5 for Leadership

I am starting a new regular feature on my blog called “5 For Leadership.”  It will consist of five links to some great reads on leadership that I have found beneficial to me.  Please give me your feedback.  I would love to know what you think about the quality of these posts and the benefit of this blog for you in your leadership life.  Enjoy.

Leading Blog has a great review of the latest book by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen, Great By Choice.  They offer a solid synopsis of the theme and some helpful insights for understanding the book.

N2Growth blog by Mike Myatt has a very interesting post on “12 Ways to Spot Ineffective Leadership.”  I find Mike’s writing always thought provoking and practical-check it out.

Desperate Pastor Blog has an older piece (from January of this year) entitled “Spiritual Leadership.”  This post shares some insight from Samuel Logan Brengle, who was an officer in the Salvation Army.  This post takes aim at the heart of a spiritual leader.

Ode is a blog and print piece that originated in the Netherlands and is billed as “The online community for intelligent optimists.”  They did a post in February of 2010 that I think is worth a read.  It is entitled. “How Leadership and Spirituality Must Connect in the New World.”  I don’t agree with everything that is written-but the post offers an interesting perspective about the inner life of a leader for today’s world.

In case you missed it, here is a link to Desiring God where Piper wrote a very useful post on “Six Characteristics of Spiritual Leadership.”  Piper highlights six principles from the Old Testament on team leadership for the church.  It is quite good.

Leading Between Stoning & Worship

Towards the end of Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are in the middle of their 1st missionary journey. They are following their normal protocol, going first to the synagogue of each new city they visit to proclaim the gospel. Another normal pattern is asserting itself also. Wherever the gospel is preached, opposition follows. In Acts 14 these two leaders enter the city of Iconium. Per usual, they enter the local synagogue to proclaim the gospel, and the text tells us that many Jews and Greeks believe. The story goes on to tell us that there were some unbelieving Jews who “poisoned their minds against the brothers.” The solution for Paul and Barnabas was to stay put and speak even more boldly about Christ and the gospel.

Some leaders cut and run at the first sign of trouble.

Some leaders become self absorbed and attempt to defend their reputation when slander comes their way.

Paul and Barnabas see a critical need to correct a lie and reassert the truth. They take no concern for their reputation or the possibility of stirring up more trouble. They stay and restate their position more plainly and more boldly. God moved powerfully through these saints by granting them miracle powers. Yet, the end result was a city divided, some siding with those who dispensed poisonous slander and some siding with the apostles. A plot was being hatched to corner these leaders and get rid of them forever–through stoning.

There is a time to flee a situation.

Paul and Barnabas decide to leave Iconium, not out of fear, but I would suggest they do so out of wisdom and stewardship. Their mission is not yet over. There were other communities that needed to hear of the life changing power of Christ. Notice that this threat did not stop them in their proclamation. They simply continued on to the next city to declare the gospel.

When you feel threatened as a leader there is the need to both take a stand for the truth and continue to steward well the mission.

When Paul and Barnabas arrive at Lystra, they continue to preach the gospel. But Paul notices a man who has been crippled since birth. Paul sees the man’s infirmity and he sees the man’s heart.  Paul commands the man to walk–and he does! The crowd goes berserk and declares Paul and Barnabas as gods. The crowd takes it a step further and want to offer sacrifices of worship. Now it’s time for Paul and Barnabas to go berserk. They strongly deflect the worship of men and point these Lystrians toward the only worthy object of worship, the one, true, living God.

Some leaders love the lime light.

Some leaders secretly or overtly court the praise of men.

Some leaders believe they absolutely deserve the sacrificial actions of others on their behalf.

Success and praise are a powerful twosome that feed the ravenous animal of pride.

Paul and Barnabas go to extremes to ensure that people accurately discern their true nature and pay homage to the Creator of the universe. These leaders remind the people of Lystra that the marks of this Creator are all around them-pointing them toward salvation. Paul did not escape harm this time. The poisonous slanderers from Iconium had tracked Paul to Lystra. They stoned him and left him for dead.

Sometimes doing the right thing will cost you dearly.

The world is a jealous suitor.

If you uniquely claim Christ you will find yourself in unique circumstances that promise both blessing and badgering.

