Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Weighty Leadership

Over the past eight weeks, I've primarily focused on reasons why one should be a leader. I have also discussed fairly non-controversial topics. Today, I wanted to break that cycle by talking about why someone should not be a leader. (I'll address the non-controversial cycle later.) The focus of today blog will be fairly religious in nature, however I will attempt to explain any Christian jargon to the best of my ability. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from becoming a leader, however my intent is to show the grave responsibility that comes with this wonderful gift of leadership.

An early Christian named James wrote to fellow Christians with a warning: "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know we will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1). James believed that leaders were being held to a higher standard than normal people. Why is this? Uncle Ben said it right: "With great power comes great responsibility". I believe that leaders are under this harsher judgment for three reasons:

1. The leader is affected by the followers
Be it in Nazi Germany, the Vatican, or even the secret service, leaders must answer for the actions of those under them. In an earlier blog post about failure I mentioned the Penn State scandal, where the former president of the school was charged for not doing anything about the sex-abuse. Though the president of the school did not commit the sex-abuse, he was held responsible for the abuser's actions along with his own. Of course, if the former president of Penn State had not known about the sex-abuse, he would not have been held to such a high standard. However, part of his responsibility was to know, and to be aware of what was happening in his school. Be it a president, pastor or CEO, the actions of the followers affect the leaders.

2. The leader’s public actions affects the followers
I was on a trip in Alaska with some other Christians, and we were putting on an event for the children of some local native American tribes. In preparation for this event, I was told something that still affects the way I lead today. My team leader warned me: "the children will be watching you, and what you watch. You need to watch what they need to be watching". Who I focused on, the children would focus on, because I was setting the example for the others to follow. Where leaders go, others follow. The past two leaders of our country have led us through a war and into a recession. This is not to comment on the good or bad nature of where we're at, but simply that the responsibility of the president is to lead, for better or worse.

3. Leading is a gift, given by God.
I voted in the last election. I'll be honest, the guy I voted for didn't win, but I really didn't care. This was not because I don't have opinions on what politicians should or shouldn't do with the nation; rather, as a Christian, I understand a principle about leadership and authority that governs my understanding of the world. Paul makes an observation in Romans 13:1, "...there is no authority except from God...". For Christians, any position of leadership that is given to anyone is ultimately because God gives it. This means that every CEO, every pastor, even every general manager of a convenience store has been given their position, not just by human superiors, but by God Himself.

Now, the question that pops into my head at this point is this: How could Paul possibly say that about leaders with such horrible people like Hitler, Stalin or even Nero, the emperor who martyred Paul? This is where James 3:1 comes again into play. Just as all leaders are given a position, they are held accountable for what they did with that position. While an irresponsible manager may avoid answering to HR, and a greedy CEO may not answer to his board of directors, eventually, all will have to answer to an ultimate manager. Even a mass murder like Hitler cannot escape it. According to the Christian worldview, every leader will be held accountable for what they did as a leader.  

To bring it back to the original point, why shouldn't someone be a leader? A leader is responsible for their actions, the actions of those under them, and they will have to face evaluation for it. Christian leaders have to recognize that their words, actions, and even private thoughts are all being assessed by the giver of their position. Being a leader means accountability, accountability to a perfect leader, who has to be just. Should no one be a leader then? Of course not! However, leaders must understand the responsibility and accountability of their position. If someone is not prepared to take on this responsibility and answer for it, they should not be a leader. Leadership is a gift we cannot treat lightly.


  1. One sideways comment: Taking this post, about the responsibilities that come with leadership and the one about rest...Leaders need a place/time where they rest and shed responsibility. It doesn't mean one can go wild and crazy because your decisions everywhere, even in secret, will affect your followers/ employees. But it is important for a leader to have rest from responsibility, whether it's a mom knowing that the kids are old enough to cook dinner for themselves and so she doesn't have to have that "task" on her plate that day or a CEO who trusts his VP's to make correct decisions while on he is on vacation.

  2. Wow--this post really opens up a can of philosophical worms on the right of leadership and the power of a higher power on leadership. You bring up Nazi Germany a couple of times here, and it makes me wonder. Because you focus on Christian leadership, I just wonder what you think about God's choice in helping Adolph Hitler gain such power? Or Stalin (even though he wasn't Christian himself in his middle years)? If everything is predestined, the decisions about being a leader or not are already determined?

    I know this might seem a bit off topic, but the more that I think about it, the more I'm convinced that there is a conundrum in the Christian belief of predestination and an omnipotent and omniscient creator. If these decisions (like those to choose to be leaders in the faith) are predetermined, are they decisions at all?

    1. With HItler and Stalin, while I am no expert on the bible or anything, I believe the power and authority they were given was something given by God. What they did with it however, was completely up to them. Both had the free will to choose to lead their countries in a positive way, and not on some genocidal rampage. A logical question that comes from that is if God was all powerful and all knowing, wouldn't He know what horrible things they would do? Why put them in place?
      Why does God let anyone exist? That is to say, I haven't met a perfect person, and I'm pretty sure everyone has lied at least once. God gives people gifts, and though He knows what they will do, does not force them to do the actions, but rather allows them to do the evil, and fall under judgement for what they do. A man like Hitler may have done horrible things with his leadership abilities and position, and brought upon himself horrible judgement.
      As for your second question, there is a sort of conundrum, as God is all power, yet capable of restraining Himself. Does God have the power to control every decision? I think so. Does He? I don't know. It's clear in the Bible that humans have free will, and at the exact same time, God is all powerful. Not quite sure I understand it all, but that's about the best answer I can give.

  3. Julie, I don't have a good answer for you. Predestination...weighty issue and I have seen too many people die to not be utterly convinced of human free will. But after reading your comment I read this below blog...thought maybe it might touch on some of the things you mention.