Leadership: Character and Quality

 When you think “leader” what comes to mind? Does the guy in the mirror appear? As men we’ve been uniquely called to reflect God in our relationships and in the world. Relationally with women and especially with wives we’ve been given a position of authority, 1 Cor. 11: 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife [1] is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Also we’re called in the world to establish dominion and rule. (Gen. 1:26) Now my purpose isn’t to convince you that you are a leader. In fact as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that the question isn’t, “Are you a leader?” Rather it’s, “Who’s following you, and where are you leading them?” When addressing the issue of leadership there really are two distinct areas: The character of a leader, and the quality of a leader. Character is the inward motivation of a leader, quality is the outward methods that leader uses. In my experience in evangelical circles we tend to major on the character and minor on the quality because character is more spiritual. I once was a part of a ministry where leaders were chosen solely on their character and then just expected to know how to lead. Subsequently, I met a lot of guys who were great guys but honestly couldn’t lead a horse to water. The converse however, is truly terrifying. Hitler, Stalin, these men were great leaders yet their leadership caused some of the worst suffering this world has ever seen. We need both the right inward motivation and the outward methods together for effective leadership. I want to point out three character qualities of a Godly leader then three methods of leadership each character and quality building on the other. The first character quality of a Godly leader at first might seem counterintuitive: Humility, the ability and willingness to SUBMIT to authority. I love the Centurion’s identification with Jesus in this regard in Luke 7: 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Now this is a statement that is a little difficult. At first glance it would make more sense for him to say, “For I too am a man IN authority…” But he specifically doesn’t say that. (The Greek here is actually VERY specific) I actually didn’t get this until I was in the military myself. (I was in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for six years) What this man is referring to is a military concept called the chain of command. This is how the chain of command works: Authority is given over resources to affect the will of the one in giving the authority. It worked like this for the Centurion: The governor has a will. (That the streets are safe, that taxes be collected, etc.) Therefore, the Centurion was placed under the governor’s authority and given authority (over soldiers) to effect the governor’s will. In this the Centurion “got” Jesus in a way even Jesus’ own disciples didn’t understand. Jesus continually throughout the gospels repeated, “I’ve not come to do my will but the will of the one who sent me… The words I say are not my own but are given to me by my Father… etc.” The “chain of command” isn’t just a military structure it’s the way the UNIVERSE is ordered. The truth is that whatever authority we might have in our lives as men has been given for a purpose. That purpose is to affect the will of God in those we lead. We need to acknowledge that if we are not first submitted to God’s will and seeking to affect His will in those He’s called us to lead, we have no authority. At best our leadership will fail. At worse we can cause unimaginable harm. However when we are submitted to Him, guess who’s “got our back”. (More on that later) Secondly the Godly leader is a man of integrity. A man who’s word and life are one in the same. Psalms 15:1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; 3 who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change Matt. 5: 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. A quote I once heard went like this, “Let your word be like gold. Never given lightly and always good for it.” James 1:8 states that a double minded man is unstable in ALL his ways. People simply don’t follow double minded, unstable men. However a man who’s word and life are one and the same, a man who backs up his word WITH his life they will follow “to Hell and back”. Even if initially, they distrust the direction of His leadership. You know what destroys trust between a leader and those He leads? To put it in one word: selfishness. This kind of goes back to point one but I think it applicable here. If we lead, or fail to lead because of selfishness we destroy the trust of those we’ve been called to lead. To on one hand direct with a vision of affecting God’s will, then turn and direct, or fail to direct, with a vision of affecting our own will is double minded. Those we’ve been called to lead simply don’t know when to follow. But I believe for men in particular it’s even more serious. Hebrews 6: 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, God in wanting to convince us of His purpose towards us didn’t just give His word. (Which should have been enough, this was the WORD that spoke into darkness and light appeared.) He guaranteed it with an oath, swearing by Himself since there was nothing higher to swear by, effectively putting the entirety of His nature as God on the line. As if to say, “If this does not happen, I AM NOT GOD.” Now let’s just take a second to appreciate that truth. THIS is how convinced God wants us to be about His attitude towards us. Now here’s the thing for us as men- when we break our promises, when we say we’ll do something then fail to come through, it is this aspect of God’s character that we fail to reflect. There’s a reason marriage is a covenant. There’s a