Becoming A True Leader“...the joy of the Lord is your strength”
Leaders come in various shapes and sizes. They come from different ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations. Some are soft-spoken and reserved, others loud and energetic.
Some have large followings, others only a handful. Some gain notoriety for their achievements; others remain unnoticed regardless of great effort. God’s evaluation of effective leadership looks beyond the above. Consider these five leadership qualities.
Often people don’t appreciate or notice what leaders have done. Consequently, leaders that serve simply because they “love people” soon wear out with exhaustion. But leaders that serve out of their “love for God” find His approval validation enough. In “The Best from All His Books,” Oswald Chambers says, “If you are devoted to the cause of humanity, you will soon be exhausted… But if the mainspring of your service is love for Jesus, you can serve men though they treat you like a doorman.”
Leaders motivated by their love for Jesus echo the Apostle Paul’s words, “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14 NIV). Knowing God’s love increases our love for others. When leaders rely on Christ’s love to fuel their efforts, they are better able to feed the hungry, show hospitality to the stranger, clothe the needy, care for the sick and visit the prisoner (Matt. 5:37-39). Therefore, true leaders pray continually “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Phil. 1:9 NIV).
Leaders often worry too much about success and fail to focus on faithfulness. Discouragement weakens and debilitates them. Focusing on being faithful helps prevent it.
When Malcolm Muggeridge visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta, he watched her send trucks each morning to haul away the sick and dying from the streets. He asked her, “Don’t you ever get discouraged?” “No,” she replied. “Why not? In spite of all you do, the same task has to be done again the next day.” “I do not get discouraged,” she said, “because God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.”
“Faithful” in the Greek means “showing oneself firm.” Paul was appointed to ministry because he was faithful (1 Tim. 1:12). Daniel showed faithfulness when it looked like the world was flying out of control. God’s people were living in a foreign land after being exiled from Israel. They were brutalized and forgotten. Daniel prayed to the God of Heaven daily, despite the mandate to consider the nation’s leader as divine. Daniel prayed, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others” (Dan. 2:20-21 NIV).
Can others rely on our leadership because we are faithful?
An unconscious thought that often hinders leaders sounds like, “I can make it on my own. I’ve done this before,” or “I can’t do this. I don’t have the talent or ability.” Leaders who give up their self-will and self-effort allow room for the Holy Spirit to work through them. Scripture reminds us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Prov. 3:5-6). Leaders who consistently depend on the Holy Spirit to bring about God’s purposes are satisfied knowing that it will be accomplished in God’s way and God’s time. The words of the prophet Isaiah reassures leaders that God’s Spirit is the source of ultimate wisdom: “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow” (Isaiah 48:17). Knowing this, Paul says, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Col. 1:29 NIV). Dependency is looking to the Holy Spirit instead of struggling with our energy. When I write, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me His ideas, His thoughts, His words. “You are my help today. You are my Leader, my only hope!”
Paul encourages us to “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16 NIV). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (24, 25).
Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle became one of the most effective leaders in The Salvation Army. He led many to enter into the life of holiness to which God calls His people. Brengle began in a small, dark cellar, polishing the black boots of the other cadets, the lowliest of jobs. At first, he felt it was a waste of time and talent. He questioned God. In “Samuel Logan Brengle,” Clarence Hall describes Brengle seeing a picture of Jesus, who had left heaven’s glories, bending over, humbling Himself and washing His disciple’s feet. Brengle prayed, “Dear Lord, Thou didst wash their feet;
I will black their boots!” Brengle later admitted it was the best training he could ever receive.
Leaders that demonstrate humility honor others above themselves (Rom. 12:10). They are willing to associate with people of low position (Rom. 12:16). They are not easily angered, and they keep no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5). They are not conceited or envious (Gal. 5:26). They are patient, bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:2).
“…Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NIV). Consequently, His extended prayer times availed Him power to serve and teach, and to perform miracles.
Leaders often become busy with legitimate needs and set aside prayer for later. When the first Christians were deciding how to best follow their risen Lord, some Greek believers thought their widows were being discriminated against in the distribution of food. When the leaders came together to consider a solution, they gave priority to prayer. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word” (Acts 6:2-4).
Nehemiah practiced a running dialogue with the Lord while rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls and gates. The Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem around 600 BCE. After Persian ruler Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonian Empire, including Jerusalem, around 516 BCE, Nehemiah sought God’s help when he approached the mighty king of Persia for permission to rebuild the city. “O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me” (Neh. 1:11). When he ran into serious opposition and hostility, he talked to the Lord (4:4-5, 9; 6:14). When he considered issues of his work and wages, he put it in God’s hand (verses 17-19). When he needed endurance and strength during the battle, he didn’t focus on his weak resources; he brought his needs to God (6:9). Nehemiah told his disappointments to the Lord (13:6-14). Nehemiah never carried his burdens alone. He immediately released the misunderstandings and gossip and threats to the Lord in prayer and he regained strength.
Leaders who partner with God in prayer are enabled to persevere and encourage others. “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
Pam Enderby is a freelance writer. Over the past35 years, she has been active in various leadership positions. She lives with her husband in Shawnee, KS. They have five grown children and five grandchildren.