Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Character of Leadership

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 16 Feb 2012

"Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the LORD without wavering." (Ps 26:1, NAS)

For the past two weeks, I have been preaching on leadership matters in my Church. It has made me more aware of all things leadership. I read about it. I pray. I talk with friends. I pray. I write about it. I pray. One word stands out clear: Character. If there is one word to describe spiritual leadership, this is the word.

What is character? For Henry Blackaby, character essentially means people follow leaders and are influenced on the basis of their leaders' integrity. For that, there are two kinds of influences: illegitimate and legitimate.

A) Illegitimate Sources of Influences

Blackaby goes on to indicate three kinds of illegitimate sources of influence. Firstly, good leaders do not need to depend on a position to be authoritative. People who depend on their titles or the power associated with their titles are merely leading by position. Such a manner will lead followers to chase after positions for all the wrong reasons.

Secondly, power is another illegitimate source. In this world, we hear about money is power, and that money can make the world go round. Like the rich man paying money for a prostitute to sleep with him. One can buy sex but not love. Worse, the rich man loses respect for self because he has failed to respect the woman for who the woman is. Even in churches, there is that common concern about power struggles within the board and the clergy. When things do not go the way of either party, it is common to see each group garnering support in order to force a majority decision. The fact of life is that, majority decisions do not necessarily mean they are right. Just because more people voted for A does not mean A is ethically more correct.

The third illegitimate source of influence is personality. Nowadays, we see personality cults in all places, including churches and Christian groups. Hire a famous name, and we can see people queueing up every Sunday morning to enter the church. Get a charismatic speaker and the congregation grows by leaps and bounds. The fact remains is that spiritual leadership has got nothing to do with personality. It has more to do with Christ-like humility.

B) Legitimate Sources

Thankfully, Blackaby does not stop at just giving us the bad aspects of leadership. There is hope. He gives us 5 sources of legitimate leadership influences. First and foremost, it is God who chooses the leader. God chose Moses, Joshua, David, Deborah, and Jesus. God chose John Wesley, John Calvin, the disciples, and many others. Good spiritual leaders will recognize their being chosen by God.

Second, the spiritual leader will have that vibrant relationship with God. If anyone does not have that special intimate relationship with God, he/she cannot be a leader.

Third, a spiritual leader has character and integrity written all over him/her. I preached last week that 'what a person is doing when no one is looking is a test of his true character.' The story of Ted Haggard is a sad case. Haggard was once a prominent evangelical leader, and had many followers. Due to one hidden sin in which he solicited sex in private, while appearing pious in public led to his downfall.

Fourth, how a leader is can be seen from his/her past track records. Here, I want to caution anyone from merely looking at the results or the highlights of the person. Remember that all of us go through periods of ups and downs. Look at the trending. Are the ups and downs trending toward a greater and deeper trust in God? Look at how potential leaders handle their highs with humility? Notice how the leader manage their disappointments. It is ok to be disappointed from time to time, but if one remains in disappointment for a prolonged period of time, it is a red flag.

Fifth, how much is the potential leader preparing himself for leadership? Is the leader actively exercising his/her gifts and talents? Is the leader always telling the same old stories without any sign of himself or herself learning things new?

C) Leading From the Spirit

Spiritual leadership is not for the faint-hearted. It is definitely not for the fleshly-minded. Here, Oswald Sanders gives us a valuable contrast between natural and spiritual leadership.

[Adapted from Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994, p29]

It is a helpful table to remind us the difference between self-dependence and God-dependent. Spiritual leadership is wholly dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to respond to the Spirit's work. Let me close with Sanders's powerful words about spiritual leadership.

"Spirituality is not easy to define, but you can tell when it is present. It is the fragrance of the garden of the Lord, the power to change the atmosphere around you, the influence that makes Christ real to others." (31)

Pray for your leaders. Pray for future leaders. Pray that your spiritual leaders will not lead from illegitimate sources of leadership, or natural skills only. Pray that they will lead with the Holy Spirit guiding them. For the spiritual leader himself is led by God first. Then and only then he can lead others spiritually.

THOUGHT: "The development of a strong Christian character is the development of a man after God's heart. Your character is who you are when no one is looking and what you are willing to stand for when someone is looking. Character is who you are striving to be and what you can be trusted with." (Henry Blackaby, The Man God Uses, Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1999, p6)


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