Many of us, especially those who are new to leadership, as in leading others for the first time, might think they have arrived in terms of leadership. It is easy for us once in a place of leadership to think we are done working for the place of leadership and now it is time to work from a place of leadership. Surely, holy ambition tempered and led by the Spirit of God to become what God intends is a good thing, but we must not forget that working for leadership never ends. What I mean is this, one should never stop pursuing the things that make leadership right, just, and fair, even holy and blameless. In other words, working for leadership is the same as working to establish leadership now and in the future. This task never ends. While we will, once in a place of leadership, work from a place of leadership, we must not forget to work for leadership. Assuredly at some point the leadership you and I are establishing will be handed over to someone else. What will we give them? Will they continue to build upon the leadership we established or will they have to tear down some if not all to start over. Leadership that is established based upon godly principles and expectations will and should transcend the leader. In simple terms, please allow me to define some things around leadership. The people in leadership are simply the leaders. They are responsible to lead and the effect of their leading is leadership. So, there are three components: Leaders (who) - Lead (action) - Leadership (effect/outcome).
We understand from Scripture that leadership is a gift given by God to His people for a purpose. That purpose is largely summed up in the singular outcome of mobilizing all of God's people including their giftings, talents, and resources into God's mission. This singular outcome has many dimensions to it that I do not have the time and space in this blog to address. What I do want to discuss is how leaders in the midst of God's people need to cooperate fully with God in terms of His design and purpose for leadership. Leadership is not merely a position, title, or influence even though it typically comes with those things—it is a function with a divine design. Furthermore, leadership is plural in that leadership is defined by the leaders demonstrating and responsible for it. In some instances it is few and in others it is many but nonetheless it is plural—different roles and responsibilities but plural nevertheless. As a function that serves a purpose far and wide, leadership must be built and established even strengthened continuously.
So, the question becomes do we as leaders work to establish the leadership with which we have been entrusted? We should. This is not a one and done exercise but a continual effort for leaders to establish their own leadership as well as their contribution to the broader collective of leadership. As leaders, we know our tenure is limited at best—we will move on eventually but we don't take with us the need for leadership in that which remains. This need for leadership remains in most cases. Therefore, while we are the leaders, we need to do all we can to build leadership, sustain it and grow it; so that whether it us or somebody else the function of leadership is healthy, strong, and can carry forward. If we forget to work for leadership, the foundations upon which it stands may and likely will begin to erode and eventually crumble.
So, how do we work "for" leadership that is to work continually to establish it? Several passages in Scripture allude to this concept (Proverbs 25: 4-5, 16:12, 20:26). These passages give us insight into what it takes to establish leadership or in other words, what does it require of the leader?
- It requires time.
- It requires action.
- It requires intentionality.
- It requires priority.
- It requires wisdom.
In other words, the leader, in order to establish leadership, must take action, be intentional, make it a priority, use wisdom, and persevere in making it so. Given the importance of leadership in God's design, He expects the leaders comprising leadership to have such a focus.
The question then becomes; how do I as a leader actually establish, sustain, strengthen, and continue leadership? I understand the importance and what it will require but what does it look like? Well, fortunately we don't have to go far to find our answer. God answers this question clearly through His servant, King David in Psalm 101. As I read and reflect upon this Psalm, there are seven ways godly leadership is established, sustained, strengthened, and propagated.
Godly leadership is established best when the leader:
- Has a heart of praise | The question becomes; what is the song in our heart? Having a song of praise keeps us positioned well in terms of humility, gratefulness and appreciation while not becoming self-absorbed.
- Is holy, righteous, and blameless in what they do | The question then is, what do people under our influence experience as a result of our leadership? Would they describe the effect of our leading as holy, righteous, and blameless? Do they see me/you as placing a personal priority on being holy, righteous, and blameless? If we are not pursuing and demonstrating those things personally, how can we create an environment of our leadership where they live and grow?
- Avoids evil and those that are godless | The question then is, what do we place before our eyes and ears? Or in other words, what is near to our eyes and ears in terms of what and who? We must not forget that what is close to us will eventually influence us. We need to be closer to God, His Word and His people, rather than to things of this world. This does not mean we distance ourselves from the world but we definitely pay attention to what is close to us.
- Pursues and propagates righteousness | The questions for us are, what wrongs are you working to right, and what is the pursuit of your heart? Our pursuit should be for righteousness that can only be obtained in and through a relationship with Christ. Secondly, as we pursue righteousness we need to not only demonstrate it but also establish it in places where it is not present. One of the easiest and most prevalent places is in resolving conflict. The gospel demands that we pursue biblical conflict resolution and encourage the same in others, for when we do we reap a harvest of righteousness. This is a primary task of the leader and a foundational component to establishing godly leadership.
- Choses carefully those who are near them | The question for us is, who and how do people get close to us? We should be very selective in who we allow to walk alongside of us and have our ear. For those that have our ear will speak into our heart and therefore into where we eventually go and who we eventually become.
- Views integrity as an absolute | The question for us is, what degree of importance and expectation do we place on those around us including ourselves in terms of integrity? Godly leadership does not compromise on integrity. Leadership cannot be fully established if integrity is compromised. Once integrity is compromised in and around leadership, the leader must act to remedy it immediately for if they do not, failure is unavoidable.
- Wages war daily against evil | The question then for us as leaders is, do we daily look for wrongs to right, or do we merely encourage, help, and work for more achievement? Assuredly, these are good but godly leadership works to identify and eradicate evil. We must have the courage, compassion, and skill to confront evil when it is present such that those we influence experience what God desires for them. For if leadership does not confront evil, who will? God intends leaders to do so. This then establishes leadership within the context of God's activity and His people that is reflective of who He is. Godly leaders pursue justice but not at the expense of other things, but assuredly as part of who they are and what they seek. Simply stated, godly leaders are champions of godly justice.
In summary, we must not forget to continually work for or establish leadership as in its function and purpose while we work from a place a leadership. Leaders can best establish, sustain, strengthen, and continue leadership when they have a heart of praise, are holy, righteous and blameless, avoid evil and godless people, pursue and propagate righteousness, chose carefully those around them, view integrity as an absolute, and finally wage war against evil on a daily basis. May it be so of us.