One of the subjects I enjoy studying is leadership.
What motivates people? What makes a “leader”? How can one become more effective as a leader, versus being a “manager”? These kinds of things.
Recently a group of men and I have been working through a leadership training program with one of our mentors, and one of the questions that came up was on the subject of being an authentic Christian leader. The author’s line of thought led him to Luke 6:40:
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Basically, the author’s point in mentioning this verse was this:
We become like the people we follow. Who are we following—and what are people becoming like when they follow us?
In Philippians 3:17-20, Paul addresses this very issue (in the context of spiritual authorities), writing:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Who is worthy of our imitation?
Is there a person in our lives who we can look at and say, “Yes, I want to be like that”?
A number of years ago, I worked at a printing company as a graphic designer/production artist. The owner was one of those very high-stress, high-pressure kind of guys whose first reaction was to yell and swear whenever something went sideways.
Which happened a fair bit.
While I was there, I was in a position where I was the defacto team leader whenever our creative director was away. Some days everything was dandy. People were getting their work done, deadlines were being met, and everyone was happy. But other days, everything went bad. And as people would come by and chew me out, eventually that became how “lead.”
It was the management style I’d learned.
The problem was, I didn’t like it. It didn’t fit my character and it wasn’t acceptable for me as a Christian. It also didn’t cause me to win friends and influence people (nor did it benefit my relationship with my wife, as we worked together at the time).
Today, my days at that company long behind me, I’m reminded of those experiences whenever I have to take an authoritative stance, be it in my home or at work. It forces me to check my words and my motivations.
Am I choosing to speak in such a way that builds people up, or am I tearing them down? Am I exhibiting humility in the way I make a corrective statement or am I blasting someone? If I were following me, would I follow joyfully?
Would I want to be like that guy?
I’m not perfect at this, as my wife and friends can attest. But as I’ve been getting older and (hopefully) maturing, more and more I’m seeing people I want to be like. And those people are men who are actively trying to be like Jesus (as imperfectly as we can be). Some of my good friends, my mentor and my pastor… these are the guys that inspire me on a day-to-day basis, because they’re doing the hard work of working out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). They’re people worthy of imitating.
People are imitating you, too. The question is, are you worth imitating?