Any Group that truly understands and values Leadership should insist that its Leaders have multiple and progressive Opportunities to Lead and would be very deliberate about both providing and assessing them. The process would be similar to the development of a pilot’s skills. Pilots first learn to fly on single-engine propellor-driven aircraft. From there (if successful), they move progressively upward to bigger aircraft, dual-props, instrument conditions, jet engines and ultimately (if competent) find themselves behind the yoke of a commercial aircraft with hundreds of passengers.
What passenger would place his life in the hands of a pilot who had skipped over some or all of those progressive steps in his development? No sane person would take that kind of risk with a pilot. But Communities and Organizations take it all the time with Leaders. Without passing any judgment on how he ultimately performed, there is little dispute that the forty-fourth President of the United States was elected despite having virtually no demonstrable Leadership experience of any kind. There could hardly be a bigger (and more challenging) Opportunity than chief executive of the United States of America, and yet that Community placed itself in the hands of a pilot who had never flown before.
How could that have happened? Here are the three reasons, which apply to any Group that hires Leaders:
1. Demand Exceeds Supply. The demand for Leaders so exceeds the available supply that Groups are forced to abandon experience as a screening criteria. When it comes to Leadership, Organizations are beggars who cannot really afford to be choosers.
2. Leadership Experience Is Too Rare To Matter. Since most people don’t have any Leadership experience there is no real point in asking about it. In other words, where all applicants are equally inexperienced, experience devolves into an irrelevant comparative criteria.
3. Ignorance Abounds. Most Groups don’t know how to look for Leadership experience because they don’t really know what a Leader is and does. In contrast, if an airline is looking for a pilot, it can ask an applicant how many hours he has in the cockpit of a particular aircraft. If a church is seeking a pastor, it can ask an applicant how many sermons he has given. But when an Organization needs a Leader, it doesn’t ask such specific questions to determine an applicant’s experience because the people asking the questions don’t know what to ask. As a result, airlines and churches, being Organizations that need Leaders just as much as they need pilots and pastors, just end up relying on those same pilots and pastors for Leadership as well, with predictably mixed results.
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
J. Petit Senn
Leaders Leading Leaders
If you truly understand your accountability before God as a leader, you can begin to see why Christ portrayed the leader as a servant.
He was not suggesting, as many have supposed, that lowliness alone is the essence of leadership. There are plenty of humble, meek, tenderhearted, servant-minded people who are not leaders. A true leader inspires followers. Someone who has no followers can hardly be called a leader.
So while it is certainly true that leadership demands a servant’s heart; it is by no means the case that everyone with a servant’s heart is thereby a leader. There’s far more to leadership than that.
To put it simply, leadership is influence. The ideal leader is someone whose life and character motivate people to follow. The best kind of leadership derives its authority first from the force of a righteous example, and not merely from the power of prestige, personality, or position. By contrast, much of the world’s “leadership”is nothing but manipulation of people by threats and rewards. That is not true leadership; it’s exploitation. Real leadership seeks to motivate people from the inside, by an appeal to the heart, not by external pressure and coercion.
For all those reasons, leadership is not about style or technique as much as it is about character.
Want proof that effective leadership is not just about style? Notice that a number of divergent leadership styles are modeled in Scripture.
Elijah was a loner and a prophet
Moses delegated duties to trusted people whom he kept close to him. Peter was brash
John was tenderhearted
Paul was a dynamic leader, even when being carried about in chains.
He influenced people primarily through the force of his words. Evidently, his physical appearance was anything but powerful
All were men of action, and all used their diverse gifts in markedly different ways. Their leadership styles were varied and diverse. But all were true leaders.