Sacrificial Leadership Makes a Way for Trust

Several years ago, when facing a major decision regarding a move, my wife and I sought counsel. The counsel we got regarding the move changed the way we looked at marriage forever.

“Scott, what if this move was entirely for her benefit, would you be OK with that?” he asked.

“Julie, do you trust Scott?” was the question she got.

I had never thought about such a question prior to that. I was the one that worked to make a living for the family and pursued a career and she was staying home with the kids. How and why would it be entirely for her benefit? I needed to make money. I needed to move forward in my career. Yet, the truth of the question had a weight to it.

While I wasn’t initially willing to make this move “entirely for her benefit,” I was willing to try to change. As I thought and prayed, my prayers changed. We were going through a lot and the pressure of the challenges was shaping me internally. I remember walking through the park and blurting out a prayer, “God, this is hard, but I don’t want the difficultly to be in vain. Take my angst and allow them (Julie and the kids) to benefit from it so they will have it easier.” That was it.

It wasn’t whether or not I did everything perfectly, it was the intention behind it. Something switched inside of me and I went from a strategist trying to figure out what was best to asking God to take my offering and multiply it. It wasn’t about my plans, but their benefit.

Trust is foundational to relationship. It is imperative for submission. Submission seeks a sacrifice and it is a place of benefit. We all desire the protection and sacrifice of a legitimate lead. The first and primary place that is fostered can/should be with our father. If he modeled the role well, we are likely inclined towards a healthy trust. If not, we may be more self-protective and self-promoting to attempt to make a way for ourselves since that pivotal relationship didn’t make a way for us.

Do you want to be a trustworthy leader? Be sacrificial. It doesn’t mean that those that are in a position to benefit from your sacrifice get everything they want. It does mean that everything you want is driven with their interests being primary.

Her answer regarding trusting me was “yes,” by the way. Even before my intentions were entirely for her benefit. While God was working stuff out in me, He was on display in her.

The Grace of Race

Public outcry, eloquent articles, denouncement, arrests and prosecutions or other reactive measures following Charlottesville won’t change the nation. The attempts will bring justice and/or clarify positions, but they won’t heal the condition that has resulted in these types of problems. The rhetoric and outbursts come from deeper roots.

President Obama, quoting Nelson Mandela, tweeted recently, “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love . . . . For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Hate and anger have been fostered on the extremes of the race equation in America and there are incremental shades of hurt sewn all through the fabric of our nation. Without assessment of cause and origin, it’s fair to say that somebody has to go first to step towards healing.

People learn to hate because they hurt and fear. Anger is a secondary emotion. The healing of the hurt and the alleviation of fear will remove the anger, hate and rage. I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, it’s incremental.

There is no program, policy or procedure that will fix it. There is only love. Love can only be transferred on heart at a time.

Transferring love one heart at a time requires grace. To give love, the person it is being given to must first be received. They must be received despite the fact that they are a person. A flawed, offensive, and even wrong person. The way to change their offensiveness is to receive them and love them. Ugh; right in the middle of their stuff that we want to react negatively to and maybe even punish.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to react to others like this. Only Christ followers. Only those that have been received by Him with His grace. Then, from the grace received from Jesus, we can distribute it to others. We don’t have to manufacture it.

This approach, however, is contrary to justice. There are arguments to be made which are based in justice that will tear down the call to give grace in order to impart love. That’s a choice; justice over grace. That’s a show stopper.

One heart at a time, grace upon grace, we are invited to love others. Jesus is in the reconciliation business and if you have been reconciled to Him, then you are qualified to join Him in that purpose (2 Corinthians 5). That’s what He’s doing, one heart at a time. We are invited to join Him.

Satisfaction Allows for Multiplication and Prevents Fortification

John Eldredge wrote a great book called “Way of the Wild Heart” which details stages of development and how they inter-relate one to the other. For example, young men usually require satisfaction of what Eldredge calls a “cowboy” stage. This is a time where the young man seeks adventure to know inside of himself that he is capable. Once this question is answered, he doesn’t have to wonder if he has what it takes to fight and survive when faced with a battle to fight. He is able, through experience, to walk with confidence which eliminates insecure over-reactions.

Problems arise when those questions go unanswered yet we progress in life to positions of greater responsibility. We often progress into what Eldredge calls the “king” stage where there are positions of leadership and responsibility. We’ve likely all seen the effects of a “leader” who is insecure and “leads” with fear. They are not prepared to walk in the position they have been promoted into because they did not naturally satisfy the internal questions to prepare them.

I started practicing law as a second career and had to cycle back to the beginning; went from running a company generating significant revenues to sharing an office with two desks and two paralegals. So three of us with only two desks and I knew less than they did about how most everything worked. If they were both present and busy, I had nowhere to sit.

Nice big cup full of humility to drink from did me good. I’m thankful for that time. That time was necessary as a foundation for what is and is to come. If I had tried to self-promote or refused to walk through what was before me, the foundation would not have been as solid.

Fear and control are enemies of leadership. They are also fruit of insecurity. Security comes from within; not from promotions or the accumulation of stuff. When you know who you are and Who it is that promotes and provides, the temptation to manipulate for your protection is set aside. The understanding of His faithfulness comes by the experience of His provision in the risk of trusting Him. Life lived dependent on Him and not you allows for the questions to be settled from within.

Leaders promote others because they aren’t promoting themselves. Insecurity will prevent or limit the freedom necessary for the release of others as the temptation will be to fortify more than multiply. Insecure kings build and adorn their castles while secure kings release and multiply the Kingdom of the King through others.