When you are faced with “worship” as a leader there is a need to deflect the praise and point people to a legitimate witness of the grace of the gospel.

Leaders always receive more criticism and praise than they usually deserve.

That is just a fact of leading.

How you handle these two subverters will make the difference.

What Form Will Your Leadership Take?

images-2What attitudes can cause leaders to fail or to lead poorly? There are a couple of things in Scripture that have caught my attention recently. They are found in Philippians 2:3. These two attributes are rivalry and conceit. They are juxtaposed with humility.

Philippians 2:3 states, “Do nothing from rivalry and conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Make no mistake, this is not a leadership verse. Paul is not writing exclusively to leaders in this part of his letter. Yet, Paul does clearly address this letter to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

Paul not only includes those who are spiritual leaders within this body of believers, but even singles them out as special recipients. I think the reason he does so is that he knows that whatever can possibly entangle a congregant can more readily entangle a leader. Leaders have influence, and therefore have leverage. That leverage can either be for good or for bad. A leader’s blessings are always multiplied, and so are their sins. And leaders are always susceptible to the clamoring of the crowd.

Think about rivalry and conceit for a moment.

Rivalry is about winning.

Think of the best college football rivalries and you readily think about bragging rights for the year. When you have the attitude of rivalry you are bent on winning, often at any cost. The unstated attitude is, “I am going to beat you!” This is often born out of a feeling of resentment based on jealousy. In some translations this term is labeled “selfish ambition.” Conceit is subtly different. Rivalry says, “I will show you that I am better than you.”

Conceit is the notion that you are already better than someone else.

It has the connotation of cheap pride, largely because it is all in your mind.

I think where this shows up in leadership is when we compare ourselves to other leaders or other organizations. Comparison is always a dangerous activity. It can end up sounding like this: “I/we are better than you and I/we are going to show you that we are better than you.” As you can surmise, rivalry and conceit are cousins of the sin of pride. It is so easy to slip into these sins as leaders. We want to be fruitful and we want to be effective. One of the easiest ways to feel good about ourselves is by feeling better than they guy next door. It is in our flesh to feel superior as a leader. But this can come at a high cost. God tells us in 1 Peter that He opposes the proud. No spiritual leader ultimately wants to be in opposition to Almighty God.

What does Paul offer up as a solution to this leadership disease?

In the second half of the verse Paul tells us, “in humility count others as more significant than ourselves.” “In humility” is a loaded phrase. Humility does not mean thinking less of ourselves. It actually is not thinking of ourselves at all. Paul gives us a beautiful application of the definition. We are to choose to count others as “more significant.” That automatically rules out rivalry and conceit. To indulge in rivalry and conceit is to think of ourselves as more significant than other leaders or other organizations. Those twin attributes are antithetical to humility. To desire superiority is to not live “in humility.” But Paul goes on to offer up a better and greater “form” of humility. In the ESV we find this word “form” three times in the passage-in v. 6, 7 and 8. The word “form” originally meant the very nature or character of something and the idea was both an internal and external transformation.

Notice what Paul says as he refers to Jesus as our example. In v.6-8 Paul states,

(Jesus) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Don’t miss the progression. Jesus already existed in the form of God, but took on the form of a servant, and in doing so took on human form-which took him all the way to the cross. Jesus, who is God, truly became a servant, a human being, and a sacrifice. That is the idea of “form”, to morph or change from one shape or posture to another. It is not playing to the crowd. It is staying fundamentally true to the character of Christ while being willing to count others as more significant. There is a similar progression outlined for us in Matthew 20:20-28. Jesus was addressing the twelve in regards to James’ and John’s request for the right and left hands of power in the coming kingdom. Jesus lays out a form or path of leadership-that of a servant, slave and ransom. For Jesus this is a descent into greatness. Philippians 2:9 tells us that the consequence of this “forming” for Jesus was ultimately exaltation. And Paul tells us that we are to have the same mind of humility formation in ourselves.

I would suggest that this applies even more readily to spiritual leadership. The world sees a leadership form that resembles an upward ladder leading towards visible status and outward personal success.

God sees a leadership form that includes successive descending steps towards character and servanthood that bring glory and honor to Him and empowers others.

Will your leadership reflect rivalry and conceit? Or will it create various and creative ways for others to succeed? What form you take makes all the difference.