The Leader: 2.1 Lead
A talented basketball team with an uninspired coach is a bad basketball team. A promising company with an inept ceo is treading the path toward obsolescence. A family without engaged guidance is generally aimless—easily mired in bad habits, fruitless pursuits and mediocrity.
Success in any organized endeavor requires good leadership.
The quality of leadership determines the quality of a family, school, business, band, organization or congregation. Skilled leadership turns a bunch of directionless boys into a winning little league club. It transforms a classroom of indifferent youths into a hive of enthusiastic learners. It turns timid recruits into a victorious military unit.
Good leadership is a great blessing in the lives of those who operate under it. It challenges people to break patterns of failure. It points them in the right direction and inspires them to propel themselves forward. It awakens them to possibilities, stirs hope and ignites vision. It steadies the ship when stormy seas arise. It ushers people toward otherwise unattainable excellence. It converts losers into winners, failures into successes. It enables ordinary people to become extraordinary.
Effective leadership gathers individuals together into a cohesive team. It draws people into harmonious effort and unified accomplishment. It marshals the best in each person in order to create synergy—group outcomes where the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
If you have ever had a parent, teacher, coach, instructor, supervisor, boss, captain or commanding officer who did his job well and got the best from you, you know how wonderful such leadership can be.
At the same time, most of us have also lived under authority that was poorly administered, and we suffered from the results.
As Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”
Yes leadership can cause mourning, or it can cause rejoicing. It is an extraordinary power.
And men, you were born to lead.
A Responsibility for Men
At the beginning of human history, God gave human beings dominion—rulership over the rest of the material creation (Genesis 1:26-28). He created men and women for a tremendous purpose and plan that echoes in eternity, and He made Earth our training ground. The animals, plants, soil and other earthly elements provide opportunities to learn responsible, principled, virtuous and wise rulership.
From the beginning, God also made clear a fundamental organizing principle among human beings: that He intends men to be leaders over women. Most people today balk at this, but when it is followed as God intends—when men lead in a godly, loving way, and when women voluntarily fulfill their complementary role—only blessings result.
God intends men to be the leaders in society. He intends men to be the leaders in the Church. He intends husbands to be the leaders in their marriages. He intends fathers to be the leaders of their homes.
You were born to be a leader! God has implanted within your mind and body dynamic qualities that can design, build, create, teach, lead—change lives, mold the future.
How can you unlock those potentialities?
This world cries out for solid, principled leadership—leaders who are anchored and grounded, who will not be corrupted. Ambitious, virtuous leaders are needed in government, business, industry, agriculture, education—every segment of society!
It needs leaders who do things God’s way. In fact, the Bible shows that very soon, God plans to put all the leaders of today out of office and set up a kingdom run by leaders who are willing to follow His just and right laws of leadership. You can learn the way of tomorrow’s world—today.
God wants to give you an awesome position in that future Kingdom. He wants you to become a leader!
And before that, He wants you to have a happy, blessed life—now.
But receiving such a position requires training. God doesn’t just give it: You must go after it.
Whom to Lead First
What is the first step toward becoming a leader God can use both now and in the future? Simply this: You begin gaining the skills of leadership by leading yourself.
The biblical book of Titus is a letter written by an older minister to one of the less-experienced ministers in the Church. This older minister gives one solid nugget of how to help the young men in his congregation. He wrote, “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded” (Titus 2:6).
Other translations of this verse read, “Likewise urge the younger men to control themselves.” “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.” “Tell the young men also to be masters of themselves at all points.” “Urge the young men to behave carefully, taking life seriously” (rsv; niv; Moffatt; Living Bible).
This may sound simple, but it is the first step to becoming a godly leader. So many of those in authority in society have never learned this fundamental character principle, and as a result, they are making an absolute mess of this world!
In tomorrow’s world, all leadership positions will be filled by people who have learned to control themselves first.
When a person lacks self-control, he 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 does self-destructive things and succumbs to bad influences. He has difficulty controlling his own passions and lusts.
The more power and authority such a person has, the more damage he can do to more people!
“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Rulership must start with ruling your own spirit. You must be able to govern and control yourself, or else you easily become prey to many destructive influences.
