Without understanding and applying the why of becoming a leader, a person may do great things. But that person will never reach the full potential of their leadership. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action is a book by Simon Sinek. Through his work, I began to understand the importance of starting with why when undertaking a task. Asking WHY is a question that should precede every major choice. Often the why, or reason, is obvious. But sometimes it is not as obvious.
Why is often not asked because whatever the function, choice, or behavior, it is something taken for granted or not understood well enough by the person to ask the question “Why?”.
It would be humiliating to admit, even to himself or herself, a decision was being made to do or not do something and a reason was not found. But that usually doesn’t stop people from doing or not doing things and clichés rule their logic. “Everybody is doing it.” “Obviously, it is the natural thing to do.” “If I don’t do it, people will think I’m crazy for missing the opportunity.” The excuses continue for doing something without taking time to ask “Why?”.
The topic is the choice of becoming a leader. Why would anyone choose to be a leader? If you are reading this, I’m expecting you are a leader already. But why?
The scope of this discussion is intended primarily for disciples of Jesus Christ and their roles in Christianity. However, the principles are adaptable to leadership in all capacities. So, language will sometimes be used that is uniquely for a Christian worldview. Please take a moment before reading further and ask yourself if you want to be a leader, why or why not?
There are some noble reasons for becoming a leader, and there are some not so noble reasons for becoming a leader. Let’s look at some that are obviously objectionable to most moral people. However, there are those aspiring to be leaders for these very reasons. Some make an intentional decision to pursue becoming a leader for money.
The leader usually makes the highest wages. Others choose to become a leader for power or status. There are those who really want to be the one who makes the decisions and dictates to others what they will or will not do. I doubt that you have ever encountered such a person, in the last 10 minutes at least.
Some would even deny being a leader and insist on dictating to people. How can that be? Still others choose to be a leader because they want the options of managing their schedule. Perhaps you can add several more reasons that are obviously objectionable?
However, not everyone is so gross in their reasons for becoming a leader. But are their reasons good reasons for becoming a leader. One reason often heard is the person who declares they want to make a bigger difference than they could without being a leader. Noble as it sounds, it isn’t that noble.
That person is still focused on themselves; it is an ego trip to make themselves important. Others believe they know more than anyone else and are the most gifted person to make the decisions and the impact in any situation and thus, they should be the leader.
Same problem, the ones motivated to be a leader by that reason are focused on self and self-justification. One not quite as obvious is the person who wants to be a leader because they desire to see the “bigger picture” and “go for more global goals”. Again, it goes back to self and believing they are the gifted one who could do better than anyone else and thus should be the leader. You can find other seemingly noble reasons that really are not as noble as they appear to the one stating it as their reason to become a leader.
There is another reason to be considered and it might seem to belong among the grossest objectionable reasons to be a leader. That reason is to be the center of attention, the focus of everyone’s interest. Can you believe anyone would want to be the center of attention as a reason to become a leader? What do you think about that as a reason? Well, it can be a bad reason if the person wants to be the center of attention as an egomaniac. But what if there was another reason, he or she wanted to be the center of attention? Could there be a justifiable reason for wanting to be the center of attention? Well, yes, there can and that will become evident later.
Maybe no one should want to be a leader, one might think. That would be grossly wrong. When there is no leader progress is usually lacking. There is a perfectly good reason to be a leader, yes verily, there are at least two good reasons to become a leader. When those two reasons are clearly understood, one is motivated to become the best leader he or she can possibly be. It is because of the reason(s) one is compeled to greater leadership, more influence.
“Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.” John Maxwell.
John Maxwell also said something else that really gets at the heart of one of the reasons for becoming a leader.
“My desire is that my one sentence would say, ‘He still lives on in this world.’ My hope is that what I taught leaders will be woven into their lives and continue to help others after I’m dead and gone. The goal in life is not to live on forever but to create something that does.” – John C. Maxwell
What is John C. Maxwell saying? He is saying, that when he has expired, he wants it said that other leaders are using the same principles he taught them, so his leadership is still being an influence, it is still here. In saying that he is getting at the very core of the reason for becoming a leader. One of the two very big and good reasons for becoming a leader are people, more specifically, it is helping people become better at whatever they are doing. Another way of saying it is a good reason for becoming a leader to help others be successful. Using this metric, it is little wonder Jesus Christ is known as the Greatest Leader to ever live and Moses is often called the second greatest leader to ever live.
Jesus died to save sinners, his enemies, to make them successful both in this life and into eternity.
