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I am writing from New Zealand and decided to re-write a post from 2011 on an interesting Leadership concept. I think it has merit and is worthy of repeating with updates.

I learned a new leadership concept while in New Zealand called The Tall Poppy Syndrome. Although the phrase was completely new to me, it was easy to recognize once explained. The term is neither indigenous nor exclusive to New Zealand, as it manifests itself in most cultures.

What is The Tall Poppy Syndrome? Let me explain it as explained to me. It takes place within a group of peers. One of them excels and is elevated above the others as a leader (a tall poppy if you would) in the group. The group rebels, attacks the person, tears him/her down and causes them to acquiesce back to the level of the rest of the group.

Googling the term will produce a variety of hits for the term. Wikipedia defines it this way: “Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) is a pejorative term used in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticized because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.”

  • John 21:20:20-23 – Jesus is challenging Peter about his service and talking about his death. Right in the middle of the conversation Peter looks at John and asks Jesus, “What about him? “ Jesus’ quickly refocuses Peter when He says, “What is that to you?  Follow Me.”
  • Luke 9:46 – Jesus has just told His disciples that He is going to die, and their response is to argue about who will be the greatest in the Kingdom. This passage always amazes me until I bring it into present tense and think about myself.

I am sure none of us would want to be participate in The Tall Poppy Syndrome. The reality is, it is easy to fall into this pattern of behavior. Our goal should be to work together, embrace the same goals, unite in heart, and move forward in the same cause.

If we follow the pattern of scripture, we will do our best to:

  • Develop other leaders. –  2 Timothy 2:2
  • Submit to those in leadership. –  Hebrews 13:17
  • Give deference to others. –  Mark 9:35

The Tall Poppy Syndrome is one of the leadership nuances that I have to wrestle to the ground personally. I do not want to be guilty of participation in this non-biblical practice. How have you confronted the Tall Poppy scenario in your realm of leadership?

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