"Learning to take the heat and receive people's anger in a way that does not undermine your initiative is one of the toughest tasks of leadership. When you ask people to make changes and sacrifices, it's almost inevitable that you will frustrate some of your closest colleagues and supporters, not to mention those outsider your faction . . . In this sense, exercising leadership might be understood as disappointing people at a rate they can absorb."
"Think about the times you have had something to say and have pulled back, when you have tried or failed, or succeeded but were bruised along the way. Or when you have watched the trials and successes of other people. The hope of leadership lies in the capacity to deliver disturbing news and raise difficult questions in a way that people can absorb, prodding them to take up the message rather than ignore it or kill the messenger."
Ronald A. Heifetz and Martin Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002).
“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together; Prayerbook of the Bible, trans., Daniel W. Bloesch and James H. Burtness, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5 (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 36.
I like what Bonhoeffer said in the quote I pasted above. I have to say that I'm not sure about the way Heifetz and Linsky phrase these ideas. They are saying something like, "politics is the art of the possible" (Otto von Bismarck). As Christians, I don't think we need to be so calculating or so fearful of getting killed. The goal is what is really crucial and the means to get there. If the goal is noble (I like to point to Acts 1:8--witness to Jesus Christ), then we can forge ahead. The means are also crucial (not ruling over others with punishments as our means as the pagans do, Matt 20:25-26; Mark 10:42-43). We instead lead (not intentionally disappointing our followers at the rate they can absorb) but rather in tears trying to persuade them as a parent (as the apostle Paul does in 1-2 Corinthians). It may be that we are heeded and it may be that we are killed. We release the power to bring revenge or punishment on those who do not accept our pleas. The evil leader operates in a way that "demands" (as Bonhoeffer says) or "exercises authority over" (as Jesus puts it). They reserve the right to force their followers to bend to their will. They compel. Rightly understood leadership is "always persuasion, all the way down" (Stanley Hauerwas). We see the apostle Paul and Jesus persuading but they will not in the end force their will. Therefore, people will be disappointed in us for not getting all goals accomplished or all dreams fulfilled and we will be disappointed in ourselves. But it is not clear ahead of time when we will disappoint people and when they will be persuaded. There is real agency on the part of our followers. We should not manipulate.
I have been leaning on Gal 6:9: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."