Emotional maturity is a crucial component of self-mastery, and critical to manhood and leadership. Before a man can successfully help a wife and children deal with the trials, tests and struggles in life in general, he must have practice at governing his own emotions. A man must be a ballast, a force of stability, providing an even-keeled environment to raise emotionally mature youth. He can only do that by first learning to govern himself.
Modern society seems to think a person can be a wonderful leader despite having weak personal character. God vehemently disagrees. In His eyes, weak character disqualifies someone for 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).
When a man wins victories in the arena of self-rule, he becomes better equipped for greater challenges. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world,” says a statement of unknown origin. “As I grew older and wiser, I realized the world would not change. And I decided to shorten my sights somewhat and change only my country. But it too seemed immovable. As I entered my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I sought to change only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now here I lie on my deathbed and realize (perhaps for the first time) that if only I’d changed myself first, then by example I may have influenced my family, and with their encouragement and support I may have bettered my country, and who knows—I may have changed the world.”
That is the path to principled leadership: Change yourself first. Learn to govern yourself first. If you can rule yourself—even in the little areas of your life—God knows you will be able to rule others. If you are faithful in the small things, then God can entrust you with greater responsibility (Luke 16:10-12).
This is why prioritizing self-rule will start unlocking the potential for leadership and genuine success in your life.
What Sort of Leader Is God Looking For?
Famed four-star general Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
This aligns with the scriptural instruction on finding leaders within the Church. There are two main passages on the subject: 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. These provide excellent insight into what God considers foundational to sound leadership.
A godly leader is a man of top character. He is vigilant, sober, not given to wine, not greedy for money or covetous. He is patient and even-tempered—emotionally mature. He is level-headed, not a man to pick fights. He is blameless, meaning unaccused, or irreproachable. His credibility isn’t shot because of his glaring faults.
A godly leader is “a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men.” He isn’t a socially backward recluse or hermit. He has good people skills and loves having people around and extending kindnesses.
He is also a family man, placing great importance on family relationships. The best leaders are also the best sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. There is a powerful reason for this: God’s master plan is a family plan! God is expanding His spiritual Family. Physical family today is a marvelous tool that He intends to prepare us for leadership in His Kingdom. It will do so if we are living it His way, according to His laws.
The Apostle Paul goes so far as to say that a man must “ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity”—and explains: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” That is a direct statement of how much God wants to use our families as a means of developing our leadership. We will get into this subject much deeper in later sections of this book. But ask yourself: What is your family life like? God says it should be orderly, happy, uplifting and positive. It should be a good example of teamwork. The state of your family is a reflection of the quality of its leadership.
The Key to Great Leadership
A man should start practicing self-government from his youth. He should be building the aspects of solid, reliable character that God is looking for. As he does, he prepares himself for leadership long before he starts receiving authority over others.
Another crucial step in learning godly leadership can and should also begin as early in life as possible. It is a mindset that requires no position of authority to develop, yet the more it is developed, the better equipped a man is to wisely exercise authority once he begins to possess it.
This mindset is one of service: putting the needs of others ahead of your own.
Naturally, men tend to view a position of leadership as something that exalts a man over other people and makes him superior. Many see authority as a means of extracting what they want from other people. God, in stark contrast, views a position of leadership as a tool for helping more people. This is the reason God gives any authority: to provide better opportunities to serve. The more authority you have, the greater opportunity you have to help more people more effectively. The authority is for the benefit of the people, not the leader. Thus, a service mindset is what God most seeks to develop in us to increase our usefulness as leaders.
Matthew 20 shows a typical approach to leadership. The mother of two of Jesus’s disciples, James and John, asked Jesus to give her sons high offices in the Kingdom of God (verses 20-21). It is not unusual for people to seek positions of authority and greatness. In fact, when the other 10 disciples heard what was going on, they became indignant (verse 24). Why should they get special positions in the Kingdom? What about us? Many people want greatness, particularly for the privilege and honor that come with it. Here were Christ’s own disciples acting like a gaggle of squabbling politicians!
