If I am totally honest, I never really thought of myself as a leader. I was more comfortable serving in the background. I wasn’t seeking the power, acclaim, or the position. Perhaps that stemmed from my own sense that others were likely more capable and knew more than I did.
Even so, at many points along my path, leadership came to me. In each case, I discovered reasons why it did not attract me. It wasn’t the responsibility that weighed too heavily or even the energy it consumed. The thing that troubled and created weariness in me was how so many serving with me were jockeying for power, position, and influence with me and those we served.
That certainly is not new to anyone who has ever served. We see it in the Word also, most notably when the mother of James and John sought positions of power and influence to be seated on either side of Jesus in His kingdom. We see it in other places as well.
Thankfully, we also see leaders (though imperfect in many ways) who seemed to show us some of the qualities the Lord was looking for in those He elevated to leadership.
Some of those we see it in include the lives of Ruth, Esther, Joshua, David, and Daniel to name a few. In looking at what I see in their recorded lives, there are some things that stand out even though their stories are different, as are their leadership styles and responsibilities.
What were the qualities of leadership?
First, they each seemed to lead by example. They were their own persons, doing what they felt called or led to do. They didn’t set one standard for themselves and another for those around them. They asked those whom they led to simply do what they were already doing.
Second, each recognized the value of repentance and accountability. Even when accountability came as a result of failure as it did with David, he humbled himself before the Lord rather than justifying his deeds.
Third, they sought the Lord before they moved on what lay ahead of them, trusting His counsel and confirmation for the direction they were to take. If they failed to seek His counsel first and followed their own path, they discovered quickly the folly of such a choice.
Another quality that seemed evident in them was humility. They did not think so highly of themselves they would have presumed to think they should be the one who led. When they sensed clearly the Lord’s direction, they were obedient.
Last of all, they valued what the Word taught them, showed them, as a standard to guide them in learning who the Lord was, fearing Him more than man. Each gives us a glimpse of that in their story.
Ruth overcame her culture and religion to follow Naomi and embrace her mother-in-law’s faith in a foreign land. Esther risked death at the hands of a king to spare her people from slaughter. Joshua had been a lieutenant under Moses and knew well what happened when he slipped from following the Lord’s path. Daniel refused to bow down to any manmade image or to eat outside his faith’s dietary restrictions. David learned the sacredness of the Ark of the Covenant when he sought to return it to Jerusalem without following the Word’s instructions.
None of these appeared to be courageous at the outset. The courage came after they faced their fear.
How did Jesus lead?
Clearly, He didn’t seek power. Power lay within Him, from the Father. He didn’t seek position to confirm who He was to himself. He already knew. He didn’t seek to be an influence, as He spoke and taught, influence came when hearts were moved.
Jesus never sought the trappings of leadership. Seeking the best house, the best seat at the table, hobnobbing with the leaders of the day, or the high echelon of the religious leaders were not things He showed any interest in. He was ever obedient to the Word, the will of His Father (even unto death).
Jesus was the epitome of integrity. Nothing in or about Him was incongruent.
When we become leaders, Jesus models more clearly what that role should look like than any book or seminar on leadership.
How will we respond to that standard? Only by following the qualities noted above and trusting Him to shape us into the leader He desires.
It’s also important to note, He often chooses the least likely so His power and image can be more evident.
Jesus models what we should also seek when we look for leaders to follow.