More on Toxic Leaders and How to Identify Them

Brad Sargent aka Futuristguy has cheered me on for years now, ever since I started blogging about my spiritual abuse experience at the hands of Timothy Shelby Williams, founder of Sound Doctrine Institute.

What an honor it was to spend time with him yesterday discussing the possible publishing of his life work. The overall series is for both survivors of spiritual abuse (and their support networks) and organizational developers (social activists, church planters, church and non-profit leaders), and is about deconstructing systems that damage and constructing systems that are healthy.

As we discussed the content and I scanned through some of the charts, I was stunned to see such accurate descriptions of the toxic leadership roles common in unhealthy organizations. Yep, there’s nothing new under the sun… evil men who are puppets of the evil one use the same tactics to control and manipulate those under their influence.

I’m sharing 2 charts that were particularly meaningful to me. You can view the articles on these particular topics on Brad’s blog here.

The two that captured my attention were the comparison of organizations run by agents of damage vs. agents of healing and the pyramid of responsibility. So telling. If you’ve ever been involved in a toxic organization, you’ll be able to identify the roles your leaders played pretty easily. I know I did.



My experience may have been the extreme end of the spectrum, but there are so many other examples of this type of abuse in the church today. I hear from people all the time who’ve survived abuse in the church. Sadly, many of them lose their faith and never return. Just what the enemy was hoping for.

As you read these charts, does any of it resonate with you?

I’d love to hear your comments.

4 thoughts on “More on Toxic Leaders and How to Identify Them

  1. This is great stuff, Athena. Truly great. I often wonder though…if the church was well taught in the essential core doctrines of the Christian faith, how many would actually fall pray to cults and abusers like SD and others? I am all for apologetics and cult research info but I do wonder if the that’s the backdoor way to protect believers while the front door (good and early discipleship in what Christianity truly is) is sometimes neglected.

    I think more folks fall prey to deception, not because they know the faith well and they want to depart from it but because they have only been exposed to a warped version of true Christianity and the cult fills in the holes that the person’s lacking version of Christianity has.

    If people really knew Christianity in all it’s glory and understood, even partially, God’s amazing, initiating and sustaining grace in saving sinners from death and hell, I think far less of them would ever fall for such shallow substitutes like the Watchtower, LDS, SD and others.

    I say this without any pride. I almost read Hating for Jesus 25 years ago and was almost roped in! Any of us are prone to wander. And I don’t condemn any poor saint that was deceived. I love you and love all of you that fell in, made it out or are still in! It breaks my heart.

    All the personal, emotional stuff aside, I am just asking the question: What would a well trained church look like? How few would fall into extremes of doctrine and practice if we were actively taking new believers under our wings and instructing them in the things of the faith once for all delivered to the saints?

    Good stuff, Thank you for sharing this one!

    • Amen, my friend. We aren’t discipling new believers the way we should be, that is for sure! I know I never learned the difference between scripture in context and out of context… that would have been very helpful as a foundational element… there was lots more to it, but you’ve brought up some great questions … thanks for your feedback! I appreciate you! 🙂 In fact, Ailen and I were just talking about you the other day!

  2. The chart made me very aware of somethings that my husband had been pointing out to me, but I had been defending, especially cronyism and nepotism. He had also tried to point out to me the applauders. It makes me wonder if I’m just being a pawn.

    • Thanks Anita. I know the feeling, when you realize you’ve been ignoring the red flags to your own demise. Praise God for this accurate description that helps us see truth, even when it hurts.

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