Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Fighting the Need to Increase

The following is a second excerpt from an article by R. Scott Rodin titled, “Becoming a Leader of No Reputation” that originally was published in Journal of Religious Leadership,/ Vol. 1, No. 2 (Fall 2002), pp. 105 – 119.

“Most Christian leaders would say that in their hearts they would wish that Jesus would increase and they would decrease.  But it is hard to decrease in a leadership position.  There are natural trappings that distinguish those in leadership such as salary, title, prestige, priority, power, influence, honor and advancement.  And in each area there are tempting opportunities for increase.

“Perhaps the hardest place to decrease is in the influence and the power we hold over people and decisions.  For this reason we find Christian leaders who are overly directive at best, and autocratic at worst.  And as a result we produce churches and ministries that are rife with ‘learned helplessness’.  By overestimating our own worth, we help our people depend on us for everything.  And that dependence feeds into our need to be needed, to be the “idea person” and visionary, and to be in control.  We tell ourselves that the more we lead in this way, the more our leadership is valued and our presence desired.

Robert Greenleaf reminds us that the difference between a true servant-leader who is servant first, and the leader-servant who seeks leadership first, lies in the growth of the people who serve under them.  The test question is, “do those served grow as persons; do they, /while being served/, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

“Truly godly leaders empower their people, give away authority, value and involve others, seek the best in and from their people, and constantly seek to lift others up, push others into the limelight, and reward those they lead.  All so that God’s will might be done in a more powerful way.  They seek no glory for themselves, but find great joy in seeing others prosper.  They take no account of their reputation, but seek that Jesus’ face be seen in all they do.  Max DePree‘s famous definition is worth repeating, “The first responsibility of the leader is to define reality.  The last is to say thank you.  In between the leader is a servant.””

It’s time to reflect on the position of the spotlight.  Is it focused on you the leader or are you moving that focus towards others around you?

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One thought on “Fighting the Need to Increase

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