While being here at the Olympics I have met and spent time with some incredible leaders. It’s got me to thinking about the characteristics that a leader should carry and model. I’m currently reading a book that one of my friends, coaches (see previous post), and someone I would define as a true leader gave me and it’s really helped me to realize the true responsibility that a leader has. That responsibility is echoed in a standard dictionary definition of a leader reads as follows:
LEADER [noun] – a person or thing that leads. Also a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.
This being said I wonder if we use the term “Leader” too loosely? I think of the number of people that are referred to and regarded as leaders and wonder if we (yes we I am including myself in this) fit the profile? Leaders have an enormous amount of responsibility, and depending on where one finds his or herself leading it can be quite the stress. You think the leader of an army, tactical unit or SWAT team and how they make the call and decision when to put other members of their team’s lives in danger, if even for a moment, it must come with its share of anxiety.
I think the on crucial element of leadership is that it must be done, and perhaps this is dependent on the environment you find yourself in, but I feel that relationship is a crucial component in leadership. I think of the Minor Hockey days when we as a team would vote on the ones that we wished to be captains and assistants. A simple democratic process that revealed a lot about the team and the direction it would head. You see, the leader really sets the bar and is in essence the heart-beat of the team. Their attitude and effort are bound to be emulated by the many that are following from behind. John Gardner says it this way,
“Most important, leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts.”
– John Gardner
Leaders need to lead from a posture of submission to their leader. Be it a coach or The Coach…Paul encourages those around him in the New Testament when he says; “…follow me, as I follow Christ”. I don’t myself want to follow or serve someone because they command it or demand it but because there is something I see within them that makes me want to follow in behind. From behind I can watch and emulate that one who leads in front of me and make note of the things he or she does well and also learn from the things he or she does not. Our purpose in leading can’t come from the desire that we have to be known as the “Leader” but we naturally step into the position as it’s divinely ordained; and it more often then not comes without a ceremony or inauguration but simply with a smile and submission. That’s why I’ve entitled this post as I have, with “leadership” being spelt in lower-case. If we are seeking place of leadership for the titlte and authority, we are mere moments from disaster.
“Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.”
– James MacGregor Burns
Leaders today, not just in the church but abroad must lead with the understanding that they are enabling the next generation to do greater. Perfection is not a prerequisite for leadership; you’re allowed to make mistakes and allowed to even fail miserably without loosing your title. It’s they way that you choose to handle those mistakes and embrace those failures that sets you apart and classifies you as a leader in my books. If the church is going to stand a chance the leaders of it today need to not be so concerned with seeing what “they want to see” but being sure that they enable the next ones to be able to see it. That’s selfless, and that too is a true characteristic of a leader.
“If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants.”
– Isaac Newton
Leaders don’t take days off, they are leading at all times. Think of a captain, coach, or leader in sports. If they only lead in the moment they were required, when the cameras were on or they had taken their place on the bench or on the ice they more then likely would’ve never have been promoted to the place of leadership they find themselves. The way I see it, leaders lead at all times, especially when no one else is watching.