Leadership always has been and always will be a big deal. You’ve probably seen that section in Barnes & Noble with shelves of books with leadership in the title. Perhaps you’ve been to leadership conferences like the Global Leadership Summit. If you’re in the U.S., you can’t escape the conversation about who would be the better leader of the country.
Yeah. Leadership is a pretty big deal.
I both love and hate that my job requires me to become a better leader. I’m not the same leader I was two years ago and I won’t be the same leader two years from now. I can’t be stagnant.
I also can’t be comfortable.
The idea of leadership can be scary. It can be scary for a lot of reasons. Here’s a few.
- We Can’t Be Comfortable. If there is one truth about leadership, it’s that you can’t stay the same. Leadership is constantly stretching you beyond your comfort zone.
- We’ll Make Mistakes. Many of us grew up in an education system where we had to know all the answers before taking a test. Leadership isn’t like that. In leadership, making mistakes is how we learn. By pursuing better leadership skills, we are accepting that we will make mistakes.
- We’re Introverted. Being an introvert might be a reason to avoid being a leader, but introverts tend to listen to people well. I think we need more introverts pursuing leadership. Some of the best leaders I know are introverts. If you’re an introvert, leadership is probably for you.
- It’s Too Much Responsibility. Leaders tend to take on more responsibility than others. That fact itself might scare some of us from pursuing leadership.
- It Might Turn Us Into A Different Person
That last one is a very real concern. We’ve all seen bad leadership. We’ve seen someone drunk with their own power and influence. We’ve seen the boss, coworker, and worship leader who is more concerned with advancing themselves than leading people.
So our fear is that we won’t be able to handle it. We avoid the idea of leadership out of fear that it will turn us into something ugly.
There’s two things I want you to consider. The first is that most decisions made out of fear are not the right ones.
The second is that you probably are a leader already. There is a good chance you are a worship leader, a vocalist, or a musician. I’ve got news for you. You’re a worship leader. It’s too late to avoid leadership. You are in it.
The question isn’t “should we avoid leadership?” The question is, how do we become the leader God wants us to be?
I love the story of Jesus in Mark 10. James and John go to Jesus and ask to sit on either side of His throne. They want to be the right-hand (and left-hand) guys. They are looking to advance their careers so they are talking to the boss about becoming vice-presidents of the company when it IPOs.
Jesus takes this opportunity to flip the idea of leadership. He says, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else” (Mark 10:43b-44, NLT).
This does not fit the 21st century idea of leadership and it didn’t fit the 1st century idea of leadership either. Today, leadership often means a position of power. We wouldn’t give that answer in a survey, but that’s the way we subconsciously think about it in our work places and our governments. But this isn’t the definition Jesus is working with.
Another popular definition of leadership is influence. I like that definition. It’s succinct, easy to understand and it’s takes status out of the equation. Leadership isn’t about the position you hold. But Jesus still seems to be driving at something else.
Jesus seems to be flipping our conventional ideas of leadership. He is defining great leadership as serving.
Once you have accepted the fact that you are a leader, you have to be confronted with this idea: If you aren’t serving well, you aren’t leading well.
For some of us who recognize ourselves as leaders, that last sentence may have us rethinking our past leadership. But what if you avoid leadership? What if it seems too scary, uncomfortable, or daunting? We might use this as an excuse to avoid leadership. Or we might forget about leadership and focus on serving. Just as Jesus changed the definition of leadership for the disciples, what if Jesus wants to change your definition of serving, too?
Perhaps Jesus wants to change your idea of serving. If we aren’t leading well, we aren’t serving well.
Fear isn’t a reason to avoid the calling before us. Sometimes being pushed out of our comfort zone is a sign we are on the right path.
Get in the game and allow Jesus to make you a better leader/servant.