2 posts categorized "Sundays with Friends" Feed

Sundays with Friends (other people's thoughts) #2

Amy Warner Radford kicked us off a few months ago talking about our faith communities and handling mental illness. You can read that post here

Today's post is from the newly married Rebekah Holman Clarke. Rebeckah is in the process of opening her own consulting firm. Today, she shares with us some salient and much needed thoughts on leadership.

It was April of 2010 and I went into work, thinking it would be a normal day.  As soon as I walked in, my boss asked me to swing by her office.  We usually chatted every morning so I thought nothing of it and even though she was a PhD and a Vice President, I was never really intimidated by her.  As soon as I walked in, I knew something was wrong.  She began to tell me about something I had done that she considered to be a huge error in judgment and, as a member of her management team, felt I should have known better.  I was caught completely off guard and quickly thought through the conversation she was referring to.  I didn’t realize that what I had said would cause such an issue and told her that.  We had a good conversation, including my apologizing and her telling me how we would move forward in correcting perceptions.  I left feeling a bit embarrassed, but knowing that we had patched up the issue.

Two hours later, we had a team meeting and went through the normal conversations and action items.  Immediately afterward, my boss asked me to stay behind along with one of her Directors.  We waited for everyone to leave and then out of nowhere, this Director proceeds to berate me up one side and down the other for the same issue I thought had been resolved with my boss.  I was confused, frustrated, embarrassed, and angry.  After 10 minutes, she was done and we adjourned.  And I began my job hunt as soon as I got home. 

It wasn’t until many months later that I realized I was working in a leadership environment that Lipman-Blumen (2005) refers to as “toxic”.  Toxic leaders are those that either engage in destructive behaviors toward their subordinates or exhibit dysfunctional personal characteristics.  Lipman-Blumen describes a number of destructive behaviors, including several listed below that hit close to home in my particular case:

  1. Misleading followers
  2. Failing to nurture followers, including successors
  3. Encouraging followers to hate or destroy others
  4. Identifying scapegoats
  5. Ignoring or promoting incompetence, cronyism, and corruption

The lesson in this story is not so much about toxic leadership, but for me, it’s about looking for the teaching moments as a leader.  I often rewind the conversations I had that day and try to think of what I could have done differently, but I think the real failure of action was on the part of my boss.  She missed a great opportunity to teach me about making better judgments calls.  She could have paired me up with the Director as mentor/mentee to learn how to handle those tough situations.  She could have encouraged me rather than berate me and allow others to belittle my actions and abilities.  She missed a great opportunity to use the situation to become a better leader…but I’ll take it if she won’t!


Lipman-Blumen, J. (2005). The allure of toxic leaders: Why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians – and how we can survive them. Oxford, UK:  Oxford University Press.

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Sundays with Friends. (Other people's thoughts) #1

Sundays with friends is a recurring segment of blog posts by friends of mine. They can be on any topic and will always be around 500 words. I may or may not agree with what  is written. Each post is entirely the work of my friend. Some will be religious, others will not. Maybe these posts will create conversations and maybe they won't. That's the beauty of experiments. :) This post is by my friend Amy Radford.

Amy writes:

There is an elephant in the room that the church is avoiding even though it has parked itself dead center in the middle of the center aisle.  It is something many live out on a day to day basis.  He is not cute and cuddly but big and gray and imposing.  It is mental un-health.  It is a stigma with much misunderstanding and generalizations.  Yet, in every church I have been in, I have met people on medication for various struggles with depression, OCD, anxiety or chemical imbalances.

I grew up in a "pray about it and get over it" culture.  The sufficiency of scripture was held to an almost unbalanced level.  Do not get me wrong!  I firmly believe in the power of prayer and the sufficiency of scripture but I also believe God gives us resources such as solid biblical Christian counselors and medical professionals. 

I also believe our current environment really impacts our emotional health.  Our fast paced society has increased stress and an overwhelming amount of information bombarding us every day.  Also, since the Industrial Revolution, the American diet and the amount of chemicals we are exposed to are making and impact not only on our physical health but our mental health as well.  A bible verse alone cannot "heal" it all.

I think it's time for an open dialogue.  This is not going away.  For people who are struggling, the church should be the first place they can find refuge. Instead they often find judgement or absolute silence. 

God created us to be a community.  It is the institution He created to represent himself on earth.  We are His hands and His feet so how are we using them in the lives of those who need it most?

You may ask, "Who are you to talk about this subject?"

I am not a medical professional or a certified counselor.  I do not have all the answers.  But, I have my story and my experiences.  I know how lonely it is to feel like you carry around a dirty little secret that you can't talk about.  I am a ministry kid, a pastor's wife, and almost twenty years ago I was diagnosed with Cyclothymia.  It is a battle I have lived for a long time.

You can find Amy on her blog here. She lives in NY with her family.

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