What is a Leader, Really?
A good leader is a servant, and we are all servants.
Lesson #1: You only have to be available. If you read scripture, you will find one thing for certain: God didn’t pick people who had the most impressive resumes; He looked into their hearts. When he chose Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses told God that he didn’t feel qualified, so why him? God said, in a nutshell, ‘Don’t question me, just do it. I’ll give you what you need.’
Moses spoke to the Lord. He said, “Lord, I’ve never been a good speaker. And I haven’t gotten any better since you spoke to me. I don’t speak very well at all.” The Lord said to him, “Who makes a man able to talk? Who makes him unable to hear or speak? Who makes him able to see? Who makes him blind? It is I, the Lord. Now go. I will help you speak. I will teach you what to say.” Ex. 4:10-12 (NIV).
Don’t let a perceived lack of ability, experience or talent stop you from pursuing leadership. Make yourself available, and whatever you don’t know, you will learn.
There are many obstacles that may stop us from becoming leaders. These can come from something unpredictable, like the weather, or from other sources. Often, obstacles can come from people – either intentionally or unintentionally. Maybe they don’t like change, or they think you’re crazy for trying. Or maybe they really care about you and they are fearful of you taking any risks. Yet another may be time – perhaps leading a project will take too much of it.
Lesson #2: Don’t wait for “fair weather” or an obstacle-free path to get started. When we used to feed the hungry every Saturday, sometimes the weather would be stormy, but we went anyway. We gave our word that we would be there, so we showed up. We figured that if the stormy weather bothered us, it was nothing compared to how it must feel to a person who has no shelter from the rain. We didn’t let bad weather deter us from our mission. The same thing is true about other obstacles. Leaders don’t see problems, they see solutions. Sure, there are some problems that cannot be overcome, but most of them can be. One of my favorite chapters in the bible is Acts 16. In this chapter, Paul and Silas are thrown into prison, but that didn’t stop them from carrying out their mission. And, it turns out, they were able to accomplish even more while in prison. Sometimes obstacles are there for a good reason. God is putting them to good use.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everybody’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-16 (NIV).
Obstacles can be overcome, and some may even turn out to be blessings.
Another thing that may prevent us from becoming leaders is the idea that someone else is more qualified and can do a better job. I have led a few outreaches and programs, and I would sometimes hear rumblings of “she’s not doing that the way I would do it,” or “there’s a better way.” The truth is, many people can do things much better than I can. In fact, I always listen to my teammates, and even my critics. I welcome their ideas and suggestions. That’s what leaders do.
Lesson #3: Don’t let the fact that someone else can do it better stop you from fulfilling your dreams. Often, when people say they can do something better, if you tell them they are welcome to take your place, they won’t. They will say that they don’t have the time, or they have other obstacles. (See above – they may not be ready to lead). Or maybe the person will step up and do a great job. If so, as a leader, you have really accomplished something – you started something new and lifted up someone to run it. Not a bad day’s work! And this doesn’t mean that your leadership stops. Quite the opposite. As you help others to discover their leadership abilities, your leadership skills will grow and expand even more. The fact is, everyone can be used by God. He equips all of us to be leaders if leading is something that we want to do. Jesus said:
“I have spoken all these things while I am still with you. But the Father will send the Friend in my name to help you. The Friend is the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of everything I have said to you. “I leave my peace with you. I give my peace to you. I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not be afraid. John 14:25-27 (NIV).
As the saying goes, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
One more reason we may hesitate to step up as a leader is that we hold onto the hope that someone else will do it. Or, for whatever reason, we don’t want to do something alone. For example, I love English history, and I always wanted to go to England, to walk in the footsteps of kings, to see beautiful cathedrals and castles. I tried to find someone to go with, but most of my friends weren’t interested in world travel, or they had families and other obligations. So, I decided to go by myself. For my first outing, I went with a tour group, but when we were only given 45 minutes to explore the entire Tower of London, I said “just show me which bus to take back to the hotel, I need more than 45 minutes to see all of this.” I’m not afraid to do things alone, and I’m not afraid to get lost. I’ve taken a few wrong turns in my travels, but I always end up finding my way, and in the meantime, I get to see other things that are unexpected and fun.
Lesson #4: Don’t wait for other people to do something. It may appear overwhelming to do something on your own, but start taking small steps anyway and see what happens. There is scripture passage about the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to enter the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus told him to give up all of his wealth. He couldn’t do it. (Luke 18:17-19). Sometimes I wonder: if Jesus would have taken the wealth from him, then the ruler might have followed Him willingly. The decision would have been made for him, by someone else. But Jesus may have wanted him to take the step on his own. Sometimes we would rather have someone do something for us instead of trying to do it ourselves. But sometimes God wants us to step out on our own, with confidence, to do what needs to be done. And when we do that, we will find that we actually aren’t alone. God is already there. It’s great if we have partners or other people to do things with, but if we don’t, then we shouldn’t wait for someone else to do it. Remember:
I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength. Phil. 4:13 (NIV)
What is a leader, anyway? A leader is someone like you and me who has a vision and takes steps to carry it out. Instead of standing on the sidelines saying “something should be done,” leaders decide to do something. They don’t let obstacles (real or imagined) get in their way, they overcome them. They aren’t worried about whether someone can do something better, they don’t care what other people think, and they don’t wait for other people to get them going. Are you a leader? You can certainly be one.