Last week a friend stopped by and mentioned he left his church. I learned he wasn’t alone.

It seems a large chunk of the congregation has fled, along with half the staff. I asked my friend for his take on what’s happening. His story resembles many others I’ve heard over the years.

“The pastor is very self-confident,” my friend explained. “He likes to remind everyone that he is the visionary. So when members or staff have a concern he just brushes them off. For him, it’s ‘my way or the highway.'”

If that’s an accurate description, is this a picture of visionary leadership–or something else?

Ministries need vision and leaders with vision. But sometimes church leaders use self-proclaimed “vision” as an excuse to bulldoze over those with whom they disagree.

So, what’s the difference between a leader exercising true vision, and one who seems to be on a solo power trip?

Vision vs. Visions of Grandeur

1. True vision comes from God. With that, it’s safe to assume God is more interested in plans that further his kingdom, rather than somebody’s fiefdom.

2. Vision is not defined as just another way of “getting my way.”

3. For a leader, confidence can be a benefit. Over-confidence, however, is arrogance–and dangerous, the stuff of tyrants.

4. Visionary leaders stay closely connected to their people. Unlike insulated Lone Rangers, they engage in abundant and frequent two-way communication with members and staff.

5. True leaders invite and welcome critique. They’re eager to adjust their vision when they learn valid and corrective insights from others. Believe it or not, God works through more than just one.

A high-profile pastor recently wrote an article about people who leave a church. He listed reasons why he thinks people leave, and suggested several ways to respond. Conspicuously absent, however, was any leadership responsibility for the people’s exodus.

That’s not healthy. That’s not visionary leadership. That’s just a prescription for blinders.