I have several people I hold in high esteem. All have passed, yet they live on in my heart. Some I never met. Their stories connected with me early. Over time their grip on my heart and imagination has increased. My reflection time often includes a silent conversation with them. As varied as they are, they share one thing in common. When it came to leadership, they never spoke about it. They lived it. They may have had their struggles, yet the people that trusted themselves to their cares did not seem to be aware of them. Each seemed to value service to others as one of their highest priority. Leadership followed from that focus.
In contrast to leaders in the news today, my heroes took a different approach. They did not worry about their position in the community. There was little concern with how others look at them. Even their place in history was secondary to the immediate. Their question always seemed to be the same. How can I make a positive difference?
The headlines suggest that today’s leadership is about crafting one’s image. Rhetoric has taken the place of action. Image trumps deeds. Positioning is the eternal focus.
A question asked centuries ago is equally valid today. “Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master.” (1 Corinthians 3.5) The initial could have your name or mine in it. It is worthy of asking and reflecting on the answer. More importantly, what would the answer if we achieved our ideals? Would I want to be a servant that lived compassion, delivered mercy, and embraced community?
In the crisp light of a spring morning in Australia the answer is yes! I wonder if my resolve will carry through the day – in the dark moments and the uncertain ones. I find that leadership lies in the answer to this question. It is a challenge worthy of God. It is an open invitation.