I used to consider myself a strong leader. At least, that’s the compliment some others had given me. After last week, though, that perception of myself has changed; and so has my goal of being an effective leader.
I was sitting with a new friend of mine; an African American pastor in Memphis, TN. This guy is sharp and witty – one of those that truly gets the party started when he walks in the room. We were talking about life and leadership over breakfast, and he made an off-hand comment that caught my attention:
Leadership isn’t about hitting cut and paste with subject matter covered in the myriad of leadership books out today. It is about fresh, original ideas and doing what is right.
Soon after our conversation I stood silent, trying to take in all the plaques, informational videos and pictures that lined the walls of the National Civil Rights Museum. This museum is at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. (The wreath in the picture below marks the spot he was standing when assassinated)
Here was a guy who saw injustice and did something about it. He didn’t go the route of aggression or anger as others around were doing. He marched, he preached, and he became an example for many to follow.
In the museum, I noticed others who were also examples to follow. There were white people who believed segregation was wrong as well. They stood up to denounce it. Their bloodied faces in the pictures on the walls now display the response of other white people who didn’t quite agree with them.
What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus was fiercely opposed to the religious leaders of his day. Contrary to what the Jews wanted, he didn’t lead a massive revolt. Instead, he – led by his Father – showed compassion on the downcast, healed the sick, and gave Life to many.
So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:19
Jesus wasn’t focused on being the most charismatic, polished, or effective leader. He was focused on his Father, and lived seeking to respond to His leading.
A New Paradigm
Leadership has become an idol in our culture. Don’t get me wrong; leadership is needed. Just last week I read this article highlighting the difference between leaders and followers. The author begins his post with this: “Leaders are initiators. Followers are responders.” I understand his point, and agree with most of his post, but I would change the conclusion.
All Christ-Followers have a Leader out in front. Hence the name – follower. We aren’t out there doing our own thing, flexing our leadership muscles, and letting our Type A personalities run wild. By the very nature of who we are, we have humbly accepted the title of follower.
My new goal: To be a first responder.
I want to walk with Jesus in a deep, intimate relationship. As he opens my eyes to his truth, I want to be faithful to respond to his prompting, no matter the consequence.
What if we saw injustice around us and actually did something about it? What if we took time to talk with a reclusive neighbor who holds everyone at a distance? What if we noticed all the children in our cities with no safe place to call home, or found out that sex-trafficking is alive and well in this country? Would we do anything about it?
There have been many that have lived before us that did. I want to be like them.
We don’t need to go out there focusing our attention and admiration on “cutting and pasting” from what other great people, organizations, ministries, or churches are doing. We do need to get used to sitting and listening, to digging into God’s word, and to praying for eyes that see the needs around us that He is prompting us to meet.
What do you think? Are you leading, following, or responding?
Great thoughts, Kevin. I agree with your post more as a re-defining of our current perception of what leadership is. It’s not just about what we know, it’s also very much about what we do and inspire others to do along with us. Most of us are “copy & paste experts” who think of ourselves as leaders (when we ought not to). We have more of these so-called “leaders” than we know what to do with. Leaders like Dr. King, however, aren’t obsolete like your title suggests. They are just in short supply. Therefore, it is incumbent upon leaders not just to be first responders, but also to be raising up leaders themselves.
Well said, Matt. I like your thinking. Maybe the title should have been, “Leaders Are In Short Supply…”
I think my trip to Memphis just made me feel cheap for ever associating myself with the title, “Leader”. There are great men and women who have gone as far as to be sawn in two for what they believed. (Heb 11) Any persecution I have received for standing up for what is right pales in comparison, obviously.
God has chosen you to do something new. There is a change coming and you have seen the start of it.
You are right, Paul; God is in the midst of a continual work of redeeming this world back to himself. I’m glad to join him in that mission.
Kevin, I like to to ask the question a little different – What DID Jesus do? You answered it in John 5:19. And, even at an early age He was about His Father’s business. Jesus answers his parents question (with a question) of His whereabouts in Luke 2:49; “why is it that you sought Me, did you not know that I MUST be about about My Father’s business?” Three verses later we are told that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature…”.
I believe you stated in right on, our blueprint for also increasing in wisdom and stature!
Bobby Philippians 4:6-7
Right on, Bobby.
Don’t know what led me here, Kevin,
But I do know the ‘Who’. I didn’t intend to read your current dovotional or your blog! Your remarks on Leadership being over-rated is spot on. It’s still lonely at times. I’m going to be doing a beta presentation (at the encouragement of both our senior and associate pastors) tomorrow morning at our church for a select group of church and community leaders.
The theme? Preventing elder fraud and elder financal exploitation–in the church. (Yep, the church has caught up with, and according to much of the financial literature surpassed, the world.)
My purpose is to create many individual ‘elder advocate’ leaders as possible. The intent is to give our senior saints some protection in bringing this ’embarrassing’ topic out in the open–and to encourage our lay leaders in the church the scoop on a terribl ‘disease’ that affects one out of every five seniors (65+) in America.
Thanks again for your inspiration.
Very interesting, Steve. Hats off to you in this work that will help these seniors across the country.
“Jesus wasn’t focused on being the most charismatic, polished, or effective leader. He was focused on his Father, and lived seeking to respond to His leading.”
Thank you for this valuable reminder.
“Jesus wasn’t focused on being the most charismatic, polished, or effective leader. He was focused on his Father, and lived seeking to respond to His leading. This is great kevin, thanx. You know when God led the children of isreal through Moses, He lead with purpose, patience, enduring yet understanding and only He alone could do that. So its great idea that we imitate Jesus and seek to respond to the father’s leading. Blessings
Good word. That is a great point as well, that God is far more wise and has far more discernment than we. It would behoove us to slow down and submit our plans to him beforehand.
This is a point well taken. Your impressions are noteworthy “Leaders are initiators. Followers are responders. But you would change the conclusion. All Christ-Followers have a Leader out in front. Hence the name – follower. We aren’t out there doing our own thing, flexing our leadership muscles, and letting our Type A personalities run wild. By the very nature of who we are, we have humbly accepted the title of follower.