my leadership style. I have been weighed in the balance and found "wanting".

Seven years ago it all came crashing down! With the sudden loss (and subsequent bankruptcy) of a second business in 10 years, I found myself looking at starting over again, at the age of 54 years. I was broken (and broke!) and at the end of my rope. I had two choices; end it all (which I gave much consideration), or start over. Starting over would involve much "soul" [sic] searching, re-education, and tons of energy. I didn’t know if I had it in me, but I needed to know why things kept going wrong with business ventures and my relationships. Why couldn't I find a way to bring my great ideas to financial success? Why did I continue to get involved with the "wrong" partners? Why did business associates find it easy to rip me off? Why was "hard work" (12 hour days, 7 days a week) simply not enough? Why did my kids hate me? Why was my wife considering divorce? What was the missing ingredient? What was I doing wrong??

Character Traits

A Pushy Follower is one who thinks that they are leading because they keep shouting directions from the rear and kicking people in the butt. “Speed it up”, “Turn Left”, “Stop”, “You went the wrong way”, “U Turn”, “Jump!” etc.
That was me. I was always pushing, pushing, pushing. Never "leading" from the front, by example, but always “pushing” from the rear and motivating through Fear. Relentlessly barking orders; instructing; correcting....intimidating my subordinates. Come to find out, as I learned from my long-suffering wife, I did these same things at home (what a shocker, huh?). I needed a make-over; a change in direction; a change in attitude; a change in mindset. I needed to learn HOW TO LOVE!

With the help of my wonderful wife and children, I came up with a list of character traits that I exuded as I led by "Pushing":
  •  Induced FEAR and SHAME
  • RULE maker, and ENFORCER
  • SERIOUS (stern)
  • CLOSE MINDED (my way or the highway)
  • DREAM KILLER (balloon popper)
  • Always RIGHT (even with customers - they were never right!)
Over the past 7 years I have made a conscious effort to re-educate myself and find the "new me" inside. Perhaps it was the old me or the child inside that had been pushed into a dark corner and not allowed to make himself known. For those of you who know my story, you’ll know that there were many traumatic reasons why my “inner child” was destroyed; reasons why my loving nature had been forced into the abyss of a legalistic, cultist quagmire. But, after coming out of the delusion of that religious brainwashing, I was determined to set that little boy free. Since I had lost everything financially, and had no more businesses to run, I began to take the baby steps of character building with my family. My family was the only thing left that I cared about, and although most of those relationships were teetering on the edge, I decided I would try and salvage it. Here are some of the traits that I now equate with a "Loving Leader" (or just a loving human being):
  • Being OPEN to new ideas
  • ENCOURAGING the uniqueness of others
  • Searching for KNOWLEDGE and gaining it from NEW RESOURCES
  • KIND
  • LOVING (Loving as a "VERB", showing love & really understanding what Love is - at least beginning to)


For most of my life I had been living and leading as a hubristic, overweening A$$HOLE! I was an un-LOVING, ignorant (although highly educated), controlling, fearful, self-centered, NON-leader, who pushed others out front to take the bullets, while I barked orders from the rear. I had become a REMF. That is an acronym we used in Viet Nam. REMF stood for - R.ear E.chelon M.utha F.u#*er; usually a junior officer who never led from the front by walking “point,” but pushed from the back, barking orders and designing recons while they cowered in fear and remained back at base camp. Many of these REMFs got "fragged" (a term for getting knocked out by a grenade fragment - a stray grenade would somehow find its way into their tent - accidentally) before they could finish their tour. I was just like those arrogant, ignorant, fearful officers, and I got "fragged"; fragged by my family, by my business associates, by the church, and by God. Turns out, God was the biggest REMF of all!

The good news is that "turn-arounds" are possible. Since my DE-conversion, I feel like I have been Born Again … again!! I have become (or am in process of becoming) a "loving leader". My family is slowly allowing me to take the reins of leadership again, only this time things are much different! I am no longer a Pusher! We are making new memories that are based upon LOVE, acceptance, wisdom, reality and cooperation. I have also begun a new stage in my career. After starting at the bottom, three years ago, I was recently picked to run a whole new division on another, larger installation. It came with a hefty raise and more responsibility. One of the greatest compliments of my life was paid to me by the head of the department when he told me why he had picked me over the several dozen other applicants. He said, "I picked you, NOT because of your education or experience, I picked you because of your ability to lead people." I almost wept... And to think, I never uttered one prayer.