There is one person who is never invited, yet attends all important meetings; The Devil’s Advocate. Their self appointed job is to point out “crazy thinking”, to seed doubt and insure that progress is stopped.
To understand the devil’ s advocate, it will help to know something about the devil. The Bible tells us the devil is a tempter, betrayer, accuser, the king of lies and a deceiver. That pretty well sums up the devil’s advocate.
Every Team Has One
Jesus had his Judas… the original devil’s advocate. Judas thought he knew best; his arrogance, pride and greed led him to betray the person he followed and his friends. Even the best teams are not immune; Jesus had a committed, hard working team and even His team had a devil’s advocate.
This self appointed know it all, will sell out and stop progress for their own selfish benefit. Even your team could have a devil’s advocate. Be on guard and do not allow them to drag your team down and sell you out for small thinking.
The Best Team Members Can Fall Prey
Even Peter, a passionate follower of Jesus fell into this trap. During a meeting with his disciples Jesus foretold his death and Peter thought it was time for the devil’s advocate to take a stance and address this “crazy thinking”.
Peter may of said it in this fashion, “Jesus, I hate to be the devil’s advocate here, but your plan has a lot of risk in it, so why don’t we put some good minds on this, we can appoint a small committee to help you think this through.” The devil’s advocate ploy is to move thinking sideways before the team thinking is moved backwards. Jesus’s plan did not fit Peter’s personal agenda or his view of how Jesus should run things. Personal agendas instead of the greater mission motivate the devils advocate and will demotivate your team.
How did Jesus reply to Peter and his devil’s advocate position? Check out His response, “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. â€œGet behind me, Satan!â€ he said. â€œYou do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.â€ Mark 8:33 (NIV)
The problem, Peter applied small man thinking to a God size mission. When the mission is big, when the mission needs God sized thinking, when the mission is something that has not been done before, even the best team members can fall prey.
Selfishness is Behind it
Judas decided, if Jesus can not see through his foolishness then he would take matters in his own hands. He would force His hand, put Him in a position where Jesus would have to act how he thought He should act. Judas formed an alliance with the “competition” and even made some money on the side. Judas in his small man thinking, wanted Jesus to be a conqueror not a savior, because with Jesus as conqueror Judas believed he benefited more personally; it fit his personal agenda better. Judas was self centered, selfish and this led him to betray his leader and friends. Devil’s Advocates are motivated by personal agenda, selfish greed and will betray their leader and team to have things go their way.
How to Handle the Devil’s Advocate
Word of advice… You might not want to call the devil’s advocate out as a Judas during your meeting or you may see the real devil side of the individual. Just know them for who they are, show them the door, kick them out, shut them down and put them behind you.
Without the Devil’s Advocate in your important meetings, “crazy thinking” will return and you can move from man sized missions to God sized missions.
A Different Kind of Leadership for a Different Kind of Leader