So much has been and continues to be written about leadership. Author Harris W. Lee, examined leadership over the past fifty years and learned that there are at least 350 definitions of it. From his study of leadership Lee concluded that “leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”
To be sure, leadership is difficult to define. There is a certain elusive mysterious quality about it. There is really no set formula.
Leaders come in all sizes, shapes and colors and with varying temperaments. Some leaders are extremely outgoing while others are notedly shy. Some are educated; some are uneducated. Some leaders are good; others are not so good.
So what is a good leader? For the rest of this article, I want to share a few biblical characteristics of good leaders.
First, leaders are also followers! No question about it, leadership is a buzz word in our society. We are being told in numerous magazines and books that leadership is the way out of every difficulty. And as a matter of fact, it is. Leadership does determine the answers to practically every human endeavor.
At this point, however, Herb Miller, noted church consultant, asked a profound question. He says that if leadership is so important, why then did Jesus emphasize the verb lead so lightly? Twenty times he said, “Follow me.” He used the word “lead” zero times. Why? As Miller put it, “Because leadership is not the first step in becoming an effective leader.”
The truth is Holy Writ says comparatively little about leadership and a great deal about followship. Jesus did not invite Peter, Andrew, James and John to become leaders. He said to them, “Follow me!”
The underlying thought is that to be a good leader, you have to first be a good follower.
Second, leaders assume responsibility! It is a truism that everything which has been “done in history has been done by somebody;” some person took up the challenge, assumed responsibility and exercised some leadership to do it.
In their study of what followers most want from their leaders, the authors of the book “The Leadership Challenge, ”found three basic categories: commitment, competence and consistency. These qualities must not be only be present with the leaders; they must also be present within the organization. When leaders assume responsibility they commit themselves, they work at being competent and they practice consistency.
Third, leaders serve the larger community and not their own self-interest! A church leader of another generation liked to say that a locomotive can go faster by itself, but the task of a locomotive is to pull a train.
Leadership is always for people and group purposes and not for self-interest.
I think German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a good example of this kind of leader. Writing in a recent editorial in The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, the author wrote about “A leadership style in high demand.” The writer was talking about Chancellor Merkel. He stated: “Chancellor Merkel prefers values more than power-values like rule of law and respect for one’s opponent. This approach has her made the most admired democratic leader in the world.”
The writer goes on to talk about Chancellor Merkel’s leadership in the European struggle against COVID-19, her efforts to broker peace between warring neighbors and her determination to show respect for Russia even in disagreement.
Where there is genuine leadership there is always a sense of team, family and community.
Fourth, leaders are undaunted by criticism! Authentic leaders do three things with criticism.
They “listen” to it. Is it true? Is it valid?
They “learn” from it.
They “leave” it. Leaders never turn their lives over to the management of critics.
I say to you, the search for leaders — God’s kind of leaders — is on!
The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.