Leadership. There are so many ideas and connotations with this word. Many want it, but often for wrong reasons. Many are terrified of it. Yet, if we want to influence the world, it’s needed. What does a leader or Godly leader really look like? Do they have to ask WWJD (What would Jesus do) all the time? Can a leader make mistakes? Can a leader be vulnerable?
A Natural Born Leader
From my earliest childhood memories, I can remember being independent. When I was two years old my parents took me to a large snow hill for sledding. I adamantly told my mum I wanted to slide down the hill by myself. She reluctantly let me go, only to change her mind seconds later and run after me.
I like being in charge. I always have. I don’t fear leadership or responsibility, rather I’m often asking for more of it. I fear making mistakes. I fear hurting others while in a leadership position.
Despite my fears, I have always wanted to be a leader. I have been the first to raise my hand to be in charge or try something new. I just can’t help myself. I like being the one people look to for answers, because most of the time I’m convinced I have the ‘right’ answer.
I have a deep longing to influence others and to make a difference in the world.
People say “you’re a natural born leader,” but what does that mean? Does that mean I’m good at bossing people around and getting less strong personalities to follow me? For the longest time, I thought a leader was worthy to be followed if they had all the answers. People followed them because they were the most ‘right.’
Then I became a leader.
My first year in a significant leadership position was one of the most difficult years of my life. For many years, I thought I had answers to everything. Then, all of the sudden, I was faced with situations I didn’t have answers to, and I felt I no longer deserved to be the leader.
Society paints a picture of a leader being strong and almost stone faced. They aren’t allowed to show any sign of weakness or emotion for fear people will no longer be willing to trust and follow them. I believe that’s often why men are chosen for leadership positions over women. We believe if a leader makes a mistake, they must hide it quickly so as few people know as possible.
Jesus’ Picture of Leadership
Jesus’ picture of leadership was different to one of isolation and cold-heartedness. His leadership was gentle and humble and based on service. He let people in, He had a best friend (John) and asked people to pray for Him. He washed His friends’ feet to serve them. He cried. He wasn’t afraid to let people see Him.
Jesus died the humblest way possible. He died naked and vulnerable on a cross, with no friends. Almost everyone had turned against Him, He had chosen to love, to forgive and to take the blow for others, even if no one ever stopped to say ‘thank you’ or reciprocate the love.
Jesus showed us a picture of a true leader. To be a leader means to be among those you’re leading, to be willing to be exposed and take blows for others. To be a leader means to be willing to forgive before others ask for forgiveness. To be a leader means to live life with values you’re unwilling to compromise. To be a leader means to love each person you’re leading by serving and interceding for them.
To be a leader means to initiate relationship with others. John Chapter 3 verse 16 says that God sent His son to save us and give us life. God chose to extend His heart toward humanity with no guarantees of having it reciprocated. God chose to love us because He is love, not because we deserved it. To be the first to extend love toward another is to put yourself in a vulnerable position, to allow others to hurt and reject you.
To lead the way Jesus led will require more heart. It will require you to be honest, to be among, to initiate and get rejected, to admit mistakes and ask for help, to show emotion and be willing to be seen and known by others. Jesus gave everything He had to be used on behalf of others, including His own life.
After a few years of leadership under my belt, I can see that Jesus’ way really is the best way to lead. Every time I choose vulnerability and honesty over power and control, I can hear God whisper ‘that’s the kind of leader I’m looking for.’
To be a leader like Jesus is not the easiest way, but the most effective since Jesus changed the course of humanity with 12 guys in 3 short years.
Some may argue He was the greatest leader that ever lived.
I want to live and lead like Jesus.
Laurinda is a missionary at Youth with a Mission in Brisbane where she leads a discipleship program for young adults. On her day off you can find her hiking up a mountain or swinging in a hammock.
Laurinda Rapp’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/laurinda-rapp.html