Saturday, June 21, 2008

Changing the World... and Other Small Things: Part 2

The Leader

"He is greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own."
- Henry Ward Beecher

You’ve all seen them. Walking around, usually with a group of followers. It doesn’t matter if the group is large or small. Or if the members are young, old, or about the same age as whomever it is they are following. Leaders usually stick out. But what is that magic spark that they have which allows them to lead?

That spark which is within us all, just waiting to be fanned into flame.

I like to call that spark influence. The ability to affect what people think, how they act, what they say and do not say… influenced by what you do, what you say and how you say it. Or what leverage you have on them, as the case may be. Everyone has some sort of influence, whether great or small, over something else. Ever changed a friend’s mind about something? That is influence.

“The humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others.”
- Beecher

Influence is what makes a leader. Have you ever seen one without it? And the degree of influence is directly tied to your capacity as a leader. The more influence you have, the more you can lead. The more challenging it is to lead as well. Leadership also depends on the kind of influence you hold. If you can only influence people because you are holding an axe over their head, that is not true leadership. If you get your influence through bullying, that is not true leadership either. It may be a form of leadership, but it is a negative one and only fakery.

So then, what is real leadership?

A couple thousand years ago, there was a philosopher who had a pretty good idea of what makes a true leader. And true influence. He suggested that a true leader was one who served the people. That influence was not given to someone because of what or who they knew, but earned through good service. Leading not by what you say, but by what you do. Servant leadership. Leadership based on stepping back from your own ambitions and leading in a way which benefits others. A pretty decent philosophy. And seeing that Jesus is who He is… well, I think He would know a thing or two about the world.

“Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words”
-attributed to St. Francis Assisi

Influence is subtle at its best. Leadership is subtle in its truest form. And what is the best way to be subtle? To say nothing at all. Words can say a lot, but, as many a mother has pointed out, actions speak louder than words. We gain more influence through how others observe us - our interactions with other people, how we live our day to day lives - than through the things we tell them. It doesn’t matter what we say to people if our actions, our lifestyle, doesn’t endorse it. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t pan out for a leader. To truly lead, your words must match your actions. And your actions should be such that others want what you have, and they will follow you to get it.

It may sound as if I am saying that only Christians can be leaders. That is not true. At all. Gandhi certainly led by his actions, and though he was not a Christian, he held up peace in through his lifestyle and people followed him for it. People still follow him for it. And I am sure that you can think of people surrounding you who are not Christian and have the same effect. What I am saying though for Christians is that it is necessary to fan that leadership spark into flame. Otherwise you are not fulfilling your purpose here. Evangelism depends heavily on leadership.

Now, I think, would be a good time to make a distinction. There is a difference between leading and being called into a leadership role. Not everyone is called to a leadership role. To be that public figure from the get-to-know-you game. Everyone who has influence, which means… everyone, is a leader capable of leading. End of story.

So what is a leader? Someone who allows their actions to speak for themselves and who others follow because of that example. A Servant Leader.

Someone who has taken the first step to changing the world.

Part 1/ Part 2/ Part 3


=Annwas Adeniawc=

The Open Door - FortMac'08

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