Tensions in the Team

olderpeopleincrowdThe relationship between a leader and team members is a delicate one.

Frequently, the relationship is strained and stretched sometimes beyond repair. Often no one knows what initially caused the problem. The attitudes and actions of the leader do affect the team member. They may in fact cause the spirit of the team member to react to the spirit of the leader. When this happens then the relationship is thrown into a tension that is destructive, unproductive, and possibly irreconcilable. The same is true with the team members’ the relationship is strained and stretched sometimes beyond repair. Often no one knows what initially caused the problem. attitudes and actions. They too can cause the spirit of the leader to react.

Often we are unaware of what it is that has caused the spirit of another to react but we can sense the distance or tension in the relationship. As leaders and team members, who are serving together as part of the church and God’s Kingdom, it is essential that our relationship not be torn apart.

In this article I want to point out some of the specific kinds of attitudes or actions that cause the spirit of team members to react to the spirit of the leader and then some attitudes and actions that cause the spirit of the leader to react to the spirit of the team member.

What causes the spirit of team members to react to the spirit of the leader?

  1. Awareness that they are not priority in his life/business (1 Kings 12: 16; 1 Timothy 4:16). * Sow: Leader is preoccupied with position, power, prestige, or possessions. * Reap: Team member doubts leader’s loyalty and concern for him or group’s best interest and becomes insecure and un-trusting. He perceives the leader as self-serving and arrogant.
  2. Lack of spiritual leadership. (1 Timothy 3:1-10). * Sow: Leader demonstrates a lack of spiritual leadership, discernment, wisdom, integrity, or character. * Reap: Team member feels insecure, is unable to place confidence in leader or to trust him, and seeks leadership from others he perceives as more credible.
  3. Inadequate preparation for changes (Genesis 29:25). * Sow: Leader does not communicate the changes or give the team member time to adjust and rearrange his frame of reference for major changes. * Reap: Team member feels betrayed and becomes insecure, apprehensive, and bitter. He may feel “out of the loop” and that he and his ideas are not valued.
  4. Unfavorable comparisons to other workers or organizations (1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Corinthians 10:12). * Sow: Leader openly admires other workers’ or organizations’ abilities and strengths, which the team member lacks. * Reap: Team member is deeply hurt, becomes resentful and jealous, and may begin to reject himself. He loses motivation in his work, thinking, Who cares.
  5. Lack of personal discipline (1 Timothy 3:2-5; Titus 1:6-9). * Sow: Leader lacks discipline of life and character (i.e., anger, moral purity, honesty) but refuses to discuss or change. * Reap: Team member’s admiration and respect for him as a leader are greatly damaged. He tolerates the leader and rejects the leader’s attempts to advise, coach, or counsel.
  6. Failure to recognize and express appreciation for extra little attempts to please him (1 Samuel 24). * Sow: Leader is insensitive to things the team member does to please him, helping him and the organization to succeed. * Reap: Team member begins to look for admiration and praise from others, ultimately loses creativity and motivation, and focuses on outside or other interests. He finds little or no meaning in his work.
  7. Attempts to correct in public (Galatians 6:1-3). * Sow: Leader uses jokes, cutting remarks, or public platforms to emphasize something he wants individuals to change. * Reap: Team member feels his self-worth is damaged and reacts with a desire to retaliate publicly to defend himself, or his spirit is wounded and he begins to withdraw.
  8. Rejection of their opinions and input as unimportant (Pilate’s wife, Matthew 27:19). * Sow: Leader evaluates team member’s opinions from his larger frame of reference and ignores their more immediate frame of reference. He asks for input but does not value or use it. * Reap: Team member is hurt and hindered from sharing cautions concerning leader’s judgment or character in the future. Team member guards his thoughts, insights, and conversations with the leader.
  9. Inconsistent discipline (1 Timothy 5:21; Colossians 4:1). * Sow: Leader defends or takes sides in disagreements with those accountable to the subordinate and against the team member. * Reap: The team member feels the leader is being disloyal to him and blames the leader for the rebelliousness in those subordinate and accountable to him. The leader loses credibility and respect in the team member’s mind.
  10. Unwillingness to acknowledge fault or to ask forgiveness (Luke 18:14; 1 Timothy 1:18,19). * Sow: The leader tends not to acknowledge or admit failures and will not ask forgiveness. * Reap: The team member and subordinates react to the leader’s pride and lose respect for him.
  11. Lack of credibility in leadership (1 Samuel 18:6-9). * Sow: The leader is unable to provide vision and integrity and lacks the competency to accomplish the task of leader. * Reap: The team member and subordinates react to the leader’s lack of leadership and lose confidence in the leader’s ability. The team member becomes frustrated and may become very independent, rejecting the leader completely.

