One of the greatest threats to leadership is isolation.
The threat only grows as a leader rises in his or her status and scope of responsibility. Isolation leaves a leader without necessary data points. These necessary data points keep a leader grounded, humble, and self-aware. Without these points of reference, a leader is exposed to many temptations—the greatest of these temptations is self-sufficiency.
The antidote to isolation is peer community.
Every leader needs multiple sources of community. Peer community is a very critical source. Leaders must be in periodic connection with those of similar leadership responsibility. Only those who have experienced the weight, pressure, and stress of a like-kind of leadership responsibility can offer understanding and perspective.
Peer community typically does not exist within a leader’s normal daily environment.
True peer community cannot take place with those who answer to the leader. Followers will always be challenged to stay completely honest—and every leader needs abject honesty as a regular mirror for his or her soul. Leaders must intentionally seek out peer community. Quality peer community may be close at hand or it may exist a great distance away. But with today’s technology distance cannot remain an excuse to not connect.
There are three primary motivations for developing peer community:
Calling—your invitation to lead.
Calling in the Bible is always an invitation. It is an invitation from God to step into something significant and supernatural. Some callings in Scripture are dramatic and legendary. Some callings are quiet and less well-known. All of these invitations to lead are significant because they have their source in God and they are intended to move God’s agenda forward. I don’t know of a single leadership calling in the Bible that is easy and without struggle. Therefore, callings must be nurtured and maintained. The leader who desires to lead long must have their calling refreshed and renewed by others in community. Leaders must be reminded about why they lead and for whom they lead.
Calling is God’s permission for the leader to have influence over others.
Accountability—your integrity to lead.
Accountability means a leader is known to someone and committed to being transparent about his or her responsibilities. The leader who ignores or refuses a community of accountability will eventually live a duplicitous life. Accountability must be holistic because leadership is an integrated proposition. Often, that which is unknown to the leader, or to others, will be the very thing that destroys one’s platform for leading. Disqualification is often the sad and public result of a leader without accountability.
Accountability is God’s protection for a leader’s sustainability.
Covenant—your promise to lead.
A covenant of any kind is a binding promise between two parties. Leaders are expected to lead. Leaders must lead. And leadership is always a leveraged activity—meaning that a leader’s efforts, and all of his or her decisions, have a multiplied impact far beyond themselves. Because of this principle of leverage a leader can have an impact for great good or great harm. But when willing followers grant you the authority to lead them they expect you to lead them toward meaningful change and to do so with integrity and care. The leader-follower relationship is built around this stated or unstated promise. The leader may carry titled authority but followers will give their best efforts when the leader fulfills his promise to lead well—this leads to what is truly desired by the leader—granted authority.
Covenant is God’s purpose for a leader to fulfill his calling.
King David in the Bible illustrates the liability of isolation and the necessity of connection in 2 Samuel 11. There are three markers within this narrative that show the potential destruction of a leader in isolation.
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. (verse 1)
David was not where he was supposed to be and David was alone. This king was not leading his troops into battle, he was at home. He was not in the company of those who could give personal context for him, he was among only those who served him.
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. (verse 2)
David was not living a disciplined existence and he was looking beyond God’s provision for satisfaction. Left to himself, without a presence of any purposeful voice of correction, David was self-absorbed and open to temptation.
David sent …
David abused his titled authority to get what he wanted and to cover up his sin. Beginning in verse one and continuing through the next several verses we find the word “sent” five times. Repeatedly, David used his authority to send others to do his bidding … whether they wanted to go or not and whether it was morally right or not. David “sent” for Bathsheba so that he could commit adultery. David “sent” for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to try to cover up the illegitimate pregnancy. David “sent” Uriah back to the battle lines that he might have Uriah killed. Finally, David “sent” for Bathsheba, Uriah’s widow, to become his wife.
When a leader is isolated and without honest community, he or she is on borrowed time. But with a community of peers who can feed and strengthen a sense of calling, accountability, and covenant, a leader can be used of God for great impact and His glory.