I am often asked about leadership. What is it? How does one instill it in others?
When I think of leadership, I think of my heroes. Some I met, others were the characters at the heart of stories that touched my heart. Some you recognize; Gandhi for example. Others are the one that come up in games of trivia pursuit; can you tell me Manasseh’s story? Do you know the name of Shackleton’s ship or the photographer that captured one of the greatest stories of human courage and community? Then there were those that touched me life. I think of Grandpa Lange, a high school principal, Peter and Outward Bound, and even the first boss I had out of school.
As I search their lives and the reasons that they continue to influence me, I realize that the answer is the key to leadership. For each, leading others was not an option. Paul said it well; “If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t!” (1 Corinthians 9.16)
Today’s world tries to destroy leaders. Even as we admire them, we do not want them to last. While we lift them up, we try to tear them down. As we point others toward their example, we look for the expected weaknesses. With a singular exception, every hero I know had flaws. They were and are, above all, human. In greatness, some were also arrogant. In the defining moments, many lost track of the values shown in their actions.
The reflection does not end here. Experience reminds me that leadership is something from deep within. Great examples of living come from those that could not help but be what they were. They believed. They embraced that belief with all that defined them. They did what they were called to do.
Leadership is not a push or pull. The gift of leadership is an invitation to embrace the God within. Leadership is alive through the way we live out that embrace.