Being a leader in a following culture is difficult. The leaders are the ones who stand out, who people follow, who people copy and who people go to when they need help. But, just being a leader does not make you a good leader, nor does it make you a person worthy of being followed. People tend to be very excited when a new leader steps into the scene who speaks well, makes promises and is easy to follow. These optimistic, “I can fix the world” type leaders make unsuspecting listeners rush in line to follow them and obey their every command. Campaign posters fly up everywhere. People talk about the person for days on end. The problem comes when things go wrong and Mr. “I can fix the world” suddenly cannot fix a thing. The people whine and complain, and then the search begins for a new leader. Sadly, very few people are willing to take the effort to find a leader worth following. True leaders have many different traits, all equally important, but there are a few traits that if had, make a leader exceptional. These are humbleness, contentment, patience, and a strong rule over one’s own household.
Humbleness is the strength of a leader. James 4:6 says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” George Washington, the first President of the United States, is legendary to this day and is considered by many to be America’s greatest President. Why? Certainly because of his great patriotism and zeal for his country, but more than all of that was his authentic humility. He did not seek power and prestige, but rather he sought to serve his country and home. He would not allow the people to make him king, he did not take a salary, he sought no glory for himself, and when his second term was up, he humbly resigned setting an example for those to follow. Even King George III of England called Washington “the greatest man on earth.” People will respect humble men. Our second President lacked some of this trait which led to his unpopularity. John Adams possessed all of the patriotism and passion that Washington possessed, but he had a certain independence which led him to a level of pride that angered many. By the end of his term the people considered him to be a stubborn, egotistic man, who they would have no more of. This is not to say that John Adams was a bad leader, but rather that he lacked an invaluable trait that makes a great leader. A leader worth following is a humble leader.
Unlike George Washington, a greed for money, power, and high esteem is the driving force for many leaders. People want to be remembered as the greatest, the richest, and the most powerful of their generation, but this only leads to power thirsty tyranny. 1Timothy 6:10 tells us, “…the love of money is the root of all evil…” Men who seek to be leaders worth following must be contented with what has been given to them. Greed brings about corruption. This is seen all through history as leader after leader, sought more land, more power, more gold, more of whatever it was that they sought, and ultimately were brought to ruin. Men like Alexander the Great and many of Rome’s Caesars had a goal to get more, to expand their empires. Wealth and power in and of themselves are not evil. What is evil is when wealth and power become the driving force of a leader. When wealth and power consume a leader, the people suddenly become pawns used to fulfill his plans. What is even worse is when a leader begins to compromise his own morals to gain that wealth and power. Compromise is a leader’s swiftest demise. A leader worth following is a content leader.
Even if he is not greedy, a leader who tries to change the world over night will be despised. No man or woman can expect to be followed if they rush headlong into actions that will have lasting effects. A wise leader will understand that good things take time. Patience is essential in a leader. In the Bible, Peter tells us to, “...add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity...But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off…” Change cannot and will not happen all at once. However, a patient leader does not mean a slothful leader. When the time is right, action must be taken. Even if time is on the leader’s side, there will be people in opposition to this change. Not only does a leader need to be patient with time, but he must be patient with those that oppose him. If he retaliates against their whims and sneers he will forever cast their respect into exile. Only a truly patient man will be able to win the respect and honor of those that may be in opposition against him. When Moses carried out God’s commands, there were many Israelites who were angered. Only through time and a work of God, were the people’s hearts turned back to God and to their leader. A leader worth following is a patient leader.
Even a patient leader will fail, if he cannot even lead his own family. As sad as the reality is, if a man cannot lead his own family, he will not be a great leader. Even Christian Evangelical leaders suffer from this. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”Some of the greatest evangelists have failed, in that while preaching the name of Christ they have neglected their families. How a man rules his family shows his true strengths and weaknesses. America has had its share of leaders who failed to rule their own families. Reckless children, affairs while in office, do these signify true leadership? We should look at these sorts of issues and take them into account when choosing whom we will follow. If a Presidential candidate has failed at his marriage, will he be faithful to his country, to those he works with and to those he leads? If a leader’s family does not stand behind him, then disaster will. A leader who cannot gently lead his family will not be able to gently lead as entire nation. A leader worth following will rule well over his own household.
These traits of a leader are certainly not all of the traits that make up a great leader. Even if a man has all of the above traits, if he has not wisdom and the fear of the Lord his work shall be for naught. A great leader is a man after God’s own heart. As we see from the example of King David, being a man after God’s own heart does not grantee perfection. All have sinned, but God knows our hearts. When God looks at a leader, He does not see the clean shaven face, tailored suits, and sugar coated promises. Rather He sees the heart of the man. Only God can raise up or bring down a great leader. The most important thing that men must remember is that we live in a fallen world. No leader will be perfect or make all of the right decisions. All leaders on earth will fail, some more than others. The only leader that is perfect in all things is Jesus Christ. He is the greatest leader who ever lived and who ever will live. Only when we put our trust in Him and follow after Him will we be able to have total confidence in our leader.