I’ve heard and used the saying many times, (although I don’t know it’s origin, so can’t give credit), “He who thinks he’s leading when no one is following, is only taking a walk.” I often ponder what leadership is all about. I’ve read scores of books on the subject over the years. Many people have written on it and offered definitions, many of them profound. But I’d like to get down to the basics of it. Sort of the street level of what leadership is.
How about this, leadership is leading someone? Simple? Certainly. I’m not trying to be profound. Yet, often simplicity IS profound! For the one who would lead the question he or she must ask himself is, “What am I trying to accomplish in my leading?” There are 2 objectives in leading others, one has to do with getting them to follow the leader, ie to do what he wants the follower to do, (maybe it’s the leader’s agenda); the other objective is to lead in order to empower the follower. I have come to believe in empowering others. There can be a rightful place for leading others to accomplish the leader’s agenda. But, I think those occasions are few. Empowering others is a way of investing in them… in essence for the leader to multiply himself.
When a leader seeks to empower his followers, he does so on the basis of helping the follower to determine his own God given talents and understand what it is God is asking of him. Another way of saying this is to say the leader is discipling the follower. Empowering others is to recognize and give honor to the dignity God has given them. The leader accepts his role in the chain of God ordained events and people to shape a life. So in the end, the opinion the leader has of himself is of ultimate importance. If he needs his strokes he may be losing his reward, since leading is not about the leader, it’s about the follower. In other words, the best kind of leader is one who sees himself as a “servant leader.”
Being a servant leader is not minimizing the leader, to the contrary, it’s highlighting his importance because it affirms the significant role he plays in the life of the follower. The follower may never reach his potential if he has no leader to believe in him, see in him what he does not see in himself, bring out those disparate parts of himself that lie in disarray or are otherwise latent and unattended in himself.
This is the kind of leader I desire to be. A Barnabas who saw in John Mark what the Apostle Paul did not see, or didn’t have the patience to pursue. Barnabas, the Encourager, who lovingly guided a young man who might have been fragile, yet by skillfully and lovingly coaching and mentoring, giving him time, he eventually became a stalwart of the faith, author of the 2nd Gospel. Christian tradition says he eventually became the one who initiated the Christian movement in northern Egypt. The Copts today claim to be his descendants.
That’s where my heart is on the matter. I told you it was simple! Simple, yes, but hard to enact.