Christ recognized this as an opportunity to teach a lesson in godly leadership. He called His disciples together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you …” (verses 25-26; rsv). God’s approach to leadership is radically different from the world’s.
Christ continued: “… but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (verses 26-28; rsv). The Living Bible renders verse 27, “[I]f you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave.”
This is a revolutionary concept of leadership! In God’s thinking, a leader is a servant. This is how to be great God’s way.
Christ set the supreme example. He made Himself a servant to all those with whom He came into contact (John 13:14-15; Philippians 2:4-8).
Godly leadership is built on serving those you lead. You must learn to prioritize their needs above yours.
This is a habit and a mentality that every man needs to begin developing as early in life as possible and continue growing in throughout his life.
Now in practical terms, that service will be different for the young man who is helping with household chores than for the father who is helping his teenage daughter through a disappointment, or the manager who is helping his team complete a big project under budget. Being a servant of others does not simply mean doing routine or menial jobs for them. As authority increases, the specific tasks change as well. What remains constant is the need to recognize and prioritize the needs of others. There is a never-ending need to be attentive and alert to others, to assess what is in their best interest, and to seek the best way to attain that outcome. Always keep that uppermost in your mind. As long as you do, then the more authority you possess and the more experience and wisdom you gain as a leader, the more good you will bring into the lives of those you lead.
This Is the Foundation
In a real sense, leading is at the heart of biblical manhood. Everything in this book aims to equip you to grow as a leader.
As you grow as a man of God, you form the building blocks of character required of a strong leader. As you eliminate personal sins and weaknesses, you develop habits and patterns of success and victory, and you invite more of God’s presence and power in your life. As you submit to God’s authority over you, you follow His direction toward success, and you establish the humility that protects you and those you lead from abusing your own authority. As you embrace challenges, you stretch your capacity and build the strength and godly confidence to stand tall in even tougher trials. As you keep your word in small matters, you forge the reliability that enables others to place their trust in you.
The remaining chapters in this section describe additional building blocks of leadership. As you accept the burdens of responsibility, you eliminate childish patterns of dependency, inaction and blame-shifting, and build habits and skills of healthy self-reliance. As you exercise your power of decision-making, you grow more practiced in how to reason with God, to have firm conviction once decided, to be resolute and single-minded, and to be confident in a positive outcome. As you mature in recognizing and fulfilling others’ needs, you build compassion and love, you grow in social skills and ability to relate to others, and you learn how to serve people in ways that truly help them.
All these are qualities that substantially, even dramatically amplify your capacity as a leader!
Efforts to assume or to exercise authority apart from this rock-solid foundation can result in serious mistakes, doing terrible damage to those you would lead.
But if this is the foundation on which you are establishing your leadership, your future is filled with as much promise as the bright dawn of the first day of spring. You are well on your way to fulfilling your God-given destiny as a leader.
Building on this foundation and truly fulfilling your God-given potential as a skilled, effective leader is a challenging, exhilarating, lifelong process. There is always more to learn. Leadership comes with experience. Each new experience—whether success, failure or a combination of the two—brings new lessons and, if you learn from them, expands your capacity all the more.
The time to start growing as a leader is right now. You learn by doing, and the time to start doing is now.
Ask God to open doors for you to act. Then, be alert. Look for opportunities to lead others, however small. It may be in your home, with your family, among your friends or your peers, in a classroom, in a group project, on your sports team, in a new social situation, at your office or job site, at a business meeting, or at a church service. There will be times when a conversation is going in a bad direction, a project is stagnant for lack of applied effort, a person shows promise and potential but needs guidance. There are many times when someone in authority needs strong team members to get something accomplished, and you can show leadership from within the team by throwing your support behind that leader.
The needs for quality leadership are everywhere. Obviously you must exercise wisdom in knowing when and how to fill those needs. But the more you are building on a godly foundation, the more wisdom you will have. Whatever doors God opens for you, don’t shy away from them. Charge through with confidence.
God has big plans for you. He has a lot to accomplish through you. Keep a prod on yourself to become the kind of leader who can rally whole groups of people to take action for God!
You are not yet the leader you will be, but never forget: You were born to lead! Don’t shy away from that. It is your destiny.