reason our word “should be like gold”. There’s a reason so many don’t believe the unchangeable character of God’s purpose, because, “…a faithful man who can find?” However we can be “mini anchors” to those God has put in our lives by simply being men of our word. But integrity in leadership is more than just our word. It is holding ourselves to a higher standard for the sake of those we lead. 1 Cor. 9: 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, [2] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified Paul exhorts Timothy, “12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” The use of the word “example” sadly in my mind doesn’t convey Paul’s meaning. Most of the time when I think of someone as an “example” I really think of them as someone I admire. It’s easy to apply verse 12 as, “Just try do be someone other people think highly of.” But that isn’t what Paul was saying at all. The actual Greek phrase Paul uses is “be a die”. Paul has in mind a signet die that was pressed into wax to affirm authorship. Verse 12 could be read as, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but impress upon others the signature of Christ. Let His authorship be seen and felt in your speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” As leaders we don’t just strive so that others have a positive opinion of us. We live so that those we lead might see and feel Christ as the one writing our actions, and we “press into” them to mold them into His image. (Not ours) Now the last two characteristics should be evident and growing in every believer, but a leader is separated from others by one character quality: courage. In Joshua chapter 1 God commands Joshua, “Be strong and courageous… Be strong and very courageous… Have I not told you? Be strong and courageous!” When God repeats something He means it. And leadership is defined by courage. However it isn’t the “screw yourself up” kind of courage, or the “believe in yourself” kind of courage. God actually instructs Joshua as to where His courage should come from. “6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them “ What God is saying to Joshua is this, “I’m giving you this responsibility and I’m going to fulfill it through you.” In leadership it’s easy to see ourselves as ultimately responsible. That the “buck stops with us”. We can hesitate in our responsibilities because it feels like “it’s on us” if this goes wrong. However, knowing the sovereignty of God allows us to press into our callings confident that He isn’t calling us to BE God. “7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success [1] wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” “You want to know if what you’re doing is the ‘right thing’ Joshua? Here’s how…” This is a command with a promise that if we as leaders do not turn from God’s word, that if we meditate on it day and night we WILL be able to do what He’s called us to do. And He cannot help but bless those in His will. “9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” “I AM WITH YOU.” Leadership is lonely. We are called to set direction, make decisions, then held accountable for those decisions. In the Marines, the leadership course I took put it this way, (not literally) “If you are obsessed with what people think about you, if you need their approval, you’ll never be a leader.” The greater the position of leadership the fewer close friends you’ll have. At times we are called to direct others in a way they initially don’t care to move. At times we are called to turn down offers for events and fellowship because we know there are those who are watching us and emulating our example. We are called to bear the responsibility and be accountable for the decisions we make. And it’s in these times that God says to us, “You are not alone.” It’s when we feel most alienated from those around us that God comes alongside and whispers, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you.” These things give us TRUE courage, not false courage that hopes you have the “right stuff” yet in the back of your mind the dread looms, and you are terrified of the day where what you have isn’t enough. We can rest in the confidence that our confidence is not in ourselves. So let’s admit that none of us are there character wise. But prayerfully we’re growing. Let’s say we’re growing in humility, in integrity and in courage. What now? How do we serve people by leading them? Ok now we get to the funny part because the best explanation I’ve ever heard for what servant leadership looks like came not from the Marines or the Police, but from all things swing dance lessons. No seriously, some friends and I decided to learn how to swing dance and the second lesson the instructor sat us down and explained to us the “theory of dance”. (See if you don’t see the Biblical connotations) This is what he said, “Here’s how dance works. The guy has to lead. The girl has to follow. That’s just how dance has evolved. If the guy doesn’t lead the dance doesn’t happen. If the girl doesn’t follow the dance doesn’t happen. Now guy’s this is how you have to lead: You have to think a step ahead to provide direction. If you’re focused on what you are doing right now you’ll fail. You then have to make a decision about the next move. We’re going to teach you a ton of steps, pick one. You then have to confidently communicate to your partner the signal for that step. Some steps will require you to physically move her, and if you’re tentative she won’t know what the next step is.” After the class I wrote this in my journal, “Serving others in leadership is humbly but confidently communicating decisive direction.” Let’s work backwards through that: 1. Direction: “You’ve got to think a step ahead.” One of the things I learned as a Cop was that people actually