Positions of leadership may seem very attractive at first glance. Being the quarterback of a football team can be exciting as long as long as the team is winning. Owning your own company and being your own boss looks great as long as business is good. Holding political office and making big decisions for one’s community may seem lofty but constantly dealing with public challenges and criticisms can be overwhelming. Pastoring your own church looks easy from the congregation’s viewpoint but keeping a church healthy and economically viable may be more challenging than one might think.
At this present time, the world is facing challenges more difficult than anyone has experienced in many decades. Massive economic disruption, a global pandemic, racial strife, riots, mayhem, cancelled church services and political upheaval are just a few of the significant challenges our present leaders are having to confront. The long, difficult days and lack of sleep put in by our president, governors, mayors, police, business owners and pastors are usually not seen and understood by the casual, uninformed observer.
I was a front row spectator of the cost of leadership in observing my own wife’s efforts throughout this pandemic as she has worked tirelessly in her role as the CEO of the South Dade Chamber of Commerce. The abrupt and unexpected economic shutdowns in mid-March caused her to have to scramble coordinating communications about the constantly evolving government responses especially during the first days of the shutdown. She was working 12-hour days fielding phone calls, emails and news reports while working on helping find solutions for our communities affected farmers who had no outlet for their ready to harvest crops worth millions of dollars. Very early in this process she contracted COVID-19 with fever, sneezing, coughing, headaches and fatigue. For the next 5 days, while dealing with these symptoms, she never stopped working long days except one day when she was so sick, she stayed in bed but she still answered phone calls and emails between brief naps. Later as rumors about demonstrations and possible rioting spread around Homestead in the wake of racial discord, she sent her staff to the safety of their homes but decided to stay in her office so that the possible rioters would know that her building was occupied and hopefully pass it by.
Whether you may agree with the decisions made by our political leaders and health experts during the last months in their responses to this pandemic, it is awe inspiring knowing they have been working 7 days a week with very little sleep doing their best to lead our generation out of this unprecedented disaster. I have been amazed by the valiant efforts of pastors and spiritual leaders around the world who have had to do everything possible to minister to and encourage their communities and congregations when they are not able to meet with them in person for almost 4 months now. In Latin America, many of these leaders have lost their church buildings, have not received any income and are working to help feed many who have no income or food to eat.
Our world needs great leaders like never before to lead us through and out of these present struggles. Nothing less than honest men and women of selfless integrity will do. Self-serving leaders have nothing to offer as they will quickly cut and run when the going gets tough.
Jesus is the greatest leader in human history! He was a servant leader. We see his leadership style in his discourse with his 12 disciples in Matthew 20:20-28. The mother of James and John asked Jesus to make sure they had positions of prominence in His kingdom by placing them at the right and left of His throne. He confronted them by asking if they were willing to drink the cup He was about to drink. They said they were able and He responded by telling them that indeed they would pay the same heavy price He would pay in leadership. As the other 10 disciples grew indignant, He told them His style of authority and leadership was not like the world’s. The way to greatness is to become a servant; the way to become first is by becoming a slave! This is so counter cultural in today’s society! The Creator of the Universe, Jesus, finishes by saying in verse 28, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
True leadership is much more difficult than most imagine. Jesus, the most selfless leader who has ever lived, constantly faced ridicule, criticism and opposition throughout His earthly ministry. Ultimately, it cost Him His very life! This very life, laid down for others, forever changed human history. May God be merciful and gracious to us in raising up great leaders so that our greatest days will be in front of us instead of behind.