Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
Leadership is a confusing concept for some. Indeed, there is a tendency to think that leadership has something to do with being in charge. Indeed, we often accept that whomever is in charge is in a position of leadership. However, that is not necessarily true. There is more to leadership than simply being in charge. What happens when those in charge are wrong or do something illegal? Somebody must be willing to step up and say “no”. That is where real leadership comes into play.
It would be nice to believe that those in managerial positions could accept responsibility for their actions. However, that is not necessarily the case. I have heard many stories over the years regarding managers asking an employee to do a task only for the employee to end terminated because that particular manager did not have the authority to request that task and refused to “man up” and accept responsibility for their actions. When this happens, rumors begin to fly and the manager who refuses to accept responsibility is now guilty of lying. Hate to say it, but refusal to accept responsibility is not “covering your ass”, it is a lack of leadership.
The Bible is filled with both good and bad examples of leadership. Some of these leaders are considered by many as being great heroes. Consider Sampson, who was a judge of Israel. He failed to obey God frequently and ultimately lost his strength for it. However, this was also a man who, in anger, set the tails of foxes aflame and set them loose in a field. Hardly an example of quality leadership. Then there was Joshua, who also had his failings when it came to obeying God, yet Joshua accepted God’s call and was lifted up as a powerful leader of the children of Israel.
Another, rather odd example, is the leader who wasn’t. That title belongs to Barak, whom the Lord called to confront Sisera, captain of the army of Jabin the king of Canaan. Barak was called via the prophetess/judge Deborah*. He refused to do that which the Lord called him to do unless Deborah went with him. She agreed, but warned him sternly that because of his action, his honor would be lost and Sisera would be delivered into the hands of a woman. Sure enough, Sisera fled and found shelter in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber. Jael would be the one to put Sisera to death, driving a tent stake through his skull. Barak failed to “man up” and accept his call from God, thus a leader that wasn’t.
Perhaps the best example of leadership in the Bible is our Lord Christ Jesus. Admittedly, it would hardly be considered polite or politically correct to start throwing tables and driving people away with a whip when we perceive that something is amiss. Rather, Jesus confronted those who were supposed to lead the people of Israel. He spoke out against how they failed to show the mercy of God and chosen to burden the people with rules, regulations, and laws that nobody could abide by or fulfill. Jesus also taught the people of how God loves and cares for them, often through the little things that nobody ever gives pause to consider. Jesus that did that which none of us could do. He took upon himself responsibility for all of our sins and died upon the cross for those sins, then rose three days later. When it came to leadership, Jesus took on full responsibility. Was he in charge? Not in a political sense, yet he demonstrated the type of authority that a true leader has, even as he subjected himself to the authorities who arrested him and who would ultimately execute him. In a very real sense, Jesus knew what it meant to “man up”.
Jesus was the perfect example of a leader, though he was also the Lord God in human flesh. I do not advocate anyone having themselves put death, but I do believe that Jesus demonstrated what it truly meant to take responsibility. Any of us can be a leader, but we do not necessarily have to be in charge to do so. We simply must accept responsibility for our actions and stand up to that which is wrong. The best way to judge right and wrong is still the Bible, starting with the commandments that God gave the children of Israel at Mount Sinai (Jabal al-Lawz?). From there, we must still work hard and do that which we are otherwise called to do in our vocations. However, this does not forbid us from seeking to help our co-workers and otherwise make our daily profession go well. In doing so, we can often lead by example. Thus, if we want to truly be leaders, we need to follow Jesus’ example in taking responsibility and simply “man up”, doing that which is right, even if it is unpopular.
*Note: I do not, based upon what is written in the book of Judges, or elsewhere in scripture, regard Deborah as an example of a female priest. Indeed, she was not called to be, nor was she ever, a priest. Sampson, who was also a judge of Israel, was not a priest either. Not all of the prophets were priests either. It is a faulty hermeneutic to attempt to use Deborah as an example of a female priest and can only lead to strife and possible deception. I have little interest in debating this topic, rather I make note of this lest some should think I support a view that I do not.