By Dr. Hal Brady
So much has been and continues to be written about leadership. Author Harris W. Lee examined leadership over the past 50 years and learned there are at least 350 definitions of it. From his study of leadership, Lee concluded that “leadership is one of the most observed but least understood phenomena on earth.” To be sure, leadership is difficult to define. There is a certain elusive mysterious quality about it. There is no set formula. But while there is that mysterious quality about it, we do recognize leadership when we see it. In the unprovoked Russian attack and war on Ukraine, we are seeing a leader emerge in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. While he could have fled to safely, he has stayed in his country leading and encouraging his people by his courage and example. So, what makes a strong leader? The following are a few biblical characteristics of a leader.
First, leaders are also followers! No question about it, leadership has become a buzz word in our society. We are told in numerous books and magazines that leadership is the way out of every difficulty. And as a matter of fact, it is. Leadership does determine the answers of practically every human endeavor. At this point, however, the late Herb Miller, church consultant, asked a profound question. He said that if leadership is so important why, then, did Jesus emphasize the verb “lead” so lightly? Twenty times he said, “Follow me.” He used the word “lead” zero times. Why? As Miller put it, “Because leadership is not the first step in becoming an effective leader.” Hear me now! A real leader stands amid the world and says, “I am your servant – not your judge, not your star-of-the-show.” Rare, indeed, is the effective leader who didn’t learn to be a good follower first. Leaders are also followers.
Second, leaders assume responsibility! It is a truism that everything which has been “done” in the history of the world has been done by “somebody;” some person took up the challenge, assumed responsibility and exercised some leadership to do it. In their study on what followers most want from their leaders, the authors of the book “The Leadership Challenge” found three basic categories: commitment, competence, and consistency. These qualities must not only be present in the leader, they must also be present within the organization. When leaders assume responsibility, they commit themselves, they work at being competent, and they practice consistency.
Third, leaders serve the larger community and not their own interests! Leadership is always for people and group purposes and not for self-interest. And, of course, I’m talking about God’s kind of leadership. Things were not going well with the inept and impoverished Continental Congress. So Colonel Lewis Nicolas sent George Washington a letter in May 1782, urging him to assume the responsibility of king of the United States. General Washington replied with indignation that “No occurrence in the courses of the war has given me more painful sensation than your information of there being such ideas existing in the army.” Washington was always more committed to seeing the larger community than his own self-interest.
Lastly, leaders are undaunted by criticism! The boy David was criticized by his brothers and Goliath. But David was committed to what he was doing. Remember his words to Goliath: “You come to me with a sword and a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord.” Authentic leaders do three things with criticism. They listen to it. Is it true? Is it valid? They learn from it, and they leave it.
The search is on for effective leaders – God-like leaders!
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).