What causes the spirit of a leader to react to the spirit of a team member?

  1. Awareness that the team member does not respect him as a leader (Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Peter 2:18-25). * Sow: The team member shows a lack of respect for leader’s decisions and leadership in general and resists his attempts to build a relationship. * Reap: The leader doubts his ability to lead the team member and is drawn more to those who respect and admire him and his leadership. The team member loses any influence with the leader and may jeopardize his job.
  2. Realization that the team member does not accept or respect him as a spiritual leader (1 Timothy 6:1-2). * Sow: The team member resists the leader’s authority and leadership and does not believe that God is working through his leadership. * Reap: The leader becomes discouraged and frustrated with trying to lead the team member and begins to shift decision making to someone else or becomes domineering toward the team member.
  3. Failure to appeal to the leader properly (Numbers 16:1-3; 14). * Sow: The team member demands, pressures, or connives. * Reap: The leader reacts in harshness or frustration and gives up trying to lead the team member. The team member loses the leader’s respect and confidence.
  4. Failure to develop outward effectiveness and inward character (Acts 15:37-39). * Sow: The team member does not develop positive skills, character, or attitudes and does not work effectively, which reflects negatively on the leader. * Reap: The leader loses interest in working with the team member and will dismiss him or withdraw from working with him.
  5. Failure to demonstrate genuine gratitude (Numbers 12:1-15; 1 Timothy 5:17-20). * Sow: The team member traps the leader by over- or underestimating the leader’s abilities. They do not express genuine gratitude. * Reap: The leader feels he cannot please the team member, so he focuses on reducing the team member’s expectations by withdrawing, feeling that nothing can possibly satisfy the team member’s expectations.
  6. Rejecting the leader’s attempts to help and protect (Numbers 20:1-13). * Sow: The team member does not understand the importance of the leader’s cautions and warnings and does not respond to the counsel. * Reap: The leader stops giving counsel and guidance or sharing warnings. The team member experiences the consequences of rejecting the warnings and cautions.
  7. Failure to realize that the leader needs quality time alone (Exodus 32:1-10). * Sow: The team member reacts negatively to times the leader is unavailable because he is spending time with the Lord, other team members, or personal responsibilities. * Reap: The leader becomes frustrated and feels guilty. He senses the pressure to be available but knows it is impossible to fulfill his leadership responsibilities and always be available.
  8. Failing to work hard and be responsible. (Ephesians 6:5-8) * Sow: The team member is lazy, self-serving, and irresponsible in the task that they have agreed to do. * Reap: The leader feels forced to over manage and maintain what has been assigned to the team member. Ultimately the frustration will force the leader to discipline or remove the team member from the position or responsibility.

Each of us likely finds ourselves in the position of the leader as well as that of a team member.

Take a moment and assess your own relationship in each situation. If you discover that there are attitudes or actions that may cause the spirit of the other person to react to your spirit you may need to deal with it before God and with that person. David sums up the value of maintaining right relationships with those we work with.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalms 133:1-3 NIV).


Clancy Hayes is training coordinator and district liaison for the Sunday School Department, Springfield, Missouri. Sunday School. All rights reserved. Used with permission.