Transformative Leadership is Humble and Meek

Next level leadership is unlocked not needing the rank, control or attention that presents itself in the charismatic, dynamic personalities that we sometime envision when thinking about great leaders. I believe, as I wrote yesterday, that the invitation I face as I hit the 50 year mark is one into a greater humility to maximize leadership possibilities.

If you would have asked me as a young armor officer what the picture of a great leader was, I would have told you George Patton. He was brash and audacious. His ability and tactics moved armies across continents as he seemingly willed soldiers to exceed their perceived abilities. He was a force of a leader.

While I still recognize him as a great military leader, the opportunity to transcend that level of leadership lies in less, not more. The willpower of George Patton is needed to push through the challenges, but the humility that Jim Collins found in “Level 5” leaders is the multiplier. Patton’s armies were only going to perform for as long as his willpower was applied to their apparent limitations. The humility of a leader is what will multiply the impact of their influence.

Jesus didn’t unleash the greatest movement in the history of man with the assertion of His will. He multiplied His Kingdom through the laying down of His life. His Kingdom is available by invitation; not compulsion.

Invitation is the mechanism that multiplies. Choice is evidence of love and love awakens passion. Passion transcends.

In our search for significance, we are invited into the continuation of His story. His story, however, is executed in His methods. We can’t mandate, legislate or insist on the acceptance of the values and beliefs of Jesus; we can invite others by our service, humility and sacrifice.

I can’t will myself into Level 5 leadership. I can only pray and die. In the death of my need to be noticed, celebrated, credited or any other form of elevation, I can pray that I am transformed internally. I can trust Jesus to take what I offer and transform it into His purpose and increasingly into His image.

This is different from I thought it was going to look like and I don’t have it figured out yet. I am on a journey of purpose and the destiny that is available in the Kingdom of God comes through the same tactics employed by the King Himself. Unlike Patton’s audacious persona, the Greatest Leader harnesses His strength with a meekness that empowers others. Then they are invited to do the same.

Next Level Leadership Needs No Insignia

The first leadership position that I remember was in the Boy Scouts. I remember organizing, planning, delegating and communicating to get a couple of dozen other young men from one place to the other. Those places included Italy, Austria and all over Germany (we lived in Germany for a few years when I was growing up).

At 18, I was promoted into a supervisor’s position as an assistant warehouse manager ahead of 30-somethings and candidates that had been to college. Later, I went to college and became the president of my fraternity, cadet commander of the school’s ROTC detachment, and a Resident Assistant. From there, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and led soldiers as a tank platoon leader, eventually as a company commander. Along the way, I became a corporate manager with responsibility for subordinate supervisors and teams of employees.

There were other leadership experiences that have led me to where I am today. Almost 50, I have believed that I am well positioned to hit my stride. I have felt equipped, called and suited to lead in the places where I currently have responsibility. What I am finding as I hit the half-century mark is different from I had expected. Hitting stride is different from I thought.

The tactics, impact and ability to get things done as a leader shift. The shift is from control to influence. The direct cause and effect of my effort is no longer the plan. The shift I am being invited into, I believe, is into the next level of leadership. It’s what Jim Collins calls “Level 5” leadership. Level 5 leadership is described as a “paradoxical blend of humility and willpower.”

The “x” factor is in the humility. While I have battled pride over the years, the Lord has done a work. I am not the man who I was, by His grace. Yet, there is more. There is a depth of humility that calls out to my soul which holds the unlocking of the power of maximized leadership.

I don’t know exactly what it is or what it means, just yet. I am interested, but still a bit ignorant. The best picture I have so far is a picture of a military officer. A military officer is adorned with rank that is worn on their collar. I see the invitation being encapsulated in the taking off of the rank and laying it on the table. It doesn’t change the leader; it reflects their lack of a need for any adornment.

The best picture I have of who that person of authority looks like is Jesus.

Honest Interaction Equips the Ones that Do the Work

A simple, yet unique and amazing, thing happened the other night. I was speaking and a man politely interrupted with a clarifying question. He asked me what I meant by something I had just said and I clarified the point for him as well as for everyone else who might have not been clear. The man’s question initially seemed to come from a place of objection, depending on how I answered.

It was particularly unique and amazing in that I was preaching at our church. Right in the middle of the sermon came this potential objection. That was a greater level of conflict than you see in most sermons as the pastor typically goes unchallenged except at lunch behind his back or via email to inform him of his error. This was actual relationship. This was healthy.

I read a book by Patrick Lencioni over the weekend called “Death by Meeting.” In this excellent book he describes as a business fable, he makes the point that, business meetings are boring and non-productive because they don’t have any conflict. Everyone is saying all the right things except in the meetings after the meetings where the objections are raised with no way for collaborative problem solving.

Isn’t this true in church? Haven’t we resigned to the mundane predictability of three up songs, two down songs, announcements, offering, message and altar call or something similar? Haven’t we completely resigned ourselves to the passive consumer sitting politely as a critic of the show?

The only thing that’s likely to occur from our current patterns is either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. We are left to judge the excellence, or lack thereof, of the quality of the music, the content, humor and delivery of the speaker and opinions regarding the lighting, smoke, child care and parking. Too many thumbs down and we take our tithe to the show down the street.

I’ll submit that the early church, the model we were given, was a community of dialogue and even disagreement. Conflict affords the working out that is necessary for the equipping. We don’t mature passively, we grow experientially.

Why are we so afraid of the participation of the ones that are being equipped for the work of the ministry? If they don’t get equipped in the gathering, then where? A class? A program? How’s that working?

It’s time for the church goer to be the church doer. The only way that will happen is that the working out of faith and belief is given a voice and a safe place to figure it out. That safe place of working it out won’t be at work. It’s either in the gathering or the gathering may need some re-engineering. Engineering back to the blueprint.