follow direction. The more specific the direction the more they’ll follow. If you say, “Go over there.” People won’t move. However, if you say, “See that curb? I want you to sit down on that curb till I come and get you.” They’ll actually go and sit on the curb. Now providing direction doesn’t mean you “assert your authority” saying, “OK people I’m in charge! Here’s what you’re going to do!” In fact you can lead and direct and NOT be the one officially “in charge”. After ten years in the church dealing with the question every Sunday of, “Where do you want to go for lunch?” I’ve found in simply offering a restaurant suggestion, eight times out of ten the group ends up going with my suggestion. You would think that serving others is asking them what they want, but it’s far more effective to offer direction that they are free to accept or reject. Even when the direction is rejected it intitates meaningful dialogue so that a decision can be reached. But you’ve got to have a vision. You’ve got to see ahead to where you aren’t now and decide how to move there. 2. Deciding Decisively: “Pick one.” I thought I’d share with you one of the “defining instructions” of my life that I heard from a pastor speaking to men using Adam’s example of what NOT to do: “Make a decision, Make it YOUR decision, and live or die by that decision.” Make a decision: There comes a point where you just have to choose. You just have to step out in faith. After all the counsel and information gathering and prayer, PICK ONE! This is where I’ve found Romans 8:28 particularly comforting, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” We can step out in faith knowing that God will be work good for us regardless of the outcome of our decisions. Make it your decision: What was Adam’s first response when confronted by God after sinning? “It was her! She made me do it!” Gentlemen let me challenge you to from this moment onward have the mentality that no one makes you do anything. That you and only you are responsible for the decisions God has called you to make. Weather that is a restaurant, movie, career path, church, where you live, etc, etc… YOU are the one making the decision and you and I need to be willing to live with the consequences of that decision. “No excuse Sir!” I’m so grateful to the Marines for this one phrase. In Boot Camp if we failed in a responsibility the response we had to give was, “No excuse Sir!”, even if we had a legitimate excuse. The point which was driven home was that your responsibilities are your responsibilities, and you are the one that needs to find a way to fulfill them. Live or Die by that decision: This doesn’t mean we plough forward with a pig headed “my way or the highway” mentality. It’s a commitment that I will see this decision through for good or ill. This decision may lead to another decision. This decision may lead to a decision that contradicts my original decision. This decision may lead where I hope, it may not. And it’s the latter that I think uniquely paralyzes us. So often we want to wait till we are sure that a decision we make will definitely turn out the way we intend that we fail to act. This can be (not always but most often is) a lack of faith rather than a lack of wisdom. Wisdom isn’t knowing where our decisions will ultimately lead us, but rather making decisions with the grace given to us and trusting God with the result. Faith trusts we can own the negative probabilities of the decisions we make. Trusting that God can and will cause our decisions, for good or ill, to be for both His glory and our good. 3. Communicate confidently: Men notoriously are bad at communicating. You know why I think that really is? We’ve failed up until this point in some area in what I’ve just related. We’re not submitted to God’s will. We’re not living lives of selfless direction. We’re quite frankly cowards, hoping that our strength will be proven in our decisions but still giving ourselves an “out”. We don’t have a vision or direction, or we’re paralyzed because we can’t make a decision or are afraid of the consequences. Communication really isn’t all that difficult when we are faithful in these things, but one thing we can grow in is specificity. Men in general are satisfied with vague non committal conversation. We ask open ended questions. (What’s up?) And we are satisfied with non committal answers. (Nothing) The more specific we can be in asking questions, defining answers, and providing direction the more clear we can be in our leadership. I once heard this quote, “The art of communication isn’t communicating so that you are understood. It’s communicating in such a way that it is impossible for you to be misunderstood.” Let’s commit to impossible to misunderstand communication. At this point it’s easy to be daunted or condemned. I’m not “there” on any of these things. But here is our hope, that our security is based in the performance of another. There has only been one real man, one real leader, Jesus Christ. God looks at us in His performance not ours and in that security we can now go forward in the desire to be like Him. Preparing this I was uniquely encouraged by James because so often I feel like the “double minded man unstable in all his ways…” But James before this, gives this charge: 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. What affected me was the phrase “without reproach”. Do we need wisdom? Do we need the ability to discern not only our own hearts and motives but also direct others? The appeal is that if we come to God asking, He is eager to give generously without reproach. God isn’t saying, “Boy you’ve blown it, it’s about time you came to me.” Instead, regarding His Son’s work as sufficient He is poised to be generous.

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