It seems that everyone has an opinion about what leadership is and isn’t. I don’t know about you, but I am so over those graphics that try to differentiate the characteristics of leaders and managers. Invariably, management is seen as the lesser of the two. According to the graphic, at least, managers are focused on the things, while leadership is focused on the people. But is it really?
There are all kinds of leaders, and they aren’t all good. Some are leaders because of their position. They’ve been put at the top of some organizational chart or group, and their position makes them appear as the leader. But if you asked the people in their organization if they are effective or good leaders what would the answer be?
Scrolling through my LinkedIn feed one day, I saw that a colleague had posted an article about leaders become true leaders when they make good things happen for other people. This gave me pause, and I had to reflect when was the last time I made something good happen for someone else? Had I become more focused on creating strategy and plans than caring for my people? I thought about leaders in my career. Which ones had taken the time to make good things happen for me? And which ones were so caught up in their career ascension that they rarely took the time to make something good happen for me?
The best way to change the things around you is to improve the things within you. What kind of leader did I want to be? How does one become a leader who makes good things happen for other people? The Bible gives numerous examples of leaders…some good, some bad. However, there are lessons to learn from all of them.
Look at the disciples. They were commoners. But they were appointed to positions of leadership when they were selected by Jesus to walk alongside him in ministry. Coming from their backgrounds, I don’t know if they felt like leaders or leader impersonators. I have to believe that over those few years of watching Jesus look beyond the outward characteristics to the inner heart of men and women that they realized that their power was in their relationships with people. By the time that Jesus had died and was resurrected, and they were indwelt with the Holy Spirit, we see them focus on making good things happen for other people. The Book of Acts is full of the miracles performed by these apostles: a crippled man healed at the temple gate, people raised from the dead, a woman freed from an evil spirit, and they go on and on. The apostles understood the principle that leaders make good things happen for other people.
Esther is another example of a leader who understood this leadership principle. Esther did not seek out a leadership position. However, she didn’t shy away from responsibility. She used her leadership capacity courageously to protect others when she said: “and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16 NIV). She saw an opportunity to make a good thing happen for a lot of people…her people. And she did, and God rewarded her obedience with great celebrating by the people (Esther 8:17).
What does all this mean? We need a different measurement…a different graphic, if you will. Not one that measures whether you are a leader or a manager, but one that measures how often you are using your leadership capacity to make good things happen for other people. If you’re falling short, today is a good day to start over. People are counting on you.