I used to think that good moral leadership was like a straight road, with two ditches that we have to avoid: Fear and Egoism.
There is some truth to that and it is expressed well by Matthew Kelly in his chapter 20 on Leadership in his book Rediscovering Catholicism.
“People want leadership, but when they perceive that leaders lack courage and are self-serving, they reject them and assume the role themselves. They realize they are not qualified, but they would rather go to their peril under their own leadership than under the leadership of an inauthentic leader.” p. 302.
In short, each leader who tries to lead will face those two equally detrimental temptations: to fear and to egoism.
I get paralyzed more by fear than egoism, but there are times in one day I have swung to both extremes. My cure has only been in looking to Jesus, and trying to keep pace with his radical steps of patience and decisiveness. I can’t predict which one He will call me to, so I have to just focus on following, learning from the day, where I went to fast or went to slow.
For me, the world of leadership has become simpler as I grow older: watch successful leadership around and see who is following God’s leading: nothing more and nothing less. One sign, is when individuals are meeting the needs of others. If you say you love God, but not those around you, then how are you really loving God. I feel the same about serving and following. If we are serving and following God it will show up in actions toward those around us. Following well and leading well are really the same submission process of courage and self-sacrificing love.
So successful leadership is about following God. It is like Peter who was walking on water one second and drowning the next. Look to Jesus and walk toward HIM.
Not keeping up with God and not running ahead. Either extreme will hurt and likely kill you and those around you.
Joshua 1: Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” v 7
Again: Joshua 3:3-4 “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
The pacing of leadership is the pacing of humility that leads to courageous venturing. We follow God, but we follow Him into dangerous areas.
Some translations clarify v 4 very clearly….”for you have not passed this way heretofore.”
I think fear and hubris both fail to take into consideration leaders follow well. They have to. They really, ultimately, don’t know where they are going EXCEPT they receive this instruction that Joshua also received.
The best followers make the best leaders because both are about serving. Joshua was Moses servant for 40 years. And even then, he needed a reminder to keep on serving.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the acquired ability to move beyond fear. Each day we must pass through the jungles of doubt and cross the valley of fear. For it is only then that we can live in the high places, on the peaks of courage.” Kelly, p. 305.
Kelly’s challenge to the catholic church could be made to just about every organization that needs to follow God:
Many have been “caught unprepared for this massive cultural shift.” As change lead to “lightning-fast cultural shift” he felt the church could not respond as it was “unwilling or unable to adapt to these changes fast enough…unable to retool and refocus our educational institutions fast enough to respond to the hew demands of the modern intellect. We were unable to reeducate our cleargy and religious in such a way that they could respond to the changing criteria of the modern mind. As a result, we find ourselves continuously on the back foot, perpetually in the defensive position, struggling just to survive.” p. 304
I think the old order is changing. I anticipate a huge shake up of all institutions, nations and systems in the next few years.
The only way to cross any new path is to follow closely the leading influences of the God who alone knows where He is going.
Lead On, O King Eternal
1. Lead on, O King eternal, The day of march has come; Henceforth in fields of conquest Thy tents shall be our home: Thro' days of preparation Thy grace has made us strong, And now, O King Eternal, We lift our battle song. 2. Lead on, O King Eternal, Till sin's fierce war shall cease, And holiness shall whisper The sweet amen of peace; For not with swords' loud clashing, Or roll of stirring drums; With deeds of love and mercy The heav'nly kingdom comes. 3. Lead on, O King eternal, We follow not with fears; For gladness breaks like morning Where'er Thy face appears; Thy cross is lifted o'er us; We journey in its light: The crown awaits the conquest; Lead on, O God of might.
Leader: follow Jesus, however fast or slow, He leads you today. You have not been this way before. No worry. He has.