Raw Reflections from the Journey

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reluctant Leadership: The Humility to Make it About Something Bigger Than Oneself

The scene is from the movie Gladiator. Suspecting his death in the near future, the emperor of Rome asks his general to accept his appointment as successor to the throne.

‘With my whole heart, I do not want it’. The general answers.

The Emperor responds, ‘It is exactly because you don’t ‘want’ it that it must be you who leads.’

The point? Reluctant leaders are the best kind because they don’t ‘need’ the position or title. It is not fame or power that they want, and since those ambitions are absent they can lead with integrity, as servants, with the good of the organization and its members as their focus vs. their ‘own’ good.

Jim Collins, author of ‘Good to Great’ and other best-sellers on leadership and organizational development, describe this as the difference between Level IV and Level V leaders. Level IV is the larger than life, charismatic person with the unparalleled work ethic, who has pioneered a new venture, but commits the tragic error of failing to plan for succession of their leadership, and prioritizes the promotion of their own name vs. the mission of the organization. Level V leaders represent a synergy of personal humility and extreme ambition and will. Jesus appears to be a Level V leader.

Leadership is sacred but dangerous territory as it can seduce one to forsake their first love (Jesus) because the satisfaction of the work can easily compete with the satisfaction that can only be found in Him. Whenever that happens a leader is wise to step down or step aside.

If on the path of this temporal life I can best serve the purposes for which I was born by leading (as a servant-leader), and/or holding office, then I will serve wholeheartedly. If, however, when there is a person better suited to serve in that capacity, then I will humbly defer and submit to their leadership. Whatever is best for the ministry is what I want. In my mind, this is the ‘self’ subjugated to the good of the many, and the only way to walk in the footsteps of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

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