Have You Fallen for Gnostic Leadership?




  1. relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge.

Gnostic leaders are those leaders who believe they have a "special" or even "mystical" knowledge about how to get things done. These are the sorts of leaders who just don't have time to train you, won't share information or data with you and keep their knowledge to themselves, ensuring that they are the only ones, that special one, who can get it done.

Gnostic leaders lead in a selfish, self-serving and hoarding way. In other words, they seek power and to disadvantage others. Contrast this with a servant leader.

Gnostic leaders hoard their knowledge.

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Servant leaders share their knowledge.

Gnostic leaders create efficient followers capable of implementing their knowledge.

Servant leaders equip entrepreneurial leaders who are empowered to lead in their spheres of influence.

Gnostic leaders are focused solely on what they know and ensuring that those they lead know it is they alone who have the knowledge

Servant leaders are focused on making sure others know.

Gnostic leaders ensure they are the smartest person in the room. They either hoard information or eliminate the "competition."

Servant leaders walk into a room believing the knowledge they need is already there in the person of those they lead.

Gnostic leaders learn for self-serving reasons.

Servant leaders learn for other-serving reasons.

Gnostic leaders want to increase their number of followers.

Servant leaders want to build their followers.

There are too many Gnostic leaders—leaders who keep their "special knowledge" or "mysterious ways" all to themselves and fail to develop others. This is problematic. The ultimate test for any organization is whether it can sustain itself into the future. Gnostic leaders put organizational sustainability in jeopardy because they refuse to share their knowledge, data, information and more.

As organizational management expert Noel Tichy says, "Any organization that is not developing people to become the next generation of leaders is not an organization that can sustain itself."

And this requires trust.

Ultimately, the Gnostic leader's unwillingness to share creates three problems. One, the Gnostic leaders create a "brain" vacuum because they are not sharing their knowledge with those the lead. Second, gnostic leaders create a trust gap because they only trust themselves to know what to do. The combination of a "brain" vacuum and a trust gap creates a development deprivation.

This creates organizational limitations. It hampers growth. It slows change. It diminishes innovation.

Trust, however, scales. Trust begets trust. Trust builds trust. Trust scales.

Shared knowledge creates new learning which in turns creates new knowledge. Shared knowledge scales.

Gnostic leaders believe others don't deserve to know. In reality, what we need is servant learning: learning with an eye toward sharing with others, learning to help grow and develop others, learning to serve others better.

It comes down to a battle in the heart of every leader. Either they open themselves to trusting, sharing, giving and serving those they lead or pursue a path of selfish power by hoarding and distrusting those they lead.

Ultimately, gnostic leaders are afraid. They view leadership through the lens of scarcity and so lead in a way that makes efficient servants out those they lead. Gnostic leaders cannot trust and so can never love. Servant leaders, however, love those they lead. They lead with the knowledge that perfect love cast out fear, so they are not afraid of those they lead; rather, they love those they lead because, for them, leadership begins with love.

The ultimate example of a trusting, sharing, empowering and loving leaders is Jesus Christ. "'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matt. 28:19-20).

The church is the ultimate example of trust and love scaling. This is why Gnostic leaders should not be permitted to stifle others through mistrust and fear. Leadership begins with a love that trusts and casts out fear.

Rob Jacobs is the pastor of spiritual maturity for Saddleback Church. He is responsible for leading and overseeing discipleship processes and programs, leadership development and leadership development programs.

This article originally appeared at lifeway.com.

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