I love presidential biographies—John Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. My motivation? In part, I’m a bit of a nerd who simply loves history. But, perhaps more significantly, I am curious to see what makes leaders succeed . . . and fail.
Throughout InterVarsity, we seek to develop student leaders. This is nothing new—always have, always will. The key question is, what type of leader should you become?
Simply put, your primary desire is to be Kingdom-oriented, not self-oriented. When you wake up every morning, you find yourself asking, “How can I further God’s mission today? How can I bring him glory?”
Thankfully, Scripture provides a host of biblical characters for us to emulate. Though they were certainly imperfect, figures such as Abraham, Moses, David, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter and Paul provide excellent role models for us. The Bible also highlights the important roles of women such as Miriam, Deborah, and Abigail. Of course, Jesus is the ultimate leader.
Taken as a composite, these biblical figures have at least five qualities worth imitating:
Humility. First and foremost, Kingdom leaders move from a place of self-reliance to a humble dependence on the Lord. They also develop a posture of learning as they interact with others. For those of us with personalities like Moses or Paul, this is no easy journey. Yielding control is difficult for self-willed “natural” leaders.
Vision. Kingdom leaders seek (and gain) clear direction from the Lord. Daniel, a college-age immigrant, envisioned remaining holy in a pagan culture. Likewise, Paul visualized reaching his world with the gospel. We are to be people who dream big godly dreams.
A sense of reality. Kingdom leaders speak the truth. This is often no fun—holding others accountable can come at a high personal cost. Ezekiel, for example, challenged those around him and, as a result, was ostracized by his own society. May we become more courageous, even prophetic, with regard to those around us.
Service. Kingdom leaders imitate Jesus in aiding others. His willingness to lay down the prerogatives of power is a challenge to us all. May we renounce personal gain and convert our ambition into faithful service of those we lead.
Tenacity. Kingdom leaders persevere in the face of adversity. Moses spent 40 years bringing his people to the Promised Land. David exercised great tenacity to regain his throne. Paul fought through persecution, betrayal and a serious physical impediment. Just so, we are not to grow discouraged when faced by difficulties.
Author Charles Swindoll observes: “It is tough to find a person who holds a high position and yet is tender before God.” Why is this so? Why are power and pride so difficult to separate? Why are authority and spirituality so rarely linked?
The answer is simple—we are sinners. When given the opportunity, we so easily permit power to entrap us in the snare of self-worship. How can we avoid this? Primarily by realizing that we are unable to love the Lord as we ought. This “poverty of spirit”—our shame—becomes the foundation of hope due to the Lord’s grace.
I wish that I could stand before you as the paragon of a Kingdom leader. But I can’t. In far too many ways, I remain self-reliant, proud, too willing to please others and easily discouraged.
And yet, I see the Lord’s hand over the years. He is making progress in me. He continues to mold my motives, character and aspirations. Where there is grace, there is hope. I am a humbled leader struggling to honor my Lord.
May our heavenly Father continue to develop you as a kingdom leader as well. You are desperately needed. The Lord has called you to be a change agent—a person of light—in a world of darkness. May you persevere in the long journey of obedience, submission and humility.
(from Student Leadership Journal, vol. 17:1)