Laying Down Celebrity Leadership

When Jim Collins wrote his book “Good to Great,” he unexpectedly found a common trait among excellent organizations. Where he thought he might find charismatic, bigger-than-life leaders, he found the opposite. He found leaders that were willing to not be the center of attention. He calls them “Level 5” leaders and defines their  primary characteristics as “a blend of personal humility and professional willpower.”

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which comes first among leaders that reject the deference of a Level 5 leader; were they arrogant before they were in a certain position or did the position foster the arrogance? Do they need attention and that drove them to a leadership role or did the leadership role nurture their need for attention? In either case, the celebrity of leadership is a trap that defeats potential personally and organizationally.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, he did so by kissing Him on the cheek to identify Him for the soldiers to know to arrest Him. There is no account of Judas then testifying against Jesus before the authorities to make the case against Him. There is no Scripture of Judas affirming before Pilot or Herod that Jesus had claimed to be God, King or anything else. There is simply the identification.

This is curious because Judas had been given money to betray Jesus. Apparently, what Judas offered was of value to those that wanted to crucify Jesus but it wasn’t testimony they wanted. It was identification. This means that identification had value and this means that they weren’t certain of the exact identity of Jesus. That means Jesus wasn’t a celebrity.

I realize that there was no social media to popularize Jesus or His ministry and I realize that Jesus had clearly attracted a crowd throughout His ministry. Yet, when it was near the end, the ruling authority needed confirmation of who this alleged threat was.

Our impact in and beyond our lives is not dependent on our celebrity and our ministry is not one that needs to put us in a place of recognition. The power of our leadership is in our humility, not our ability. When they don’t know who we are, we are starting to smell like Level 5 and beginning to look like Jesus.

 

Anxiety Presents an Opportunity for Greater Glory

Every time we accept invitations into new opportunities, we step into a new version of discomfort. We go from a known to an unknown because we believe that it will be better in the new place even if there is a cost to getting there. There are times that we experience discomfort in new circumstances that we didn’t choose but that were forced on us. In either case, the opportunity in the discomfort is the same.

When we get to this new place of unknown challenges and uncertain outcomes, we often (if not always) can recognize insecurities within us if we will pay attention. In that place where we are no longer comfortable, we are likely to feel a sense of threat. Often we will be anxious surrounding our protection, provision or promotion/place. If we aren’t careful, we may very well be offended or suspicious of people in this new environment as we view them through our lens of anxiety as we guess at their motives or overreact to their interactions.

In these new places where we are tempted to envy, judge, compete, be offended, etc. because we are afraid as we experience lack of control, we are presented an eternal opportunity. The insecurities that are driving the anxiety and mental gymnastics were there prior to their exposure via this new set of circumstances. They are simply ripe at this particular time for redemption.

Where God shows us the ugliness of us in the middle of our discomfort or suffering, we get to choose. We can agree with fear or come home to His love. We can foster the temporal anxiety or run home to the comfort and certainty of eternity. His love dwells within us by the grace of Jesus (if we want it to and receive the sacrifice of Jesus for the restoration of relationship with the Father) so the peace that relieves the anxiety is in Him within us.

It’s at this point that we are granted repentance. We are given the gift of getting to exchange the insecurity of an orphan which wasn’t yet redeemed and trading it in for the security of a legitimate child of God. When we feel the ugly stuff, we can own our part of the emotions instead of blaming people and circumstances for our discomfort and exchange our crud for God’s glory. He will be put on display from within us when we choose to submit the temporal fear for His eternal love.

Leaders Launch While Managers Maintain

Security is the whole shooting match. Remembering the truth of identity is the constant to realization of freedom. Where we decide that things aren’t good enough, safe enough, abundant enough or noticeable enough, we scramble against our peace and into control, anxiety, fear and manipulation.

Leadership is influence; management is control. The ability to make it appealing and inviting to agree comes at the cost of the desire to control all the variables. Leadership is a multiplying effect that comes with release and empowerment. Management is insulation to maintain desired status quo and it sets a ceiling on the potential of people and places.

The influence of leadership is much more challenging, messy and dependent than the controls of management. The release which comes through leadership is scary and it will be impossible to endure the fear where there is no internal security. Personal insecurities hijack organizational empowerment.

Management is easier to reward, promote and codify but it will never go viral. There will be no impact beyond the immediate touch and the legacy of a leader is not determined except for in their absence. Until and unless they can do it without you, the jury is out regarding the methods and motives of the relationship. Myles Munroe said, “The greatest act of leadership is what happens in your absence. If everything you’ve done died with you, you are a failure. True leadership is measured by what happens after you die.”

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 4:15

There are plenty of guides; those that will serve as task masters and rule enforcers. It’s those that will lead like a father leads that are scarce. Those that will sacrifice and step aside even when the beneficiaries are immature and/or inept, leaders will believe in them and encourage them and afford them the next opportunities. The security that affords fathers the freedom to release others is only available through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Without identity rooted in the gospel of Jesus, the potential leader will susceptible to the threat of embarrassment via the failures that come as those they are raising up figure things out. Security is fed not from results of the leader or the follower, but the truth of who Jesus says they are. Security is before, during and after the growing pains of succession and is the fuel that results in legacy.

Defeating Insecurity

When my dad died in December, I had no doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. His affirmation and my knowledge of his unconditional love and acceptance was and is an incredible gift. It is healthy and necessary for my security and confidence. It was a platform for my potential. Yet, I mess it up.

