Thursday, December 18, 2008


In continuing our discussion of conflict and some of the problems seen in leadership I would like to briefly discuss manipulation. Your comments are welcome. Just click on "Comments" at the end of the article.

To often leaders are guilty of manipulation. Manipulation is unhealthy in any relationship and is a violation of trust. It involves the dishonest use of influence to get people to do what you want them to do and is an underhanded means of controlling people. Leaders use manipulation when they lack the ability to lead by inspiration, when they have ulterior or hidden motives, or when they are trying to get people to do what the individuals most likely would not do if they had access to all the facts. Manipulation involves giving partial truth and withholding information that would be necessary for others to make an objective decision. It means distributing information selectively, giving little twists to the facts, and sharing only that which would cause other people to respond favorably to the objectives being presented.

Being diplomatic can “put a sweet face” on manipulation. Diplomacy in its positive sense refers to the ability to handle affairs in such a way as to arouse the least hostility, the ability to deal with people wisely in such a way as to stir up the least amount of conflict. This is consistent with proverbs wisdom which exhorts us to control our spirit, guard our tongue, and to speak wisely without stirring up unnecessary strife. This can be a good characteristic in leadership. However, we must also remember that diplomacy disassociated from truth becomes manipulation. A leader who is being diplomatic in his pursuit of peace must be careful lest he become less than honest in dealing with people. A lie that makes people feel better is still a lie. A leader must adhere to truth and reality in working with people. He should not stretch the truth, give half-truths, or lie in order to pacify or to get what he wants.

Manipulation in leadership represents a failure at honesty and sincerity. It is an absence of faith in the Sovereign God to accomplish His work by the Spirit of God. It is a lack of faith in God's ability to work in other people. It is also a failure to respect other people.
Godly leaders lead by influence, example, and truth, and not by manipulation. People follow good leaders because they trust them. Many people were offended by Jesus, but they were offended by truth. Jesus never lied or misled them to get them to do what He wanted. It is not God’s will that integrity be sacrificed for vision. If the vision is of God, then God will fulfill it in His time and in His way. When leaders have to sacrifice integrity to get people to “do the right thing” then the leaders are “off track.”
Leadership should always remember that obtaining objectives by the use of specious arguments (those which appear sound and correct without really being so) only create the illusion of success. Sooner or later reality will come to light and people will be upset.
Godly leadership requires reality and spiritual substance in those who lead. People of spiritual depth, integrity, and truth do not have to manipulate. They are willing to trust God to inspire people to do the right thing, and they are willing to let the vision fail rather than use the enemy's methods to get the job done.


smokin joe said...

I agree Billy, this is very true. And there are forms of manipulation that are very subtle, semi-sweet and have the 'appearance of godliness.' Some leaders know how to 'manage' people instead of loving and caring for them, and call it 'leadership'.

I read a book a while back called "Power versus Force" with the basic idea that when we use our soul power (mind, will, emotions) to try to 'make' things happen or move a process forward, it = force. But when we surrender our own ideas or will and surrender to God's direction, trusting Him to do whatever needs done, we then begin to function with true 'power' = dunamis. Force never accomplishes the will of God, only true power does.

Billy Long said...

(I have taken the liberty to post a comment sent by a friend. BL)


Awesome blog. I was under a very manipulative leader for a long time. It has taken
Me a long time to get out of the guilt and shame that that kind of leadership breeds.
However, it has helped me to go the opposite route and lead thru inspiration and encouragement.
There Is a huge difference between someone who wants to serve as to someone who feels forced to serve.


D__ R___

Jessica said...

Wow..."someone who feels forced to serve." I never thought about it that way, but reflecting on that, I think you are right. If a person is not personally convicted to serve in leadership (therefore resulting in honesty and not manipulation), then why is he in leadership and why does he manipulate?

Billy Long said...

Thanks, Jessica for your comment. It is so good to hear from you. Please tell your folks hello for me.

Dwayne Rodeffer said...

