Monday, November 15, 2010

What makes a leader?

Is a leader defined by the way people follow them? If the following is faltering and small and broken, does that mean the leader is no leader?

It seems logical to say that we can recognise good leaders by the success of their ventures and the loyalty and commitment of those who follow. And perhaps we can.

When a leader has charisma, single-mindedness and strong vision, we are drawn to them. It is easy to respond to their call and to follow. Does that mean leaders should be charismatic, single-minded or committed to a particular defined vision? Can the more prosaic, the broader thinkers and the inclusive among us lead? Would God expect it of them, or call them to it, or gift them for it?

I am asking these questions out of confusion. I do not know the answers. I am resentful of those who criticise leadership or vision, but do not want to follow, support or encourage their leaders. I am afraid they are right to ask for more, yet dread their narrow view of leadership.

Jesus said,
"But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave." Matthew 20:26-27.

Jesus, whose leadership embodied a clear-sighted vision of servanthood and spurned the cult of personality and celebrity.

What happens when the serving, humble, (self-doubting) leader is called visionless? When he is so unsupported that he decides to give up on leading as something he is unfit to do? Can you teach and pastor people without leading them?

Is it cynical to say that the leaders we aspire to are the ones that talk themselves up, the ones who build personal profiles and mega-church ministries? Do we judge leadership by fruit or by heart?
Perhaps their fruit shows their leadership gift, or perhaps we are just not so different to the world in how we see value in people.

I'd like to hear your thoughts.


Mommy Emily said...

hello dear kath... good thoughts. when i think of leadership, i always think of servanthood. to me, they are one and the same. thank you for this.

Jenny said...

I think this is a very difficult issue because we so easily measure quality leadership by the external characteristics of charm and charisma. However, it's not inappropriate to be wanted to be inspired and challenged by our leaders.

But what I find disappointing is when the external qualities become the only thing that we consider when we look at a Christian leader. They might be a great preacher, they might be great at working the room at a party - but what about the rest of the time? The more hidden stuff? Do they treat their families with respect? Their colleagues? The not-so-impressive members of the people they are serving? Are they willing to share their failings?

My long-term respect for a leader is much greater when I can trust that they are truly servant-hearted - that they are real people who want to serve God's people with all that they can offer (whatever their limitations).

Kath said...

Thanks Em.

Jenny, thanks for your thoughtful comment. You make a great point about public and private lives and respect for servant leadership.