Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marks of a Great Leader

Are you a mother?  Then, you are a leader.  Are you a Christian who is mature in her faith (not necessarily chronological years)?  Then, according to Titus 2:3-5, you too, are a leader.  Are you the only Christian in your work, school, or leisure time activity environment?  Are you an influential friend?  Then, you are a leader.  Are you in a position of authority in your vocation?  You are a leader and this article applies to each of you.

 Leaders sometimes have the reputation of being quick, direct and tough.  They have that ‘bossy attitude’ going on – but according to the Bible that is not the kind of leadership that honors God. 

Joseph of the Old Testament was a great leader, but his rise to authority was tedious and slow.  In Genesis 37 we can read the account of Joseph as a youth who had big dreams and jealous siblings.  One thing leads to another and Joseph finds himself sold by his family, taken to a foreign land, presumed as dead, and begins a life of ups and downs until he finds himself in a prison for a crime he has never committed. Through it all, Joseph was a patient person with a great attitude; trusting in the Lord’s goodness even though life to this point had become entirely unfair.  In a twist of circumstances Pharaoh has a troubling dream and it is remembered that Joseph has the God-given ability to interpret dreams.  After giving the precise interpretation of the dream, Joseph also offers Pharaoh some wise strategy advice.  Pharaoh recognizes that the person who came up with the discerning plan to get his people through an extended drought would be the logical person to have the authority to carry out the plan.  So, Pharaoh puts Joseph into official leadership.  Joseph’s leadership skills were honed in the unlikely environment of prison – but those skills were those of a servant leader who patiently waited for God to reveal His plan for Joseph’s life. 

The world’s way of becoming a leader and God’s way are opposite of each other.  The world’s way is often about exalting oneself, obtaining power and manipulating people and situations to get one’s own way.  This can be as true in a relationship as it is in a large corporation.  God’s way of creating a leader involves patience and gentleness.  Psalm 18:28-29 says, “For You light my lamp;  The Lord my God illumines my darkness.  For by You I can run upon a troop;  and by my God I can leap over a wall.”  And in verses 34-35 we read, “He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me;  and Your gentleness makes me great.”  God values gentleness.  It doesn’t make us any less strong.  These words from the Psalms are hardly the words of weakness - they are words of strength.  Gentleness and patience are fruits of the Spirit and are marks of a great leader.

Patience and Gentleness will cause us to take a very different action that our normal human nature.  We may feel like we are at the end of our emotional rope with a rambunctious child, or rebellious adolescent.  Our natural self wants to lash back – to place a little fear over those we want to control.  It takes the Spirit of God working on our heart to respond to give a gentle answer to a snotty question.  It takes a godly patience to take the long view on someone’s immature behavior.  In relating to adults it takes gentleness to respond to someone who makes accusations without having all of the facts.  It takes patience to work “as unto the Lord” day after day and lead humbly, and yet be treated with disrespect.  Working and relating to people we either lead or influence will put pressures on us to respond in ways that tempt us to lose patience and speak with caustic words instead of gentle ones.  To be good leaders, whether it is with our children, a ministry to women, or a large organization, we find that we have to abandon our dependence on our own natural responses and become utterly dependant upon God to give us the patience and gentleness we need. 
Like the psalmist, we learn it’s not our own abilities that make us good, It’s God’s gentleness.  Like Joseph we learn that we don’t find our purpose in life by pushing our way to the top – we trust in God with patience;  for patience and gentleness are marks of a great leader.