December 18, 2017

Leadership from the Heart

Warren Stuber

Everything rises or falls on leadership.” This has proven to be a true statement; therefore, leadership is extremely important. But what is leadership? Many define it as “influencing the thinking or activities of others toward accomplishing tasks or achieving goals in a particular situation.” Since it involves influencing others’ thinking and actions, leadership is the opposite of, and incompatible with, a dictatorship.

Many people would readily decline leadership; they fail to realize that good leaders are made, not born. A. W. Tozer said,

A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation … the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader.

In the Christian community we need to understand and honor Biblical standards for leadership. We need to set the standard for those outside the church. What does God require? What are the spiritual qualifications? Let’s examine the word LEADERSHIP letter by letter as an acrostic to consider the “heart” of the matter.

L-OVE

Love begins with God (1 John 4:7). It is extended to man, and those who know the Lord can let it flow out from them to others. The love of Christ should motivate and control our actions (2 Cor. 5:14). Love is the first and unifying factor in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). We owe others a debt of love (Rom. 13:8). Paul says we are to “be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). Leon Bloy said, “Love does not make you weak, because it is the source of all strength, but it makes you see the nothingness of the illusory strength on which you depended before you knew it.” Blessed are the people who have a leader who genuinely loves them with a self-sacrificing desire to meet their needs.

E-XAMPLE

The most effective form of leadership is example. Those following need to see how truth is actively applied in the life of the leadership. There is nothing more confusing than someone who gives good advice but sets a bad example. Our example must be genuine, a pattern to follow (1 Tim. 4:12), and a pattern of growth (2 Pet. 3:18) that our profiting may appear to all (1 Tim. 4:15), even an “imitation” of God Himself (Eph. 5:1). The best thing you as a leader can do is to get followers to mirror your actions by being what you wish them to be. Leaders always teach by example whether they mean to or not. There are no vacations or down times, and we need grace for the task from the One who is our primary example (2 Cor. 12:9).

A-CCOUNTABLE

Yes, leaders must be accountable, i.e., answerable and responsible to those who may be over them, as well as to those surrounding them, and ultimately to God (Rom. 14:12). This is the safe way to operate, and accountability will help you to be disciplined. It may be necessary to designate a particular, spiritual individual to help you to maintain accountability via regular reporting. An additional aid to accountability is transparency, i.e., being free from pretense and willing to acknowledge limitations and errors to those you lead. In my church, the pastor regularly leads in this quality with the deacons. My pastor has said, “No one is a failure until he blames somebody else. As long as you accept the blame for failure, you won’t be a failure because you’re in a position to change the situation.” Since the primary goal is to glorify God, in our human frailty we must be accountable and transparent.

D-EDICATED

One of R. G. Letourneau’s guidelines for life was “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” This goal requires a setting apart to a definite use or service, a devotion to that use or service, and a diligent effort (Gal. 6:9; Prov. 10:4). The dedicated leader will be intimately involved, giving a “tireless” performance (Rom. 12:8). The Lord’s service has no room for laziness, regardless of whether you’re in full-time ministry or working a secular job. If what you do for the Lord is a sideline, it just might become a slide-line as well. The way to face any task is with enthusiasm (it’s contagious, Rom. 12:11) and submission to the Lord as we serve Him and others selflessly (Phil. 2:19–22).

E-NCOURAGING

One of the Devil’s chief weapons against God’s people is to entice them to discouragement by getting them to doubt God’s goodness. People will respond positively to the leader who encourages, gives credit, expresses faith in them, and demonstrates that he cares. Businessmen Jack Eckerd and Sam Walton practiced such leadership and built successful businesses because they believed their employees were their number one assets. People are always more important to achievement and true success than situations and things. Your people, whether employees or family, need a demonstration of personal, active concern for their personal, spiritual, and material needs. Our work is urgent and important, but shouldn’t we get as excited about helping our people as we are about our work? And after you as a leader continually encourage, inspire, and minister to needs, what do you do when you feel discouraged? Do the same thing David did. He “encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Sam. 30:6).

