LEADERSHIP THAT LIFTS!
By: Mark Christian
Generally people do not split from leadership over theology; more often than not a break takes place as the result of the way they are being led. A leader’s relationship, therefore, is of paramount importance. A second ingredient of leadership is the ability to involve others in planning, making decisions, and solving problems.
Is it time to make a change in the way we lead? In the Bible we find the story of a leader who was willing to change the way he led in order to minister to Israel more effectively. Moses received Jethro’s advice and acted on it. He changed his style of leadership, and the result was of manifold benefit to him and to the people of Israel.
Growth means change, but change does not always mean growth. For the most part, however, the issue is not how to grow but when we will be willing to pay the price to grow.
Change is one of the hardest things for people to do. In fact it seems that most people are happier living with old problems than new solutions. It is important to remember, though, that if we continue to do as we have always done we will always get what we have always gotten. Since leadership exerts influence, when a leader changes and grows then his church will also change and grow.
Moses came to the realization that no leader can minister by himself. First of all, the task was too great for him. Moreover, others could do much of the work as well as he could. Further, when he recognized and involved others, the people came to regard themselves as important to the work, and they faithfully followed his leadership.
Problems will arise, but when leadership has involved and developed others through shared responsibility, problems can be handled on the lowest level possible. In a church, most problems can be handled on the lay ministry level without any involvement at the pastoral level. Relatively few plans, decisions, and problem solving should reach the highest level in a local church.
The Example of Moses
When people answer the call to the ministry they cross an important line. They become leaders, providing not only an example but also a direction for people to travel. As leaders, they are judged not only by what they can do themselves, but their value also depends on what they can get done through others.
Exodus 18:17-19, 24 gives us a valuable example from the life of Moses. “And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people of God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God. So Moses harkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.”
Moses first began to change his way of thinking. Essentially our life is made up of our thoughts, and that is where change must begin. Second, Moses changed his way of work: he changed his behavior.
But the list of change does not stop there. By accepting Jethro’s counsel, Moses experienced changes in seven other major areas of importance:
1. Moses became a man of prayer (verse 19).
2. Moses committed himself to be a communicator (verse 20).
3. Moses laid out a vision before the people (verse 20).
4. Moses laid out a step-by-step plan (verse 20).
5. Moses selected and trained leaders (verse 21).
6. Moses released them to do the ministry (verse 22).
7. Moses limited his work to what the people could not do (verse 22).
The transition from ministry to leadership takes place as follows:
1. Doing the things others are unwilling to do. This is servanthood, and it is fundamental and foundational.
2. Doing things that others should do. This is modeling, that is, doing what needs to be done in order to show the people how.
3. Doing things that others can learn to do. This is equipping people, and it should be in accordance to the highest level of their gifts. Moses put some people to be leaders over fifty, some over a hundred, and so on.
4. Doing things that others cannot do, which is leadership.
The results in Moses’ life as he made this transition were very beneficial:
1. Moses was the recipient of newfound strength (verse 23).
2. Peace for the people became a part of this package. Their problems were, answered (verse 23).
It is important to realize that Moses was not thinking evil; he was simply thinking wrong. He was in a leadership position, but his thoughts were still that of a worker. Spiritual leaders will need to be able to do many necessary things:
1. Take the people’s burdens and needs to God and hear from God for these needs. Acts 6 parallels Exodus 18. Somewhere leaders must prioritize ministry and get people to do the work so that they can follow through with their responsibilities to pray and to preach the Word.
2. Spend time communicating with people, teaching them how to live for the Lord. Moses worked on this weak area.
3. Become a “vision leader.” Vision is an indispensable quality in every great leader. A “vision leader” will have the next step laid out for people and motivate them to follow through with this plan. Vision depends on the size of the man and not on the size of the group.
Once again, it is important to remember that leadership means doing only what the people cannot do. This is the difference between being a leader and a minister. The highest degree of loyalty will come from those the leader helped change the most. Developing people, whether one on one or as a group, is vital to leadership. If a leader cannot grow where he is, then he cannot grow where he is going. Growth is most often stymied by a saturation level that is only in our head.
Levels of Leadership
It is important to remember that leadership is basically influence. The manner in which a leader influences people will determine the level of leadership he has grown to. Let us consider five levels from the highest to the lowest.
Level 1: People follow because of who you are and what you represent. This level is reserved for leaders who have spent years building people and organizations. Few make it. Those who do seem bigger than life.
Level 2: People follow because of what you have done for them. This level is where long-range growth occurs. A commitment to developing leaders will ensure ongoing growth to the organization and to people. We should do whatever we can to achieve and stay on this level.
Level 3: People follow because of what you have done for the organization. This level is where most people sense they like the leader and what he is doing. Problems are fixed with very little effort because of momentum.
Level 4: People follow because they want to. People will follow beyond the leader’s stated authority. This level allows work to be fun. However, staying too long on this level without rising will cause highly motivated people to become restless.
Level 5: People follow because they have to. The leader’s influence at this level will not extend beyond the lines of his job description. The longer he stays here, the higher the turnover and the lower the morale of the people he is responsible for leading.
We can draw several conclusions from a study of these leadership levels:
1. The higher the level of leadership, the longer it takes to obtain. Levels of leadership take time to develop, and on an average, studies indicate it takes at least 2.8 years to move through each level.
2. The higher the level, the higher the level of commitment necessary.
3. The higher the level, the greater the growth required on the part of the leader.
4. The higher the level, the easier it is to lead.
5. The higher the level, the wider the influence of the leader.
6. The higher the level, the larger the reservoir of goodwill.
Leaders collect goodwill and emotional change from people. Every time leaders do something that is a mistake, they give up some of this collected change. If a leader continues to make blunders eventually he will emotionally bankrupt the people he is responsible for leading. The converse is also true: when the leader makes decisions that benefit and bless those he is responsible to, then he collects goodwill and emotional change. The more change the leader has in his pocket, the more change he can make among the group he is leading. And leaders should always lift those who follow to a more productive level of life.
(The above material appeared in the April–June, 1992 issue of the Forward Magazine.)
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