The Vacillator Leader

This month’s newsletters will be about How We Love as Leaders.  In my office, I see many Christian leaders, lay and professional who cover the range of attachment styles.  This series is dedicated to helping understand what each attachment style looks like and how they can improve as leaders within theKingdom of Christ.

It was the first day of the fall women’s Bible study and three hundred women were buzzing with excitement as they took their seats.  With a big smile, the women’s ministry director Elaine took the stage.  With microphone in hand she began by welcoming the group and sharing an opening prayer.  She was excited and passionate as she shared the vision for the women’s ministry for the next ministry season.

As she continued to talk, she noticed two of her group leaders on the front row engaged in a private conversation.  Even thought she continued her speech, she was suddenly preoccupied with the fact that they were ignoring her.  Her inner thoughts took on their own dialogue:

“They should be supporting me right now.”

“What are they talking about?”

“I cannot believe how rude they are.”

Just then, they made an obligatory glance to the podium, and returned their gaze toward one another.  There was one final whisper which led to head nods, and silent laughter complete with crinkled noses and shaking shoulders.

As Elaine continued her talk, her internal world began to darken. She was fighting to stay in the game as public speaker while ruminating over thebetrayal of those whom she thought were her friends.  As her talk drew to a close, she warmly introduced all of the group leaders, but when it came to the “last two”, her countenance had changed.  With no direct eye contact, and a fabricated business like smile, she pointed to the inattentive leaders, dryly announced their names and dismissed the groups to their designated areas.

As the group broke up, she walked by the duo and curtly said,

“We need to talk.”

“About what?” The surprised leaders asked.

“We’ll talk about the way you embarrassed me later.”

The two leaders, knowing they were in trouble, looked at each other and stared… like deer in the head lights.  Their gaze was interrupted by their students pulling them to their discussion area.  Both of the leaders had a difficult time keeping their concentration and struggled to have a positive first day at Bible study.

The discussion later in the day was tumultuous with loads of hurt, pain, shame, humiliation, and betrayal expressed by Elaine.  The discussion didn’t end well and both of the leaders walked away feeling ashamed and disoriented as to how they might return to her good graces. It ended up taking several weeks for the two to feel accepted again, yet they were held at arm’s distance… just enough to make them both feel nervous… like they were walking on egg shells.

Elaine is probably a vacillator leader and as such there are certain distinctions that mark them whether male or female.  Here are some of the common characteristics.

  • Idealized corporate or ministry goals, including unparalleled hopes for unity, love and performance levels.
  • Idealism is easily shattered and they become very upset at failure to meet the ideal objectives.
  • New situations and people are idealized and red flags are ignored which causes them to jump into relationships or commitments quickly.  They are overly trusting in the beginning stages.
  • They desire accolades and applause as it builds their self esteem.  They are other dependent for their view of themselves and need constant reinforcement. 
  • They become jealous if others receive praise.  It is hard for them to share the spotlight unless they are the clearly the front runner of the leadership team.  They can become easily threatened when others shine.
  • They desire intensity in all relationships, including religious experiences. They will tend to gravitate toward experiential kinds of religious experiences where they feel close to God. They can flip to the other side as well and may feel disconnected and distant from God.
  • Easily hurt if leadership is rejected, challenged or criticized.  They will in turn reject the opposition, devalue them and begin to distance from them. They personalize any type of rejection, are hurt, push others away and then become angry at perceived abandonment.
  • As hyper-vigilant observers from childhood, they believe that they are very intuitive and can read others’ motivations from non verbal cues.  They often misread situations and draw erroneous conclusions about what others think about them. They then operate on these assumptions as though they were true.
  • Appearance is everything, so dressing attractive and looking good in all situations is paramount.  If anything makes them look bad, they become furious with those who caused the problem.  They are self conscious, embarrass easily and are shame based if they feel they are have someway failed or fallen short.
  • They can have high highs and low lows and often question their leadership when they can’t sense the presence of God and the undying support of others.  They are moody and can appear warm and up beat one minute or cold and pouty another.
  • They appear controlling to maintain these standards demanding perfection in themselves and others.
  • They can be flirtatious, have affairs of the heart or actual romantic affairs in which they believe they have found the man or woman of their dreams.

In a few weeks, we will begin to discuss how to help each of these leaders, but next week we will describe the controller leader.

Thanks for listening.



Next week:  The Controller Leader