Four Weapons of Mass Distraction in a Leader’s Life

Four Weapons of Mass Distraction in a Leader’s Life

In Os Guiness’ excellent book, Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, he uses the phrase, ‘weapons of mass distraction,’ to describe how people today distract themselves to avoid facing their inconsistent and broken beliefs about God and eternal matters. He writes that while distraction may feel good in the short-term (we avoid the discomfort of inconsistent belief and behavior), it’s disastrous in the long-term. Mass distraction is also a fitting metaphor for how leaders sometimes get sidetracked from the business of leading. Ask yourself which of these four weapons of mass distraction divert you the most from leading like Jesus.


  • Sometimes we get lulled into thinking we can multi-task and get more done… keep email and text alerts on as you prepare a sermon or as you think through a critical strategy as a leader. We think that giving 90% effort to an important task and 10% effort to a distraction equals 100% of our effort. Each time we shift from one task to another and then shift back, the sum total of our effort gets diluted. It never equals 100%. There is a cognitive cost. It’s called attention residue – it takes time for our minds to disengage from the distraction and get back on task. And, researchers have discovered that constantly emailing or texting temporarily decreases our IQ.
  • Solution: Turn off your phone and automatic alerts.

Continuous partial attention

· Linda Stone, a former VP at Microsoft coined the term. She describes it this way.

“To pay continuous partial attention is to keep a top-level item in focus, and constantly scan the periphery in case something more important emerges.”

As a result, this “always on” mode puts our brains on constant alert, thus flooding them with too much stress hormone which slows processing.

· Solution: Schedule your best thinking time in quiet, distraction free environments. We see in Luke 5:16 that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” I use a niche in my office that blocks me from seeing people pass by my office window.

Dopamine addiction

· Dopamine is one of over 100 chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Simply put, a neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger the brain uses to send messages from one brain cell (a neuron) to the next. As a feel-good neurotransmitter, it kicks in during activities that bring us pleasure – from checking off items on your to-do list to eating a bowl of triple-fudge marshmallow creme ice cream to seeing more ‘likes’ on your Facebook posts. It’s also involved in drug, alcohol, and sexual addiction. Although we may not struggle with serious addictions like drug abuse, we can easily get sucked into social media dopamine addiction when we constantly check to see ‘what’s new’ or ‘who likes me’ on social media. When we see a ‘like’ or a funny cat video, we get a little shot of dopamine and we want more, so we keep surfing.

· Solution: Set aside only certain times of the day when you surf social media. Jesus taught about the power of distractions on the Mount. Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” If you are hooked, go on a social media fast to break yourself from this addiction.

Striving to get to a next better moment

· This one is a subtler, but Blaise Pascal captures it in this saying. “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” In other words, one weapon of mass distraction is the inability to be OK in this present moment. We’re often tempted to move to a next better moment to escape the current painful or boring moment thinking that if I just get to a better one, things will be better.

· Solution: Try resting in God’s presence. This Being Habit is critical to our relationship with Jesus, thus being critical to our leading like Jesus.  

Try resting in God’s presence

In our fast-paced, demanding world, weapons of mass distraction lurk around every corner. When we heed Peter’s command, we can counter those distractions. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Which of these weapons of mass distraction most tempt you? What would you add to this list?


Read more like this:

Make Your Mark (Blog)

Lack of Time or Lack of Interest (Blog)

Too Overwhelmed to Lead Well (Podcast)




Charles Stone

Both my wife Sherryl and I have a heart for pastors and pastors’ wives. We’ve taught hundreds of pastors and their wives in the United States, Canada, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Mexico.

I earned an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, a Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I’m completing another masters degree in neuroleadership. I’m also an avid Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fan.

I’ve been professionally trained in these areas by these organizations:

Life Coaching through the Professional Christian Coaching Institute
Strategic Planning through Ministry Advantage (certified)
Vision Clarity through the Church Unique Process (certified)
Conflict Management through Peacemakers
I’m the author of 4 books – Daughters Gone Wild – Dads Gone Crazy (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them (Bethany House Publishers, 2010), People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (Inter-Varsity Press, January 2014), and my brand new book, Brain-Savvy Leadership: the Science of Significant Ministry (Abingdon, 2015).