Despite the benefit of affirmation and the resulting security that comes from unconditional love, there are times when my insecurities win out. I can be victimized by doubts and fears like anyone else when I forget who I am or when I work from my voids. Insecurity is a universal challenge and there is no earthly cure.

There is perhaps more insecurity in the ministry world than there is in secular settings. In a secular setting, the lines are clear; we are out for ourselves for the most part. Courtesy, morality and values should influence our interactions as there are lines that are drawn in keeping with social responsibility. For the most part, behaviors are oriented by expectations with consequences and ramifications that require strategy to maneuver around.

In faith based settings, I’ve noticed less certainty and more apparent insecurity. We acknowledge and embrace that we are spiritual beings, therefore we tend to work from the inside-out. The truth is the guide and foundation for our beliefs, but our choices are influenced by our developing ability to allow those beliefs to overcome our will. Our will is born in a fallen state, and even after we are new from the inside, that salvation is being worked out.

In the working out, we often allow emotions, expectations and desires that are based in “good” and even eternal appetites to guide our interactions. “That’s not my heart” becomes a valid excuse to behaviors that are offensive or not thoughtful. The squishy possibilities within can muddy the absolutes of cause and effect.

No matter where we are spiritually, the insecurities we battle as members of the human race cause us to self-protect, self-provide and self-promote. We do so in defensive and/or offense postures with other human beings. Where the contrast is in the context of the Father’s house and the Body of Christ, the insecurities seem to become glaring. The insecurities are counter-cultural to the security of sonship.

Until we know that we know that control is an illusion and our Source is greater than our limitations or abilities, we are going to entertain the charade of mastery. Freedom comes in the wake of giving up and admitting our limitations. Security comes where we know that we can’t do it and are loved anyway. Security comes in the love of a Father that not only affirms us, but He receives us despite us.

Competition for Credit vs. Collaboration for Kingdom

It hasn’t even happened yet and credit is being debated. There is apparently the potential for peace on the Korean peninsula for the first time in years and the jockeying for recognition might even jeopardize the resolution. Politicians, pundits and pro athletes (Dennis Rodman) have been in the mix as personalities play out publicly.

This is the norm in politics and unfortunately it’s become the norm among faith-based and church circles, as well. It’s become a competition for attendance, giving, recognition and followers. It’s a platform producing endeavor as much or more than it’s a disciple making endeavor. There’s no difference between us and them; just a different target audience.

I’ve enjoyed a unique journey to this point in life in which I find myself engaged in full-time, vocational ministry. I was a corporate middle-manager, a business owner and a practicing attorney prior to being a pastor. I actually did compete for market share, revenues and profits as a legitimate measure of business viability. There were times when it was reasonably lucrative and there were times when it was catastrophically not. Be careful what you wish for; competition has a variety of outcomes.

There is no competition in the Kingdom of God. Only one Person gets the credit and honor for success in the endeavors that are truly of His Kingdom. His glory is not to be manipulated, leveraged or hijacked to afford personal gain for any that seek to advance His purposes.

The opportunities that will exist to agree with God in the advancement of His Kingdom in the coming years will be conditioned by the requirement of collaboration. Those that will agree to agree will be conduits of His life, light, breath and glory. Because they can share and trust, they can be trusted to share.

Others will continue to exist outside of the Church even if they call themselves a church. They will build their kingdoms and perfect their marketing and the show will go on but the smoke will eventually fade. Ministries and churches that choose to go it alone will may grow, but they won’t be alive.

Promotions in business and retainers in law came as a result of marketing, ability, relationships and persistence. Promotions in the Kingdom come purely by grace and favor. Grace and favor are given where there is humility and submission. Humility and submission are evidence of security and trust. Where we are truly trusting God, we will truly trust each other. Where we can do that, He can trust us and we’ll get to be a part of the Kingdom without settling for the cheap substitute of an inferior attempt at our well-meaning own kingdom.

Absolutely Abba

It’s only been five months and it’s pretty surreal. The absence of my father is so permanent that the pain of the permanence is the hurt that re-visits most often. It’s also the place where the mirage of the faint and passing thoughts that I am about to see him show up. Those brief and passing moments where I forget the unforgettable give way quickly to the realization of reality.

With that said, I am not an orphan. My father on earth has gone the way of all the earth, but my Father in Heaven is increasingly prominent in my consciousness. The infinity of God co-exists with the intimacy of God and He is Father in the connection of distant to personal.

No matter what the challenge or celebration is, the need for a Dad is real for all of us. We want and need the pivotal relationship with an earthly father and where there are fractures or voids, we hurt and want. The earthly father experience, however, is a flawed and temporal expression of the perfect and eternal identity of who God is for us and through us if we will simply come home to Him.

Coming home to the Father is a daily choice made first and foremost in our will. It’s not a theological debate nor is it complicated set of rules to follow. Our return to the Father through the grace and sacrifice of Jesus is a daily submission of our will and our lives to His goodness and sovereignty. It’s our will that has to die first.

When we will submit our wants, the return on that investment is freedom. When we die to our drivers and choose to depend wholly on the One who is Holy, the fruit of His life can come through us. We can exchange our anxiety and self-consciousness for His peace and love. He loves His kids and that love is the greatest satisfier of any of the wants, fears or forecasts we entertain when we are driving.

Trust is fostered in the silence. Time spent quietly considering and connecting to God as Abba, or Father, or Daddy is an investment into the satisfaction of things that otherwise unleash my will to have its way. These brief and passing moments where I realize the Absolute give way to temporary distractions of earthly temptations and I am in need of my Abba again. Thankfully, I am not an orphan and He shows up time and time again.