How Shall We Then Lead?
What is reasonable to expect from our leaders in society? This small essay does not address expectations from the perspective of those led. Rather, it focuses on a much higher guidance for leadership - what God expects of us. Leadership spans beyond the smallest to the largest organizational unit, from the family to the largest corporation. It can only do so when there is a reference point higher than oneself.
Two sets of leadership qualities exist for the leader – a) internal and b) the expression of those internal qualities. Ranking high on the list of leadership qualities are: integrity, truthfulness, unselfishness, humility, patience, and wisdom.
Integrity expresses itself in consistency (and not perfection), equal treatment of people, practicing one’s moral core, blamelessness, and faithfulness. People do not expect perfection from their leaders, for they realize they will make mistakes. Rather how a leader responds to mistakes sets an example of genuine leadership. Recognizing and taking action rather than denying or covering up mistakes or shortcomings shows courage and strength – positive qualities people find attractive and willing to emulate.
Truthfulness expresses itself in speaking and acting truthful. One can only speak and act when there exists an inner moral core. Such a moral core does not rest on a “my truth versus your truth” mentality. Rather, as Chuck Colson recognized, truth is normative.  There are indeed absolutes, and people look for a moral core for guidance in their personal and professional lives rather than for chaos, confusion, and anarchy.
An unselfish leader does not seek his own way first. Rather a leader’s thoughts and motives are toward those led. Unselfishness does not neglect care for oneself or self-reflection. Such care and reflection means attending to moral, emotional, and physical fitness. In attending to these, one can lead others well.
Humility shows itself in self-control and not attempting to flaunt oneself before others. Flaunting reveals insecurities and an over estimation of oneself that tends to polarize rather than attract people. Humility does not assume a doormat mentality – permitting people to wipe off their shoes on you. Rather, humility integrates inner strength, love and care for people, and standing up selflessly for what is right. Self-control speaks to the inner discipline that recognizes when and where to speak and act.
Patience is humility under control. An impatient leader finds declining followers. An impatient leader tends to vent an uncontrolled set of emotions toward others rather than assuming responsibility for those emotions when confronted with the undesirable. Patience is a fruit having its roots in a tamed spirit. Tame does not assume lack of assertiveness but wears the clothing of self-control during confrontation or disagreeable circumstances.
Wisdom is the cup that draws from all of the above springs of ethical leadership. It rests on the foundations of truth and integrity, does not drink at the well of self-seeking, and finds its home in humility and patience. Above all, it feeds on the fear of God. This fear is a deep respect for Him and all He is and does. When wisdom latches on to the fear of God, it unlocks the door to a strong and abiding faith and hope in His providence. This produces strength of character and leads down the path of spiritual rewards beyond any earthly ones. It also provides an ethical core without which a people will soon do “what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) while taking the road to chaos and anarchy.
 Colson, Charles W., The Problem of Ethics in Christian Ethics Today: Journal of Christian Ethics, Spring 2004, Online Edition.
Monday, January 1, 2007
How Shall We Then Lead?