The Foundation of Leadership

The Foundation of Leadership

A personal lesson you can take from America’s presidential election
From the January 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Yes, the 2016 presidential election was extremely divisive. But as much as the two sides violently conflicted with each other, they and their combined 120 million supporters agreed on one thing: Character has no place on the presidential ballot.

For more than a year, a churning, convulsing struggle over leadership has swirled through the conscience of America and of the world. The central question has been: Who will be the best leader? The answer has boiled down to: Who will give the nation the right mix of jobs, taxes and bombs?

What we saw in this election was the logical result of voters having some time ago rejected the foundation of true leadership: the ability to lead yourself.

The Bible discusses the qualities required in leaders of families, cities and nations. It almost completely ignores job creation, policy sophistication and even military administration. It almost completely focuses on one thing: personal character!

For a few occasional news cycles, the presidential election involved notions of being “fit for office” or “presidential.” But voters considered these to be sideshows to the qualifications that “really matter.” The Bible, by contrast, says personal character is the qualification that really matters!

So many of those in authority have never learned this fundamental character principle. As a result, they are making an absolute mess of this world.

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Here is where rulership must start: Ruling your own spirit. You must govern yourself!

Millions of people today believe that weak personal character has nothing to do with a leader’s success. God knows that weak character disqualifies someone from high office. If a man cannot rule himself, how can he rule others? As Jesus said, “[I]f the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).

To a young man who is looking ahead to having a family, forging a career, taking his place as a contributor to and builder of society, what was the Apostle Paul’s advice? “[U]rge the younger men to control themselves” (Titus 2:6; Revised Standard Version). The Moffatt translation states, “Tell the young men also to be masters of themselves at all points.”

A person who lacks self-control renders himself unfit to lead in many ways. He caves in to peer pressure easily. He is too concerned about what others think of him. He prioritizes appearance over substance, leading to forms of cheating and corner-cutting. He is susceptible to unsound judgment, favoritism, partiality and unpredictability. He wrestles with feelings of depression and inferiority. He gets jealous easily, especially when someone around him succeeds. He can become terribly manipulative and political. He loses his temper. He acts arrogantly—even tyrannically—to mask his insecurities. He is self-destructive and succumbs to bad influences. He has difficulty controlling his own passions and lusts.

The more authority such a person has, the more damage he can do to more people!

Someone who truly conquers himself and successfully administers his own self-rule can successfully take on more and more authority, doing more and more good for more and more people. Proverbs 16:32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” If you are faithful in small matters, Jesus Christ said, you will be faithful in the big ones.

Learn to truly govern yourself—then you can influence your family, your country, your world. It will begin unlocking your potential for leadership and genuine success.

Notice this proverb about godly leadership: “Mercy and truth preserve the king, and by lovingkindness he upholds his throne” (Proverbs 20:28; New King James Version). The word lovingkindness can mean good deeds or kindnesses. Truth refers to trustworthiness. The Living Bible renders this verse, “If a king is kind, honest and fair, his kingdom stands secure.”

If you asked 100 world leaders to list the most important qualities contributing to the longevity of an administration or kingdom, how many would mention honesty and lovingkindness?

The fact is, the Bible trains people in a different type of government—one that works! God isn’t calling the governors of this world, who, for all their expertise and experience, cannot solve problems, cannot make people’s lives better, cannot even successfully enact decent jobs, tax or defense policies.

If you want to learn to build a government that actually works, study the scriptural instruction God outlines in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. These leaders are individuals who rule themselves by submitting to God. They then rule over those who follow them by serving.

Yes, these qualifications for leadership are vastly different than those used today. But so are the results.