When attempting to define the word “leader,” we often do not think of ourselves. Our mind generally goes directly to someone else responsible for inspiring and influencing many—a minister, a past president, a CEO, a religious figure, an educator. But we, too, are called to lead, whether it is within the parameter of family, friendship, marriage, employment, or church. God has created each of us with a purpose to influence those in our circles. Scripture teaches us to “…consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) and that in humility we should value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
In his book Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, internationally recognized leadership expert John C. Maxwell states: “Leadership is influence… nothing more, nothing less… We are influenced every day by so many people. We have been molded into the people we are by those influences. And we mold others, often when we least expect it.”1
What is it that keeps us from accepting our God-ordained purpose? For many it is fear. Fear of insignificance. Fear of rejection. Fear of responsibility. Jesus warns us in Luke 12:48 “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” The idea that how we live our lives has a direct impact on those around us can cause us to shy away, but simply saying, “I am not a leader” doesn’t make it less true.
Evangelical pastor Chuck Swindoll said, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.2 Confronting fear and facing challenges is part of our everyday life but Jesus did not leave us without direction. Approaching these situations as He did—with empathy, love, and humility—nurtures His servant’s heart within us. He models for us how to serve and He teaches us how to lead; “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NLT).
Theologian John R.W. Stott said, “God has a leadership role of some degree and kind for each of us.”3 Perhaps he explained the epitome of leadership for all of us when he said: The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.
from the Editors
1 John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, Nashville, TN: HarperCollins, 2018
2 Chuck Swindoll, Statements of Strength from the Leading Through Crisis Series, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2018
3 John R.W. Stott, Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today, Old Tappan, NJ: F.H. Revell Co., 1996
“… Adaptive leadership is not about finding the best-known or most-available fix to a problem, but instead adapting to the changing environment or circumstances so that new possibilities arise for accurately seeing, understanding and facing challenges with new actions. Just as an organism must adapt in order to thrive in a changing environment, so organizations need to adapt to the changing world around them without losing their core identity, their reason for being, their core values and purpose. This kind of leadership is complex and fraught with loss, fears and anxiety, causing us to feel off-balance and insecure. But it is the essence of leadership in a changing world.”
– Dr. Tod Bolsinger
Presbyterian minister, VP of Leadership Formation at Fuller Theological Seminary, author
Excerpt from Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015