In a recent survey, 86 percent of people said there is a leadership crisisin the world today. If you Google “leadership crisis” you’ll find hundreds of articles and books on the lack of leadership in all kinds of areas. It extends to global politics, the business world, and even to church leadership.
The desire to end the leadership crisis has led to a renewed emphasis on research and training. We’re developing new graduate degrees and certificates. Leadership is a huge area of focus in publishing. Leaders of organizations consider how to intentionally identify and position new leaders.
Unfortunately, it has also lead to an overemphasis on skill and personality. If someone can give a good presentation, if they can network, or if they can sell something, then they’re a fit for leadership. These are “leadership” qualities. If a person has the right combination of Myers-Briggs letters and bravado, then they’re ready for the fast track in whatever field of expertise.
This can be particularly true in church leadership. We unquestioningly take ideas from the outside world without considering where it might lead or how in Jesus’ kingdom it should be different.
One of the things I think about is: is desiring leadership—in of itself—actually a quality worth rewarding? Is the leadership crisis really due to not having enough people who want to be in control and have things their way? Does the desire for leadership, plus some leadership skill mean that someone is actually fit to lead? I don’t think so. I’ve seen all kinds of bad reasons a person could want to “lead.” The crisis is not because we don’t have enough desire or skill or the lack of personality. The crisis is because we don’t have enough people leading out of deep character for the benefit of those who follow.
Leadership without character is tyranny.
Every single time. How could it not be? Without character, a leader is taking people somewhere for their self-serving purposes. It’s self-aggrandizement. It’s a grab for power or prestige or pleasure. Whether it’s the king, the president, or the floor manager at Best Buy, if a person doesn’t have character then their “leadership” is going to ultimately hurt people. Why? Because the leading is for selfish purposes. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we have a shortage in selfish leaders. We have a shortage in leaders who model the loving servitude of Jesus.
Part of the problem is we view leaders differently (and this is probably twisted up in our ideas of “powerful” men and “weak women”). We call a leader’s pride, charisma. Their lack of empathy, assertiveness. Their failures in integrity, a passion and willingness to do whatever it takes. Unfortunately, meekness, humility, and compassion are relegated to non-leadership qualities. We love them in followers, maybe because we believe it makes them compliant. But we’re not looking for that when we’re identifying leaders.
We need leaders to help guide us through the future. We need leaders who possess the right kind of character, rather than skill or personalities. Of course, skill is important. Sure, some personalities may have an easier time in the demands of leadership. However, at a fundamental level, a lack of character should be a disqualifying factor in leadership. A lack of character just makes a person desiring leadership very dangerous to the people around them.
We don’t need better orators who communicate vision in amazing detail. We don’t need charismatics who could get you to buy anything they’re selling. We need integrity, long-suffering, empathy and compassion. We need leaders who demonstrators the love of God.
Join in the discussion in the comments, what do you think?