1 Peter 5: 1-3
5 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
There is no doubting that Peter was writing this first letter to believers who were suffering immensely. And, when any of us suffer it is natural for us to look upon a select few around us to give us guidance, care, and leadership. Think of all the leaders that have transcended the history books throughout history of America… Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, etc… Or in sports: Jim Valvano, and Vince Lombardi. Their legacy was born out of trying times, and the people around them all looked to them as a source of encouragement and strength in difficult times of our country. But, there is a consistency among all great leaders, and it is HOW they lead.
Now, the obvious endeavor of Peter in the passage above was to give instruction to the Elders of the Church. It was to exhort, encourage, but also challenge them in order to equip them for the work of being an elder. But there is a transcendent message to us today, I believe.
Not many of you are elders, but many of you are leaders, even if in less traditional ways. Being a leader doesn’t inherently equate to having a sophisticated title. Being a leader isn’t what you do, or some prefix/suffix, and it isn’t a job description. Being a leader is what you are, and the only simple criteria for being a leader is that you have some degree of influence upon others.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. John Quincy Adams
So, this all begs the question. If being a leader isn’t a title, a suffix/prefix, and it isn’t what I do. Then what is it? How can we be God honoring as we lead others?
Well, I believe there is much wisdom, and many lessons on leadership in scripture, much more than I can cover in this devotion. But the passage above does give us a small glimpse into one aspect of leadership.
Did you know that there are 3 different ways in which we can choose to lead? Look at the passage above, and you will see this as well.
#1 We can be a passive, and reclusive leader
Some “leaders” are passive and uninvolved, yet when they do decide to wake up and lead- they do so under compulsion. They rarely consider what is best for the group, because under compulsion they think only what is best for themselves. And, they make decisions accordingly. A few traits of these types of leaders: they are compulsive, unorganized, unloving, and they lack vision. The last trait being the worst of them all.
#2 We can be an aggressive and domineering leader
No one appreciates a dictator, but in difficult times people will choose to enslave themselves underneath the rule of a dictator because they are promised peace, security, and provision. Think of Hitler, Stalin, and all the other narcissistic, wicked, and domineering leaders throughout history. People bought their lines hook, line, and sinker. A domineering leader uses his office to advance his own agenda, and/or personal endeavors. He considers not what is best for the group, but what he thinks is right.
A few characteristics of the domineering leader are: micromanagement, self-preservation, manipulation, and stinginess. Domineering leaders promise great achievements for the group, but seldom share the successes- even monetarily. Yet, along the way they ensure that their hands are in every pot, not allowing others to have autonomy and successes of their own.
We must understand something about the two options of leadership above. We typically think of these as options only “bad” people and “bad” leaders take. But good men and women at times embody these dangerous habits just as much.
At times, good “Christian” men and women choose to be uninvolved leaders, and similarly they choose to be domineering leaders. Some choosing to watch passively as those they lead make bad decisions, and some lording their opinions and ideas over others or thumping others on the head with their own thoughts.
As Christians in a dark world, we must purify the way we lead to embody this third option.
#3 We can be a servant leader
To some, the phrase “servant leader” is an oxymoron; thinking the two cannot co-exist. But to those of you who feel this way, I would encourage you to look at the ministry of Jesus.
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Being a servant leader simply means laying down our lives out of great concern for those we lead. We see our office, not as a personal endeavor, but an office entrusted to us by the Heavenly Father. And, we wouldn’t dare use this office to advance our selfish ambitions. Servant leadership doesn’t correlate to passive leadership, nor does it approach dictatorship. Servant leadership means using your power to advance and better those you lead, it means loving and helping those you lead, it means being compassionate and caring, it means walking alongside another person and pouring out your wisdom and knowledge, it means giving proper provision for those you lead- not being stingy. But, at times, it also means stepping to the front of the group and charging to new pastures- taking the brunt of the criticism, and less of the glory.
Being a servant leader is difficult, it means less glory for us, and more glory for those we lead. It means less monetary benefits as we share the successes of our endeavors. It means giving others enough room to fail, but also enough room to experience great success. Servant leadership is who you are, and when you are a servant leader- the body in which you lead is part of who you are. You become so committed, so loving, and so considerate that the organization you lead becomes part of your own body. When it hurts, so do you. Yet, seeing others prosper and achieve success becomes the crown jewel of every effort.
Those you lead are not “yours,” they are God’s… and he has entrusted you to lead them. Will you examine your leadership qualities, and will you make necessary changes?