The Aroma of Leadership

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. II Corinthians 2:15-17 

For better or worse, leaders have an air about them.


Those motivated by people-pleasing or performance will exploit people. Intentionally or not, this sets up a manipulative, codependent culture. A leader like this can look so good on the outside too—but their leadership style stinks. Basing their identity on highs born from image, success metrics, control, religious rationale, and problem mitigation, such a leader treats both those they lead and those they serve as nothing more than pawns in the game. If these characteristics turn up in the life of your leadership, call a spiritual hazmat team quick!

When the rancid smell of codependency tinges the air of leadership, too many of us have learned to “be polite,” act as if we didn’t catch a nasty whiff, and adapt to the smell. Unfortunately (especially in faith-based circles), we are prone to ignore the problem. I mean, we are Christians, after all. We need to avoid confrontation whenever possible, don’t we? In a manner of speaking, we don’t open the windows to release the stench and let in the fresh air.

Grace-based leadership has a very different aroma. Welcoming and warm, it wafts through the air like a warm batch of chocolate chip cookies when you’ve got a hankering for something sweet. Completely unsuspecting, you walk in the door and—boom! Joy of joys! Your mouth waters. Hope and delight arise as you take another deep breath and try to track the scent to its tasty source.

One more deep breath: inhale grace, exhale mercy. That is healthy leadership.

We must be so intentional about the air of our leadership. Shouldn’t we crave grace-filled leadership enough to create it in our own environments? What atmosphere have we set up for ourselves and those around us? If the breath that flows through our lungs is not that of grace, you and I (and everyone around, really) may end up holding ours out of fear-based codependency. By default, the absence of grace-based attachments alongside the foul motivations of the 4 Deadly Ps will surface in toxically counterproductive ways.

To learn more about how to bring the sweet-smelling air of grace to your leadership and community, pick up a copy of The Weight of Leadership: How Codependency and Misplaced Mercy Undermine Life and Ministry when it releases in September 2022.

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