Leaders and the Pecking Order

We read in the book, Descending Into Greatness,

"Take ten chickens, any ten.  Put them in a pen together, and spread a little chicken feed.  In short order, you will witness an amazing phenomenon.  

“In a matter of minutes, the chickens, previously strangers, will form a hierarchy based on dominance or, in everyday language, they will establish a Pecking Order.  Instinctively, they will determine, through a series of skirmishes, who the Number One chicken will be; then the Number Two; the Number Three; all the way down to the unlucky Number Ten chicken.

“Much is at stake in this dance of domination.  Chicken Number One pecks at and intimidates Chicken Number Two, without experiencing any kind of retribution from Chicken Number Two. Chicken Number Two will take it from Chicken Number One but will turn around and peck away at Chicken Number Three, who will in turn, take out its frustration on Chicken Number Four. The Pecking Order continues all the way down to Chicken Number Ten, who, needless to say, has a pretty miserable life - pecked but no one to peck."[1]


I might add, "and maybe even pecked to death."


This phenomenon of the Pecking Order does not belong exclusively to chickens. We see it today very clearly in the business world. But the truth is, it's not just in the business world, but everywhere. It happens at family picnics, parties, class reunions, sporting events, conventions, and the church.

Gather a group of pastors or church leaders together and invariably the conversation will get around to just a few questions. Where do you pastor? What is your position? How many people attend your church? How big is your staff? Some even ask, "How big is your budget?" And the larger your numbers, the higher you rise in their eyes.

Church leaders, pastors, missionaries, and church workers, lining up in the Pecking Order.  

The truth is no one is immune to this phenomenon.
We all have the tendency to look at others in terms of their profession, education, wardrobe, car, and home, all with the subconscious mind-set of fitting them into the Pecking Order.

So, what’s the big deal? After all, isn't the Pecking Order just a natural occurrence? A way to see who is first?

It might be a natural occurrence, but leaders – true leaders – should avoid it at all costs. And here’s why.

Every time the disciples of Jesus tried to set up a Pecking Order, Jesus rebuked them and taught them they needed to be servants.  

“Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: 'Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It's not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.'” (Luke 22:24-26, The Message)




Have I unknowingly involved myself in the Pecking Order game?

In what ways am I contributing to a Pecking Order around me?

What steps can I take to rise above it?

What can I specifically do to amp up the service aspect of being a servant-leader?



[1] Bill Hybels, Descending Into Greatness, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1993).