Romans 5:8, NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16, NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 10:9-11, NIV
9. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Moses modeled that style of leadership.
Exodus 32:30-34, NIV
30. The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
31. So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold.
32. But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
33. The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.
34. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
I have often repeated others who have said, “The best leader is an even better follower.” No one will ever top Jesus Christ’s leadership and it is unlikely anyone will out do Moses’ leadership. So, to be the best leader one can be, then that person must be an even better follower of Jesus the Christ and Moses. I am not speaking of Mosaic law, here. I am speaking of leaders and leadership. To strive to become like the great leaders Jesus Christ and Moses, one must have a strong ambition to put people at the center and make their growth the primary focus. When the leader does that, people will follow. On the contrary, “If you think you’re leading, but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk.” – John Maxwell.
When one’s reason for becoming a leader is to facilitate the success of others, all the other reasons — the decision-making, the status and the compensation — will not matter. One’s leadership is measured by one’s positive impact on other people’s lives, not on their own accomplishments aside from others.
So, first and foremost, one of the top two reasons to become a leader is to serve people.
To look at the second top reason for becoming a leader, how do you see yourself as a Christian? As a leader? Or, as a servant? Is there a difference? Perhaps you are thinking, “leaders are great. Life would really be tough without them. But there are plenty of leaders without me. I don’t want to be a leader.”
Jesus had a disciple once whose humility almost put him in the same predicament. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet. (John 13:8-10). After all Jesus was the Master and Peter was the disciple. Peter had spoken earlier for all the disciples in proclaiming Jesus was the Messiah of God. (Luke 9:20). Unfortunately for Peter, to deny Jesus the right to wash his feet was to prevent Jesus from teaching what being a leader was really all about and Jesus was having none of that.
Jesus spoke of the grandeur of leadership living past one’s own service time long before John Maxwell or any of the other great teachers from which I have learned. Jesus proclaimed, “greater works than these will you do.”
John 14:12, NIV
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Perhaps you are still bothered by that “center-of-attention” for becoming a leader. Consider the following of Jesus’ proclamations.
Matthew 11:29, KJV
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
John 12:32, KJV
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
You see, it is all in the attitude for the motivation. When the reason for one becoming a leader is to serve people instead of self, being the center of attention is a necessary function to achieve that end.
You probably already know believers are called to be servants. But what does the Bible mean when it says “servant”?
Listen to the Master, Jesus the Christ.
Mark 9:35, KJV
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
Then there is Isaiah’s prophecy quoted in Matthew’s gospel.
Matthew 12:18, KJV
Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.
Here the Greek word translated servant is pais, “paheece” and is used 24 times in the New Testament.
Strong’s Dictionary G3816: Perhaps from G3817; a boy (as often beaten with impunity), or (by analogy) a girl, and (generally) a child; specifically a slave or servant (especially a minister to a king; and by eminence to God): – child, maid (-en), (man) servant, son, young man.
Another word translated into English as servant is doulos and is used 125 times.
Strong’s Dictionary G1401: doulos; doo’-los
From G1210; a slave (literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily; frequently therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency): – bond (-man), servant.
Here is an example of Jesus teaching his disciples about leadership.
Matthew 20:25-28, KJV
25. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
In verse 27, the word there translated as “servant” is simply “doulos”, meaning slave. It doesn’t set will with some people. But it sets very well with great leaders to think of themselves as slaves. A slave has no rights except those provided for him by the Master he is serving. As a leader, the more the leader understands he or she is a slave to God and man, the greater leader he or she will be. People who make the greatest impact are the people who become leaders and the impact they make is through the successes of others, not the labors extracted from others for their selfish interests.
The greatest reason for becoming a leader is to be a slave to Jesus Christ and a slave to mankind.
Matthew 22:37-40, NLT
37. Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
38. This is the first and greatest commandment.
39. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
There is this one other thing that is an important reason for becoming a leader. It is a commandment called the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:18-20, NIV
18. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20. and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Why do you want to become a leader?
Is it to please the Lord? Is it to facilitate success in others?
If so, you are well on your way to becoming a great leader. Study Jesus. Study Moses. Listen to all the wonderful leadership being taught by other great leaders who devote their lives to helping you and those like to you to reach heights only possible because someone led you to see the vision and way wherein you could do it. Perhaps it will even be possible to review some of their great work through these articles. Be a leader.
The LORD bless you and keep you,
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you,
The LORD lift his countenance upon you and give you peace.