Posted by: Jeff Warren | August 8, 2007

Leadership Redefined

I love the story of the pastor who lived alone so he got a parrot because he thought it would be fun to have someone to talk to.  He hadn’t had the bird for long when he realized that all it would do was curse all the time.  (His friends wondered where the bird learned all these words).  A sweet, elderly widow in his church heard about his problem and said she had a parrot as well.  Her parrot, however, just sat around on her perch all day and prayed.  She offered this solution: Let’s put our two parrots together and perhaps mine will have a positive influence on yours!”  The pastor thought, “Why not?” so they put the widow’s parrot in the cage with his.  The pastor’s parrot move close to the female parrot and said, “Hey baby, what do you say we make beautiful music together?”  The little praying parrot looked up and said, “Praise God my prayers have been answered!”  Influence works both ways doesn’t it?  YOU are an influencer.  What kind of influence are you bringing to those around you?  There is perhaps no greater need in our world today than the need for leadership.  Think about it: All great countries, great schools, great communities, businesses, governments, and families have great leaders. Leadership matters.  Some see leadership as simply a position in an organization and as long you have the title of “leader” then you can power-up on others and order them around based on the authority and assumed power that you have because of your position.  Others define leadership in terms of the ability to manage the chaos of a rapidly changing world.  Peter Drucker, the great business guru, once made this distinction: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”  Leadership may be all of these things but ultimately leadership is how you interact with yourself, God, your family, co-workers, partners in ministry, and the world around you.  In order to understand the vital nature of leadership, it is important that we define the term.     

Leadership redefined: A leader is a person involved in a process of influencing and developing others in order to accomplish God’s purpose, in God’s way, and in God’s power. 

Simply put… Leadership = Influence.  If you’re a parent your success as a parent is determined by your ability to influence your children in a positive way.  If you’re a teacher your success depends on your ability to influence your pupils.  If you’re a coach, a manager at work, if you’re a friend, a colleague, if you connect with people in any way you are an influencer.     Of course the greatest influencer and leader of all time is Jesus Christ.  One definition of leadership says, “It is the ability of a leader to affect human behavior so as to accomplish a mission.”  Well, if that’s it then Jesus is clearly the greatest leader of all time.  I remember at the turn of the new millennium, TIME magazine ran a cover article that was not the “Person of the Year” or the decade, or even the century, but the person of the millennium.  Guess who it was?  Jesus.  I remember thinking, yea and the millennium before that as well!  Jesus remains the greatest influencer of lives in our day- and He always will be.  And He leads in a way that no one will ever match.  I’ve embraced a daring assignment for the next few weeks.  I’ve been, for years, studying the leadership of Jesus- and trying to emulate it in my life as a husband, as a father, friend, and pastor.  I have been led to the Beatitudes as a model for leadership and influence in our day.   

Read the Beatitudes- Matthew 5 and see if the traits Jesus offers there describe your life.  I’m finding in the Beatitudes something I’ve never seen before: I believe that in the Beatitudes we find the ingredients necessary for leadership in our world today (and it has been an amazing journey for me thus far).  The BIG idea in this: In the Beatitudes Jesus describes what it is to be a person of influence.  Stay tuned… let’s explore this together!  I’ll post some more learnings soon!

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Responses

  1. Great thoughts on what it means to be an influencer! This summer I’ve revisited some old favorite books as part of my break from the routine. Among those were the writings of Thomas à Kempis. This 14 century monk kept a prayer / discipleship journal in which he recorded insights that God gave him as he walked through his 92 years on earth. These entries would later be compiled into a book entitled, “The Imitation of Christ”. Thomas never set out to be a person of influence. In fact, his Holy Orders prohibited such interactions, at least in the modern sense of the word. Yet, because he chose to passionately pursue a relationship with Christ, his writings would 150 years later influence another priest who was struggling to understand what it meant to live in a grace relationship with God. The passion contained in Thomas’ journal fanned the flames that had been ignited in young Martin Luther’s soul. In 1517 that passion translated into the Protestant Reformation.

    We so often think of “influence” as the currency that gives us access to prestige, power, creature comforts and entrance into a tighter and smaller circle of those who have also had the currency to gain admission – all early markers along a path that can so easily lead to a blindness of the heart. What Jesus talked about in the Beatitudes, however, was a world that is 180 degrees from that perspective! As in many of His teachings, He took the most counter-intuitive argument possible to get our attention. He then proceeded to help us understand that God’s Kingdom is so much bigger than our own strategies, paradigms and devises. It’s about relationship. Relationship with God. For it is in the pursuit of that relationship that all the other aspects of our life come into focus. That “integration” that you spoke of on Sunday happens as we see our careers, family and the world through the lens of His Possibilities. The influence we provide then becomes one that points outward and upward, not inward to us.

    Consider the opening words of “Imitation of Christ”

    “He who follows Me walks not in darkness,” says the Lord. (John 8:12). By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.”

    Thomas took the words of Jesus to heart and challenged us to do the same. Only by seeing our world through His eyes will we be good stewards of the influence with which that we each have been entrusted.

    Listening and Learning…….Jack

  2. Insightful words, Jack. I like your thoughts on “integration… through the lens of His possibilities”. Upward and outward was always the trajectory of Jesus’ heart and life. Thomas is right- we become like Jesus only by living a life that imitates His- habits, patterns, rhythm, etc… I’m touched again by the simple and profound words of the Beatitudes. It is drawing me back to the simple, peaceful, focused life of Jesus. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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