by Major Clarence Bradbury, D.Min.
When asked for advice to young leaders, from his own leadership experience, John Maxwell said, “Pay the price for growth. People won’t give you credit when you’re early in the journey; but keep growing, learning, leading. The return doesn’t often come till years later, but it’s worth the price.” The process of leadership maturity includes development in our inner life and outer ministry. It includes saying NO to many things in order to say YES to the few.
Every day we face demands based on certain assumptions about what is essential for effective leadership. We sometimes find ourselves channeled into a style of leadership that is militaristic, political or corporate, more than it is spiritual. While the skills of all three secular models are useful, spiritual leadership comes only from God who matures us in our daily leadership priorities and practices. Here are a few things I have learned from good mentors, including my many trials and errors, about that process.
1. Who we are is the best we have to give. It takes time to get this. We spend years increasing our education, polishing our personal image, positioning ourselves for the next promotion, producing outcomes that people will notice. Eventually, we discover that these pursuits morph into an intricately woven “shadow mission” that lies beneath the surface of our stated mission. John Ortberg’s presentation at the leadership Summit 2007 was turned into a book project called “Overcoming Your Shadow Mission.” (Zondervan, 2008). His critique of biblical leaders is a penetrating analysis of current reality. If only we would invest more in being our own authentic, best self, living the mission that God has birthed deep within us, seeking first His approval rating, our life and leadership would receive the applause of heaven.
2. Loving Jesus and getting to know His heart are non-negotiables in the maturing process. My friend Dan Webster of Authentic Leadership Inc. has been used by God to guide countless Christian leaders to spiritual transformation through his “Leadership of the Heart” seminars. I come away from a meeting with Dan reaffirmed in the truth that it’s all about Jesus, cultivating a heart like His, learning the disciplines that ensure transformational influence, leading with skill of hand and integrity of heart. http://www.authenticleadershipinc.com/lohseminar.html
3. Leadership maturity comes at a steep price – total surrender of my rival kingdoms. This is a similar challenge to dealing with shadow missions. The difference I see between the two is that while shadow missions can resemble the real thing, rival kingdoms create constant inner conflict. Rival kingdoms are legitimate as well as illegitimate pursuits that hold many leaders back for the duration of their ministry. Getting to a place of surrender is cause for great celebration because it releases new power within leaders, multiplying their influence for the Kingdom of God. Clay Crosse’s song gives a dramatic scan of some rival kingdoms that possess us and the kind of surrender that frees us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THHu5QPjB_4
4. Leadership maturity means having no need to say you’re the leader. If I don’t have to tell someone I’m in charge, it shows that my leadership is already respected. Mature leaders learn to renounce the obsession of power and control because they see it for what it is – a rival kingdom that pits self against God. Inspiration and influence are the currency of spiritual leaders – not intimidation. No one likes a self-serving, maniacal, career chaser. While the position of leadership grants certain prerogatives, those who pursue the art of grace-full leadership work hard to make a success of those who are beneath them. By practicing downward mobility (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=653) they demonstrate an amazing capacity to embrace the role of follower and the equally impressive grace to serve as leader.
The earlier we are willing to pay the price of leadership maturity by growing, learning and practicing authentic leadership, the sooner we will see a return on our investment. Other pathways to maturity may be very attractive in the short term. The pressure is always on to produce quick and quantifiable results that show well in statistical reports and demonstrate our leadership capacity to turn in impressive results quickly. This may be essential in situations that demand rapid response, such as emergencies. But pursuing a Kingdom path toward leader maturity ensures significant results for the short haul and leaves an enduring legacy for generations to come.