When I am asked to take on a leadership role, I experience two emotions: I am flattered that they would ask and anxious that I won’t do a good job.
I once said yes to a leadership role and immediately had a sinking feeling that I wouldn’t be able to follow through. That sinking feeling lasted for months as I prepared for this role.
But at the same time, a Bible verse kept popping into my head. Maybe God is trying to say something to me, I thought. Meditating on this passage made me a better leader, or at least made me feel better about leading. Either way, it lessened my anxiety!
The passage was Romans 5:8. In it, Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” The verse struck me, we as humans are inherently valuable to God. I might even paraphrase it this way: “But God demonstrates how valuable we are to him in this: while we had nothing to offer, Jesus became the God-man to pursue us to the point of death.”
So my question was, if I am inherently valuable, why do I try to get my value from other things? Why do I find my value in what people think of me? God has already demonstrated my deep, inherent value.
That moment something changed in me. I felt free. Free to live out of how God had uniquely created me rather than striving to emulate leadership qualities that impressed others. My view of others also changed. I began to see others as inherently valuable, from the homeless man on the street to the President of the United States and everyone in between. We are all image bearers of God. We may not act like it or even believe it, but selfless leadership moves people towards becoming who God created them to be.
Selfless leadership starts with where we find our own identity. If our self worth comes from anything or anyone other than Jesus, then according to Matthew 6:25, it creates anxiety and we will push that anxiety onto people we lead. As I chose to believe what God thinks about me rather than what other people think, my anxiety almost instantly went away. My motivations subtly shifted from performing well as a leader to wanting others to experience the freedom that I had just experienced, and to lead people in a way that drew out their God-given potential as humans made in the image of God.
As leaders, we have to ask ourselves this question: are we seeking to draw out the God-given potential in the people that we lead? Or are we focused on our own abilities and what we can accomplish through people? If the answer is that we are focused on ourselves, ask yourself where you are looking to find life apart from God. Maybe it’s in performance, or what people think of you, or in security or comfort? Whatever it is, the gospel offers a better solution. And as the gospel becomes richer in your own life, you will find that it will reflect in your leadership.
As a child, I thought I needed to be nice so people would like me. I thought that was love. But you know what? That is not the way God sees it. Laying aside my rights doesn’t mean pleasing others. This discovery has been critical to my life and leadership.
"In the days when television was a luxury we could not afford, we would sit on the linoleum floor around my great-grandmother’s rocking chair and listen to her tell stories..."
Leadership is not something simply handed down because you’ve got seniority or because you had enough school. Leadership, as Christ exemplified, is an honor and should be met with a servant’s heart.
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