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Friday, January 28, 2011

The strength of a leader

2 When good people run things, everyone is glad,
   but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans. 
(Proverbs 29:2)

Much can be said about "good leaders", but the most frequent thing you will heard mentioned about "solid" leadership is the fact that people have no problem "getting behind them" in loyal support.  Good leadership does not mean that everyone agrees with every decision that is made, but that they can apply themselves to the vision of that leader and move forward in faith that the plans will accomplish the end result.  We find leaders in every area of our lives - at work, in our homes, in the community in which we reside, and over countries. In fact, we often fill the role of leaders in some arena of our lives. Leaders play an integral part in "directing" our future. Therefore, the leader must lead with integrity, passion and purpose - but the leader must also lead with interest in others, compassion, and openness of heart/mind.

I have been interviewed for leadership positions and in turn, have interviewed others who will fill positions of leadership.  One of the "questions" you often hear posed is "tell me about your most influential leader".  This question usually elicits a litany of character traits that exhibit commitment to the people they lead, an ability to create vision, genuine trust, etc.  All of these are positive traits.  No one ever says, "Well, my most influential leader ruled with a heavy hand, carried a big stick, and never wanted our input into decisions."  

Leadership qualities are exemplified in various people who stand as examples for us in scripture.  Here are but a few:
  • Job - a husband, father, rancher, and friend of many.  When "misfortune" fell his way with his business, family, and fortune, he trusted God to bring provision to both his household and his "hired" workers.  He knew in his heart that God both provided the increase and allowed for the decrease - if that was true, he'd provide for the increase once again.  He kept his focus squarely on God's faithfulness through all his "down-turns".  Things may have appeared pretty bleak on the outside, but God was still on the throne in is life.
  • Peter - an apostle in the New Testament church and a disciple who had followed Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Most think of Peter as a little bit of an impetuous man - acting without thinking.  That may have been the start of his "leadership" as a disciple of Christ, but it certainly was not his end.  Toward the end of his ministry, we see Peter moved by the needs of the beggar at the Temple Gate - moved enough to veer from his intended path to meet the needs of the man before him.  He connected with people, even when he did not see eye-to-eye with them as in his visit to the house of Cornelius (a Centurion leader, a non-Jew).  He allowed the "connection" between people who had needs, plans, and desires.
  • David - a shepherd boy, called to be King over the land.  As a shepherd boy, he learned the importance of protecting those that you had been appointed to lead (his sheep).  Without his care and attention to their needs, he'd lose them to the "competition" (those pesky predators just waiting in the wings).  As King of Israel, he continued his "watchful care" over those he was called to "shepherd".  Yes, without question, he made mistakes along the way.  He displayed his humanity in those mistakes he made, but more importantly, he displayed his ability to admit he was wrong.  A trait not to be overlooked in a solid leader.
These are but three examples of leaders and their leadership traits.  The three things I really want us to see is that we can all be called to leadership at one point or another.  The qualities we demonstrate, the connections we make, and the honesty we maintain in those relationships will either ensure safety for those we lead, or create a slippery-slope for them to traverse.

Not only do we need to align ourselves with good leaders, but we need to be good leaders ourselves (in whatever arena of leadership we are in).  There are people that will either be elevated to realize their potential because of our "leadership", or they will be diminished in their purpose through the lack of connection we make.  Mentors are leaders - and we all mentor in one way or another.  The example we set may be just what another needs to realize their full potential in Christ.