controlled power

I meet with a group of pastors and leaders who are really intentional about developing one another.  We meet one time a month, read books, pray debate and discuss.  It is so helpful to have some high caliber leaders speaking into my life.  I am eternally grateful to these men who spend the time to do this with one another.

A few weeks ago I had a major insight into great leadership traits.  We were talking about gentleness in leadership.  At first gentleness sounds a little weak and conjures up images of some dude getting walked all over in the office, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Gentleness is really about self-control. It is about using the power that you have in a controlled way.   Many leaders could tear someone to shreds with just a few words.  But sometimes restraining your power can have an even greater affect.

I was thinking back to a time when my Pastor (who passed away in September) asked me to have lunch with him one day.  This was a while ago so the details are a little fuzzy, but essentially I had screwed up.  Instead of letting me knowing it and laying into me he restrained the power he had, guiding me through a series of questions that helped me realize I had screwed up.

I appreciated this for a few reasons.  First, It kept our relationship strong and in tact.  Instead of being disciplined and running away with my tail between my legs, we engaged in a thoughtful dialogue on whatever it was I messed up on.  Second, it gave me a model on how to handle conflict and staff issues.  But the main thing I noticed is that the entire encounter was gentle.  There was a sense that power was controlled for the greater good.

I got to thinking about the encounters that Jesus had with his disciples and even the religious elite of the day.  He modeled gentleness in his humility but also in his encounters with others.  God with flesh on could have quite a bit of power, but even from the moment of temptation in the dessert he withheld his power.  Which brings me to this point; the greatest power you can possess is the ability to not exercise it.  Maybe power is found in restraint and self control rather than blatant exercises of power.

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avoiding an arab spring

There is a really good reason why the “Arab Spring” happened.  It has less to do with politics and more to do with leadership.  Actually, It has everything to do with us as well.  The “Arab Spring” was a backlash against authoritarian leadership.  For years Mubarak and Gaddafi have been leading their people from their positions of power rather than their persuasion abilities.  One of the hardest and most rewarding leadership challenges is leading people when they have the freedom not to follow.  This kind of leadership happens everywhere from governments to churches to organizations and local communities.

The problem with the leaders in the Arab world is that they have been ruling rather than leading, they have been using their positions to dictate that their will be done.  In governments legitimacy is king. You cannot hold your position for long without the people perceiving you as the actual leader.  Some leaders of nations have taken their positions by force, but their countrymen and women do not perceive them as the actual leader, thus the revolution spawns.  If you have to hold onto your position by force, chances are, you are not the legitimate leader.

This is a huge leadership issue.  Who is legitimate?  Who leads with persuasion rather than position?  This leadership principle transcends time and the leadership of just nations.  The issue of legitimacy is relevant in communities, work places and even homes.  Do you lead out of your title or do you lead out of your ability to inspire and walk with people?  Do people follow you because if they don’t there might be consequences, or do they follow you because of a level of trust that has been built up over time?  You can avoid an “Arab Spring” by leading out of your core values and integrity.

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