Leadership as love

What makes a good leader? Well I’m not sure I either know or care! Rather, I want to be a godly leader, one that emulates Christ. Jesus said nothing about church but had challenging words on leadership. “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant. Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You’d rather eat and be served, right? But I’ve taken my place amongst you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22, verses 25-27, The Message)

I have come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to be a godly leader in the Church and Christian organisations. The patriarchal hierarchies that have been created too closely resemble the values of the world rather than the Kingdom of God. Yet I still believe leadership can be a good thing and that some structure is necessary to effectively realise the divine vision we have been entrusted with. How then do we work efficiently but stay true to the model of leadership Christ adopted?

Firstly, we need to listen. I grew up being told I have two ears and one mouth in order to listen twice as much as speaking and offering an opinion! I recently went to a gathering of members of a Christian organisation and practitioners on the ground patiently and politely listened as director after director outlined their targets and the successes they’ve had in meeting these goals. However, when it was time for the workers to present what they were engaged in and the lessons they’d learnt from their practice, every one of the directors had left. Presumably their time was too precious, their tasks too pressing! I’m being harsh. I know some of them had good reason not to stay. But it still sends a subtle message about who is more important and whose work is of greater value.

Secondly, we all have part of the wisdom. Despite God conferring authority for leadership on a few, this does not mean they have a monopoly on sound judgement and revelation. As leaders are we respecting the opinions and experience of others to teach us and to change us, even when that makes us feel uncomfortable and highlights an area where we fall short of Christ’s example? There needs to be room for dissent to be aired and evaluated without blame and defensiveness, for, “we are to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other that we may be healed.” (James 5:16)

Thirdly, leadership wants the best for others. I am most concerned that my friends and co-workers in the community I am a part of, be all that I know they can be. I get so much more enjoyment and fulfillment from seeing others grow in confidence and maturity as they do the unique work God has called them to than I get for any of my own achievements and accomplishments.

Fourthly, leadership involves sacrifice. Jesus called his followers friends and was prepared to lay down his life for them. I love my friends but love causes pain either because we hurt and misunderstand one another or we see others suffering and feel powerless to alleviate their distress. Also, as always seems to be true of God’s ways, true leaders are not actually the ones at the head of the Church or organisation! My husband still has a very junior role in his workplace, yet he is known by everyone from the highest paid media star to the canteen staff as the go to man for compassion and advocacy that leads to justice. I hate that he is not properly acknowledged and rewarded for his tireless effort on behalf of others. Yet I know the trust and respect of his colleagues outweighs the frustration at his lack of promotion within the structure. And this, for me, is the essence of godly leadership. Success is depth and authenticity of relationship. In Kingdom terms then, leadership is love.