Leadership, it may be hard to define, but you know it when you see it. This means there is an essence to leadership that is known through observing it in action, not just in contemplation. After all, the Kingdom of God is not in word only, but in power (with the idea of action)!
Who is your favorite leader of all time, after Jesus? Think about this before you go on, please….. Can you name someone? We will come back to this, but, I want to encourage you to stop and think of someone until you come up with a name. Thanks…
Here are a few definitions of leadership for you:
Short version: Influence
Leadership is being exemplary – Not all persons with responsibility are good examples, but in the Lord’s estimation, leadership and living a good example are the same thing.
Leadership is bearing responsible in a way that everyone is left better off. This is a difficult thing, because the bigger your responsibility grows, the more complex it can become. There will be more people answering to you, and more things under your influence, and some of those people and situations will be in tension with each other.
You guys remember the situation where Solomon, as the king, had to make a decision about who was the mother of a baby. Do you remember that? This was a situation of life or death. If you grow to the highest levels of leadership, you may also be making decisions that affect life and death.
How do we grow in leadership?
This is simple, but it is not easy.
One word – Faithfulness
We grow in leadership, both with God, and with people, by being faithful with the level of responsibility that we currently have. Sometimes we have visions of greatness that we think is living inside of us, just waiting until we get an opportunity to be in a position of leadership or prominence. This is wrong thinking.
All growth in life is incremental…. it is little by little.
The way that God does His work is to prepare us in advance of the opportunities He has called us to step into. As a young person, I thought i was ready to take on anything, and that simple talent would get me through it successfully. That was the wrong way to think, because it wasn’t true.
Great examples in the scriptures of preparation before responsibility are Daniel, Joseph, and also King David. Let me encourage you to re-read their stories and reflect on the elements of preparation that God took them thru in order to prepare them for future responsibility. Look at it from that perspective.
Very often, the thing that God has called us to, which are big things, appear to lead us in the very opposite direction. Our preparation that God gives us to walk in our calling often seems to be leading us away from what He has called us to. The life of King David is a very detailed example of this.
God promotes faithfulness
Just a little more about faithfulness…
God measures our readiness to walk in higher levels of leadership by our faithfulness to Him. When we are beginning, this almost always can be directly translated as our faithfulness to the responsibility that is given to us by our leaders. Don’t imagine being faithful to God while you are not bearing the responsibility well that your leaders have entrusted to you.
There may be times, and they will likely be rare, where being faithful to God requires you to go in a different direction than what others believe you should. Don’t use this as an opportunity to fight with people. We wrestle not with flesh and with blood, according to the scriptures. You have an ongoing responsibility, in every circumstance, to honor all people, especially those of the household of faith, and especially your leaders. Always walk in honor toward other people, because when you dishonor others by your words or actions, you dishonor yourself.
The respect that you show the leaders God has put in your life is how you will be respected when you come into higher levels of responsibility.
Talent versus Diligence / Personal Investment
Let’s think about the parable of the talents. A nobleman went on a long journey, and entrusted his substance to his servants. He gave to one a portion of ten, to one five and to the final person, one talent. According to this parable, God gave people differing amounts of talents, according to their ability. Let’s call this an endowment of grace. Each of us has an endowment of grace from God. And it differs from others.
Let me take this opportunity to say, never compare yourself and the quantity of grace given to you, to others. Comparing yourself to others causes at least one of two results, both unfortunate:
Pride – if you think you are more talented than the one you are comparing yourself with.
Demotivation – If you think you are less talented than the one you are comparing yourself with.
Both of these are traps. You are responsible to God for the grace that has been given to you. He knows what He has entrusted to you. You will answer to Him for this. I like to say, the grace of God and the expectations of God are in relationship with each other.
We can see this in the parable. How? Because we see that the nobleman was disappointed in the results (or lack of results) to the person he gave one talent to, even tho the expectations were decidedly lower for the one who received one than the one who received ten. There is an expectation of use on the part of the one who gives the endowment of grace. He will be looking for results. This shouldn’t make us nervous, but it should help us become diligent.
This brings me to my next point.
Cultivation or Diligence
God determines the number of talents you are given, but you effect the outcome by how you manage what has been given you, by what kind of action, diligence and persistence you add to the grace.
Leadership is about taking action! Use what you have been given.
You may have a big calling to leadership, but if you hide that in the ground, like the person who received the one talent did, you will also be ashamed when you have to answer to the one who entrusted this calling to you. In order to grow something or to grow in something, you have to use it, or, as they say, take action.
Proactivity, or being proactive, is a recognizable characteristic of those in leadership.
The Bible, in Proverbs, has a lot to say about slothfulness. If you think about it, slothfulness – like the animal “the sloth” – is the opposite of taking action. You might also call this laziness.
This is one of the reasons why Proverbs says this:
The hand of the diligent will bear rule – or you could say – be in charge, but the lazy hand will be put to forced labor.
This highlights another important thing about leadership and proactivity.
As we just discussed, Leadership is not just about stepping out, but also about diligence in continuing on the course that is set before you. You can make a good start, but can you finish well? Can you maintain your motivation and courage in the face of opposition that arises?
The most difficult step on any journey is the first one, some have said. That seems true. But there are times when the cost of continuing on the path is greater than it was to begin. This is especially true after you have some success and have some things to show for your obedience. Are you ready to continue on the path, if, by doing so, you jeopardize the success you have accumulated?
Shifting gears in conclusion…. Think back to the person you thought of as an admirable leader in your own estimation. Could it be that your calling to leadership is somehow related or similar to the person you named? Highly likely, in my opinion.
(This post, including pictures, taken from a session at La Viña Ministry School in Puebla, Mexico, held in the fall of 2015.)