Leadership has become tantamount to positions, power, and personality. If a person has the right position, they are deemed a leader, even if that person is devoid of substantive character. The greater the position oftentimes equates to more power which in turn grants a person a leadership platform. The person might verbally abuse people but if they have enough power, they are a “leader.” Or, there is the leadership myth which states that people who display the right physical features (typically height and good looks) or charismatic personality they are anointed as leaders, regardless of the wisdom of decision-making or lifestyle integrity. In each case, leadership is becoming increasingly defined by externals.
Biblically, leadership is characterized by the quality of one’s soul and character. It is recorded of Christ, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). While stature can refer to height, in this case, it equates to “reputation.” In other words, it does not describe his physical features; it spotlights his internal qualities. In today’s culture where people are attracted to the persona and status, it behooves us to affirm leaders who display leadership beauty. In reflecting on this issue, a few personal questions attempt to move us in this direction and get beneath the surface. Questions that personally challenge me.
- Is my character truly consistent inside to out? We all esteem to be consistently authentic yet typically it is a hope more than a reality. Granted, we are broken people thus true consistency is impossible. Yet, for the most part, we excuse character flaws without intentionally addressing them. Consistency becomes a mission statement not life mission.
- Am I prone more towards excuses or ownership? When I miss a deadline or receive less than positive feedback, do I make an excuse? Or, do I take ownership over it? Is it always someone else’s fault or the result of some circumstance? Or, do I honestly stand up and say “I dropped the ball. I take responsibility for it.” It is easy to misdirect; it is hard to own up.
- Do I elevate the character of those around me? One of the true tests of character is how we respond in a group that is complaining? It is easy to jump on the bandwagon because we are in our heart of hearts people-pleasers, or stay silent in the corner because we fear isolation. True leaders challenge the mob pessimism and elevates others towards things that are “honorable…just…pure…lovely” (Philippians 4:8).
- Am I thankful? Thankfulness reflects a recognition of one’s blessings. Complaining exposes a heart of entitlement. I am always convicted when I reflect on the reason for my complaint. What must my Heavenly Father think in response to my minimizing if not dismissal of the rich blessings He has given to me?
- Am I quick to listen or speak? Clearly, this is a biblical mandate. Yet, the pressure of leadership is to have the quick response, the discerning statement, or perfect resolution. But, are these truly possible without first listening in humility, openness, and a posture of learning? Some of the wisest leaders I have encountered were ones who waited in silence, oftentimes speaking last. In the end they commanded the room because of their wisdom not outspokenness.
- Is there a respect for other leaders? How we speak of and approach other leaders says a lot about who we are as leaders. Is there a natural response of respect based on that person’s leadership position or are we quick to tear down? Do we delight in highlighting another leader’s strengths (even if we don’t see eye to eye) or do we have a knack for finding flaws?
Leadership involves soul and character development. It is a matter of stewardship. It is using the position, power, and platform granted by God to incarnate and nurture kingdom beauty in this world. To do so requires us to be formed by Him as a prelude to be used by Him. It is not easy but it is rewarding when we strive towards Christ-centered leadership. And, when we do, I believe we shine as light in a dark world that desperately craves true leadership.