The Shape of Leadership:A Soft Heart with a Strong Spine

Aaron was reading a section out of a John MacArthur book on the strengths of the apostle Peter. His impulsive, go-for-it attitude endears him to me, and I feel a keen sense of hope knowing that Jesus chose him despite his rash run-and-then-trip responses. Yes, he sunk under the waves, but he did get out of the boat. Did any of the other disciples walk on water? He did deny Christ–a disgraceful act–but he was closer than the others who had already abandoned their Savior. He failed to follow perfectly, but follow he did!

In our culture and country, leadership often looks like do-whatever-it-takes-to-succeed mentality and a conviction that says, “I will not listen or follow.” The end justifies the means. But that wasn’t what our Lord demonstrated. He knew how to hold absolute ground over the truth and yet show a deeply compassionate heart toward his creation. The irony about strong leadership within the Christian community involves a deep humility and passionate submission to the Lordship of Jesus. He is above all and nothing we are nor hold onto is beyond His grasp. We have no “off limits” signs before God. He is in charge of us and so we lead others with humility. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servantMatthew 20:26

So a truly godly leader first follows the Lord.

Sadly, many “leaders” are more concerned about being celebrities and elevating themselves to a status of “look at me,” vs. “look at God.” In order to be effective leaders, we have to be effective influencers, and one of the best ways to do that is live out our real convictions. Do we say He is everything and more than enough and then live like the American dream is our be all and end all? Do we say that obedience to the Lord is of top priority and then chase after the approval of man and the empty achievements of awards or blatantly sin, knowing “He will forgive me”? Do I say “I trust Him” and then live in fearful anxiety over my health, my kids, my finances, or my future?

Deeply rooted faith in the Lord and a calm assurance of His presence equips us to lead with the right perspective.

True leaders don’t use those below them to stand on their shoulders. Rather, true leaders equip and empower those beneath them to rise above their circumstances and reach the higher calling of Christ.

How do I demonstrate the Jesus characteristic of uncompromising truth with a compassionate heart toward the struggles of others? For one, a real leader remembers who they are and why they are here and that the purpose of leadership isn’t power, but empowering. They don’t allow selfishness or emotion to fuel their direction. They take the role of servant, recognizing that God is first and foremost, people are second, and I myself come last.

Team leaders must be selfless and objective…”—Patrick Lencioni

True leaders stand in the gap and help others to see a greater perspective while compassionately loving them to a better way, graciously understanding that we are all on a sanctifying journey.

A few other thoughts from John MacArthur, Called to Lead:

  • Leadership is not about style or technique as much as it is about character.
  • Great adversity can be turned to great advantage by the power of an influential leader.
  • A real leader will work hard to make everyone around him successful. His passion is to help make the people under his leadership flourish. That is why a true leader must have the heart of a servant.
  • A real leader’s aim is to make everyone around him better. He makes them stronger, more effective, and more motivated.
  • Optimistic enthusiasm inspires followers. People will naturally follow a leader who arouses their hopes, and they will just as surely back away from someone who is perpetually pessimistic.
  • True leadership is tested and proved in crises. The real leader is the one who can handle the stress.
  • Leadership is influence. It is a matter of ability, not position.
  • Real leaders have a clear understanding of what is absolute and what is negotiable, and they hold the line on the principles that truly matter.
  • Loyalty is essential to leadership. The wise leader cultivates loyalty by being loyal—loyal to the Lord, loyal to the truth, and loyal to the people he leads.
  • No competent leader is going to be anxious to impress people with his credentials.
  • The great and encouraging reality of our calling as spiritual leaders is this: Knowing our weakness isn’t a disadvantage; it is essential to what we do as leaders.
  • No one who lacks the courage of basic convictions can possibly be an effective leader.
  • The more effective you are as a leader, the more the enemy will bring the battle to you. That is the nature of leadership.
  • The real, influential leaders are the ones who devote themselves to personal discipline and make the most of their gifts.
  • Your own priorities, not someone else’s emergencies, should determine what you do and what you delegate to others.

Matt. 10:16, “so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Psalm 37: 30-31, “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.”

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