When you ask or are asked that question, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is your answer based on how much influence you have? Whether you are well-known in the circuit [input your circuit here], or how many ministries, organisations or companies you run? Or the popular one: “Yeah I know the leaders of…” Whichever it is, if any of these ring true for you I would love to challenge your perception of what a ‘leader’ is. If we’re honest there’s a certain element from the examples I gave that are true for all of us. We can tend to qualify our effectiveness by who we know, how much we’ve done and how big we’ve done it, validating ourselves as leaders by what is seen over what is not seen.
Today in the Church we have a ‘leadership’ phenomenon. “We’re training disciples and making leaders,” you might hear someone say, but what kind of leaders are we training? We have leadership books, leadership conferences, leadership retreats, leadership groups, leadership breakfasts, leadership dinners and yes, leadership suppers. Now I’m not saying these things are bad, it’s important to be training leaders, the question though is when we talk about leadership are we talking about leadership through kingdom values or mainstream values? Who is a leader? What is leadership?
In a world built on empires, intangible issues such as longevity of service, humility, forgiveness, authenticity, integrity, practical love, courage and conviction can sometimes take the back-seat (sometimes the boot). In our leadership discussions today, do we still value the things that are not seen as much as the things that are? Or have we replaced our pursuit of leadership with issues of size, numbers, smart thinking and clever strategies? There are weightier matters.
We ought not only to be training leaders but desiring to be them too. We also see Jesus acknowledging our desire to be leaders when he commented:
“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.” (Mark 10:43-44)
And in Jesus’s words lies the clue to what true leadership is. Leadership is about substance. In fact the smackdown truth is that it’s possible to see results, activity, events, campaigns, attendees, growth, followers and still not be good leaders. In the kingdom, leaders are servants, and those who are servants are followers, followers of Jesus. In other words the question of: “Are you a leader?” is really a question of: “Are you a follower?” Are you embodying the way or chasing results? Chasing results skews the value of the work of our hands. When we focus on embodying the kingdom, God deals out results.
Just before in Mark 10:42, Jesus sets the mark of the kind of leadership we ought not replicate:
So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.”
Jesus said: “They flaunt their authority.” We could also say this as: “They use their authority, to feed their status.”
If you’re a leader do you idolise the things that build reputation and status? Do you focus on the root (beginning) of leadership or the fruit (results) of leadership? (Yes, we should appreciate both). Have we allowed ourselves to focus on the praise, lights, press and interviews that come with leadership? If so, we may enjoy it now but it’s a temporary pleasure. Real leaders and real work last the test of time.
A quote shared during a teaching series on Nehemiah at my church recently affirmed this for me. “If we are to build high walls we must dig deep wells”. Of course we want to have influence and live significant lives, but we must keep the main thing the main thing. Our leadership starts within. Real leaders are real followers.
See you at the next ‘followers’ conference.
(Image via Creation Swap)