Today I want to discuss a couple of items regarding leadership. We will be looking at two reminders for aspiring leaders and present leaders too.
- Remember the Essence of Leadership
In class, we were discussing the character of a leader and we looked at the qualities of an elder in 1 Timothy. Notice that the qualities of an elder all revolve around his character, but only one quality addresses his communication skills (able to teach). And this goes against the grain of what people see leaders to be today. The question of character is not the main concern. Instead, it is his skill as a public speaker or the knowledge that he has.
Though this is important, the heart of pastoral ministry, eldership, and leadership in general is a moral issue. An elder is to be “above reproach.” He is not just an intellectual, a good speaker, or a fabulous preacher, but he is a man after God’s own heart and displays the character of Christ in how he treats people. My professor mentioned that it doesn’t matter what kind of skill you have as a communicator, if your character is in the dirt then it means nothing. This is so true for people who aspire for lofty positions in the church (or secular culture) today. They think they can receive the accolades and pats on their back because they are brainy or can craft their words well at the pulpit or in the classroom. Yet when you look at their life, it is full of gross immorality and dead character. Such a leader is no leader at all.
The application goes beyond pastoral ministry and I think relates to all who are in a position of leadership. You may be teaching in a classroom, leading at your job, coordinating a ministry, or even guiding your family (men this means you!). This principle surely applies to you.
- Remember the Responsibilities of Leadership
One last item that many aspiring leaders forget is the hardships that come with it. In the same way that we counted the cost to follow Christ (ridicule, scorn, relational obligations, etc.) we must also count the cost for leadership. When people dream of leadership, they only think of the accolades and popularity that comes with it. But they typically do not say, “I wanted to become a leader so that I could face constant suffering and hardship.” But that is the part of the job title. Leadership comes with responsibilities. Yes, there is much reward in being a leader, but you must accept the difficulties that come with the good. For those aspiring toward future leadership, read this D. A. Carson quote and really ask yourself if you know what you’re getting into.
“Most people, at some point or other, dream of themselves great leaders. What do their minds conjure up?. . . . The person who daydreams about being a leader in almost any field imagines what it is like to be best, or at least to be better than most others—to succeed where others fail, to be stalwart where others stumble, to create where others merely perform, to win adulation and applause, perhaps after some initial hardship and rejection. To be a leader may mean fame, money, and some freedoms from the responsibilities and humdrum existence of ordinary mortals. To be a leader means to win respect. Only rarely do those who dream of leadership, but who have never experienced it, think through the responsibilities, pressures, and temptations leaders face. Almost never do they focus on accountability, service, suffering.” (D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, pp. 92-23)
Let us not be leaders who lack in character, but let us be leaders who shine the character of Christ!