No one accepts a leadership position for the joy of facing opposition. It is a sad reality that too often leaders buckle under the pressure. Stare down your opposition instead and deal appropriately with those who will challenge you unfairly.
At my church this past Sunday, I made a passing reference in my sermon to Jesus’ challenging statement, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away —it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk 9:42). After the service, a person, who has had some difficulties with the changes that have come upon this church since I took over leadership, asked me if I knew where I could get a millstone.
I hope I’m wrong, but I wondered to myself later whether he was actually saying he wished me dead? It would be strange for a person to admit he himself qualified for this treatment, so he must have been suggesting I deserved such treatment, right? If so, then, wow, this guy is really having a hard time with my leadership.
Opposition is Hard for Any Leader
Taking on leadership of a project or team is hard enough, especially for introverts like myself. Leadership is made that much harder when we begin to face opposition. Stare down your opposition by letting the quality of your leadership stand on the quality of your work and on how you build up others.
Jesus Faced Opposition
Despite his best efforts, even Jesus faced opposition in his time. This is a point well known. One such example occurred early in his career when he began to teach in a synagogue at Capernaum, a village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee:
Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, “What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit threw him into convulsions, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him.
They were all amazed, and so they began to ask each other: “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once the news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee. (Mark 1:23–28, CSB)
This man —whether mentally ill or demon-possessed— opposed Jesus’ teaching in full view of the people gathered. The man challenged Jesus’ motives by suggesting he had come to do violence against those gathered. This seems absurd, on the face of it. However, the people of ancient Israel had a foreboding sense they were no longer favoured by God among the nations. He had sent them into exile previously and they were currently being oppressed by the Romans. Maybe anytime he might abandon them completely.
So, the man was playing into the fears of the congregation by suggesting Jesus meant them harm. He was trying to distract them from listening to Jesus’ teaching. The man was undermining Jesus’ leadership.
Jesus used his divine power to both silence the demon and cast it out of the man. Helping the man in this way, of course, the people were amazed at both Jesus’ teaching and his authority.
Opposition Will Come
You may be called upon or even hired for a leadership position, in your work or your community. By taking on such a responsibility, you are thrust into a position of some authority. This can be quite intimidating, especially for the introvert; less so for the extrovert. Despite our temperament, a sad reality of leadership is opposition will almost certainly arise, at some point, and to some degree. You will then be facing opposition. What is your next move, leader?
Knowing we will face opposition, the key for leaders is dealing with such people well. Not everyone has the capacity to cast out a demon, no matter what we feel about the person causing us trouble. Jesus both dealt with the opposition directly and dealt with the person helpfully. As a result, the people were amazed at his teaching AND his teaching was validated by his actions. His fame quickly spread.
Deal with Opposition Appropriately
American journalist Edward R. Murrow once argued,
If we confuse dissent with disloyalty [others] will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. (Edward R. Murrow, Ford Fiftieth Anniversary Show, CBS and NBC, June 1953)
Of course, he was speaking to the rights of citizens and the responsibility of governments, but I think leaders at every level should remain mindful of this principle. Not all dissent is disloyalty to our leadership. Don’t treat dissenters wrongfully. Outright opposition, when it appears, can be quite hurtful to the leader and harmful to the team. Deal with opposition only when it is, in fact, opposition.
The way to do this is by interacting with and leading those following you with integrity and humility. Deal with opposition appropriately. Let your leadership stand on the quality of your work and the way you treat team members, and your fame too will spread.
Have you ever faced such a challenge to your leadership?
What did you do to deal with it?
Did it work?
Please submit your reflections or any questions below. I would love to hear from you!
 https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edward_R._Murrow (accessed 29-Jan-2018).