R-ELIABLE

The apostle Paul recorded the greatest requirement for anyone who serves the Lord when he said, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). Faithfulness is a must in leaders. People must have confidence in their leader. Faithfulness or reliability can be abundantly demonstrated by our integrity, regularity, stickability, punctuality, and availability. My pastor has said, “Loyalty is something you give regardless of what you get back, and in giving loyalty you’re getting more loyalty.” God is truly honored when we deal honestly and sincerely with those we lead. There are many things that each person cannot do, but everyone can be faithful.

S-ERVANT

The most synonymous word for leader is servant. A servant is one who exerts himself for the benefit of another. Nehemiah, the leader of the tremendous project of building the walls of Jerusalem, considered himself a servant (Neh. 1:11), claiming no advantage of position (Neh. 5:15). As a true servant he considered himself part of the work crew since he deserved nothing and owed everything. Leadership is learning to give whether you get anything or not. Calvin Coolidge once said, “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” We may look everywhere for examples of servant-leaders, but we will find none greater than Jesus Christ, the One who came to minister (serve), not to be ministered unto (Mark 10:45). Ronald Hawkins said, “A leader’s greatest attribute is to possess the heart of Christ and to minister out of that servant’s heart” (Phil. 2:5–7). May our sincere prayer be, “Give me, Lord, a servant’s heart.”

H-UMBLE

During the Korean War when General Douglas MacArthur conquered the capital city, Seoul, President Syngman Rhee gave him a hug and declared, “You are the savior of our country.” Standing in a bombed-out building with glass falling out of windows, MacArthur replied, “Let us pray,” and he did. Truly great people are humble people, accepting no glory, and free from ambition and pride. That is why God said, “He resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). Humility is a leader’s most enduring quality. We only need to look to Jesus, our Great Savior, to see humility personified as He laid aside His garments, knelt before the disciples, and washed their dirty feet (John 13:4, 5). As William Penn said, “Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility. An able and yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.”

I-NITIATOR

Someone spoke truly when he said, “Many watch and wait and never initiate.” To initiate is to introduce by a first act, to begin, to make the first move. When the direction is clear, the choice is obvious, and the time is right, then initiate (lead) and others will follow. On September 11, 2001, President Bush, through his tears, became an initiator and took control of an unbelievable situation. Close behind him was the mayor of New York who became an initiator in dealing with the biggest mess any mayor ever faced. But then there was the ordinary airline passenger on United Flight 93, Todd Beamer, who became an initiator, and at his signal people rallied to defeat the terrorists and their plan. Leaders must make decisions and be prepared to live or die by them, if need be. Once we make a decision, persistence must prevail to see it through to completion.

P-RAYERFUL

All of the above qualifications may be present in a leader, but if that leader is not given to regular, specific, prevailing prayer, then he will fail. Prayer is the key that unlocks the door, the indicator of our dependence on God, the exercise of our faith, and the communication we need with the Commander in Chief. A leader in his own right, Abraham Lincoln said, “I must confess that I’m driven to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go. My wisdom and that of all about me is insufficient to meet the demands of the day.” Oh, to be like the brokenhearted prophet who prayed, “God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you . . .” (1 Sam. 12:23), or like the concerned apostle who wrote, “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (Phil. 1:4), or like the dear Savior, who prayed, “I pray . . . for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9).

Jesus met all of the above qualifications perfectly. Someone said, “A true Christian leader is determined, through the power of God, to carry out God’s will in his life. A leader leads by his lifestyle and his devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. That godly leader will always be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).

Good leadership begets good followers. It’s time for us to get qualified and report for duty so that we can lead “from the heart.” The world needs to see Christians leading at work, in the home, within the community, and in church.


Biography at the time of original publication: Warren Stuber is retired pastor and freelance writer who lives in Greenville, South Carolina, where he serves as a deacon at Faith Baptist Church.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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