Dear Leader: It’s not your job to make everybody happy

Certain personality types easily cave in to people pleasing – mine being one of them. I desire to be liked by others. I don’t like to upset the apple cart or challenge anyone. I’m not a fan of conflict so I probably shouldn’t be on a board. Deep within, I desire to make people happy.

Yet, I know this way of living is entirely impossible. Because the truth is, I’m not responsible for everybody’s happiness. Steve Jobs said it best: 

“If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.”

I read in a recent article that 10% of every organization or church consists of unhappy people. And often that 10% is very vocal making it seem like more people are frustrated than what’s reality. When a church or organization is thriving and everything is smooth sailing, it’s rare people will email or call and say, “I just love being here… Thank you for being so incredibly awesome…” 

Take your phone, for example, you are highly unlikely to email Samsung or Apple and tell them how amazing your Galaxy or iPhone is and how they aid in your productivity and communication abilities every day. You’re more likely to gripe and complain when you have a grievance or problem needing to be solved. 

In whatever capacity you lead people, rest assured, you’ll have unhappy campers. Some people are skilled in finding thorns among the roses – I mean, they’re pros at this. So, how do you move forward when a percentage of people don’t like you or something you’ve done? 

  1. In opposition, remain faithful to your calling. You know you were created to lead. It won’t be easy, but your responsibility is to be faithful in what God gives you. Even in all your gifts and talents, you’ll screw up sometimes. You’ll fail. You’ll let others down. But your greatest success will come from staying faithful to the end and not quitting when it gets muddy.

2. Forgive major and minor offenses. Easier said than done right? You’ve got that right. In Scripture, Matthew 18 commands you and me to forgive others and what it does to our soul when we choose not to – our souls will be tormented from within. Bitterness is too high of a price to pay when we don’t forgive those who’ve hurt us. Jesus desires for us to be set free.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. (Matthew 18: 21-22, MSG)

3. Remember leadership is a call to be lonely. Some days, the conflict you’re in won’t be resolved. The people are still difficult and it’s all you can do to get out of bed and lead again. But the call to lead is also a call to loneliness at times. Not everyone will understand the choices and decisions you make for your company, organization, or church. But at the end of the day, you can rest in peace knowing you did what was best for those you lead, even if you’re alone in an important decision.

4. Hold tight to the truth that you simply weren’t born to please others. As I mentioned, people-pleasing is a vice of mine. But I know it’s not right. It’s impossible. It’s ungodly. You and I will never be able to please everybody. We cannot live our lives in fear of what others think of us or don’t think. We live to please God alone, and He’s enough. What he thinks of us matters most. Your joy and peace matter to him too.

Some days, I’m sure you’d rather sell chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, but don’t forget this world needs you and your gifts. And one thing I know is true: Everybody needs a good leader to follow.



Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. Her writing appears regularly on Her View From Home, TODAY Parenting, and For the Family. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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