True "servant" leadership focuses our attention on God. Managing a group of people focuses our attention on the manager.. The servant leader leads with the realization that he is dependent on The Holy Spirit and therefore the Glory goes to God... The manager is limited to his own ability and cunning therefore the glory goes to himself.

I believe God uses both types of leaders to accomplish His purposes.. Authority is God given...Right? there are fair leaders and some not so fair leaders.. There is King Saul and there is King David(who did some "unfair" things too).

The key is where has God placed you and a dependance on the Holy Spirit to lead you as you serve.

Break the Mold said...

This was a great reminder in God's Sovereignty. I did not realize I struggled with this until I read this. You said...
"It(manipulation) is an absence of faith in the Sovereign God to accomplish His work by the Spirit of God. It is a lack of faith in God's ability to work in other people."
I realize that sometimes in my zeal and passion for people to be closer to God or see Him more clearly I try to push things along...I am jealous for the body of Christ (especially those close to me) to embrace His holiness and Sovereignty and yet my wanting to push them towards it and manipulate them into their own sanctification shows I am not trusting in His Sovereignty...Ugghh!
Thanks for the great post!
Dawn George
Miami, Florida

Billy Long said...

(I am posting here a comment sent in by another friend. -BL

Billy, ... The spirit of control is everywhere in the church. Jesus is demanding his headship back. I feel for the leaders who won't let go of control. It will not go well with them. Merry Christmas.
Bob H

Billy Long said...

(With permission, I am posting here a comment sent to me from a friend, Brad Owen.---Billy L)

Hi Billy,
I am sitting on the couch, whilst C____, A___, D__, and more are on the
floor playing games… I am finally trying to write about your blog. I have not yet commented on this post because I am not sure how it will turn out and I might be embarrassed at my own
To start with, I tried to respond when it was first posted, but could not put down any good thoughts; actually found myself writing religiously, no life in it; and thus I did not post it.
Secondly, the first thing I found myself thinking and responding to is the resistance to manipulation, how it left me feeling like I wanted to fight. Maybe the reason(s) was that I was finally able and willing to NOT allow myself to be manipulated, and willing to fight for what I thought was right. I remember speaking with you just after… and I was surprised by my response to some question, by saying, "I have learned to not take any bull from anybody". Finally I am
able to stand on my own feet and not be pushed to any conclusions, but able to
express my feelings and what I thought God was saying to me, and not worry about the
responses of others. Then you wrote in the blog about manipulation and I found myself wanting to pick a fight with I____. I remember how you wrote in your correspondence with me about responding to R___ how I was wanting to make I____ mad and get a response from him. You
counseled us to not make him mad. I wanted to make him mad and get him to fight so we could hit him head on. As I thought about your blog and considered my response I found that I was maybe reacting to the way I was manipulated in my past. I also a found that my response today is almost a defiance of how I used to be. Maybe I am over reacting. I want to make people confront their sins, their issues, the things that keep God from being the center of all. This is what I thought when I read about manipulation. I wrote you about how it was good to pick a fight like William Wallace goes out to the first battle and tells his guys that he is going to pick a fight. That's what I want to do. I am willing to do things that do that. This is my first response to your blog. Now that I have taken time and digested it, I see that this response may not be the best for the person that I wanted to pick a fight with, aka I____, ___, anyone who manipulates me or others. You see where I am? I have a long way to go.
Love you man. Glad to be walking with folks that I can be honest with,

Billy Long said...

[By permission, I am posting a comment sent to me by Tim West. -BL]

I read on manipulation and found it very insightful. I have always tried to be an encourager and have sometimes wondered if I go too far to make others feel good about themselves by slightly exaggerating their accomplishments. Where does encouragement end and manipulation begin? It can be a fine line I guess. I'd rather err on the side of encouragement toward others than to have the critical spirit that I once had! Woe is me! I just can't seem to get it right.
Glad Laurel got to go to California. You guys have a great new year!

Tim West

Billy Long said...

The difference in what you described versus manipulation is that you are trying to encourage people rather than trying to get them to do what you want against their will. Flattery is usually insincere or for some self-interest. It sounds like you are trying to encourage someone, even if with a little exaggeration.