P. M. Joseph
Irrespective of their personal perceptions or religious persuasions, leaders have incontrovertibly been high-value species, indispensable to legitimate human existence, and therefore their relevance is enormous. When they act responsibly and not impulsively, they lend a huge sense of purpose to human existence providing it with logistic directions. Further, only when leadership is under the absolute guidance of the Holy Spirit can it be seen as a God-given mandate and their precise exercise a perpetually relevant work. Therefore, leadership agenda becomes spiritually disposed and flavoured. In the absence of sound leadership, human history descends to be a mélange of unrelated human engagements with no significant ends to achieve.
True leadership identifies God's master plan for human existence and strives hard to align it to His wholesome purposes, insisting on keeping God and His concerns central to existence. However, this relates to the ideal kind of leadership and has always remained elusive as leaders of every age were beleaguered with bias and debility of various kinds. The following is a brief review of ideal Christian leadership.
The Leadership Paradigm
Regarding Christian leadership, the first thing we should establish is the leadership paradigm as it determines conscientiously its quality, scope and yield. Categorically, the life pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only paradigm that Christian leadership can afford. Every other pattern-the world abounds with patterns and principles that are parallel to the Lord's-is tricky. They are a clever camouflage to challenge His model, a scandalous and subtle attempt to supersede His. A discreet leader distances himself from it lest its influence deters him from his Master's impeccable model and prototype. In fact, the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was to demonstrate the paradigm shift in leadership perceptions based on His own life and teachings, the Sermon on the Mount. It is a classic exposition on quality leadership which has lifted leadership to heights unknown previously. It has made leadership an unconditional venue for service under God's auspices and oversight. Contrary to popular assumptions, it was never intended to be a place of rights where the leader encounters his rights with little sense of accountability.
According to President Harry Truman, leadership is "the ability to get others to do what they don't want to do and like it." It was Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery who defined it as "the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence." Though these approaches seem right, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Master-leader with unrivalled leadership calibre, redefined leadership stating, "I did not come to receive service but to render it." He blasted all contemporary approach patterns and became an eternal paragon of leadership making it fellow-beings-friendly. The world had never heard of such, as it always meant the powerful exacting service from the weak. Further, the paradigm that He espoused was servant leadership, an oxymoronic concept by any natural standards! Then, His version of leadership focussed on God's glory as its ultimate object. Repeatedly, the Lord Jesus emphasised that He came to do the will of the Father and established that it should be an irreducible leadership priority. By socio-spiritual involvements, He demonstrated that leadership was a dynamic venue to serve fellow human beings to enhance their locus standi and spiritual destiny, aligning them with God's design and ultimate purpose. He insisted that leadership, at no point, should assert authority or dominance over the led for their own narrow advantage as often as is seen. However, these apply only to ideal leadership; the current leadership paradigms may not correspond to it as most leaders are spiritually reversed and leadership itself is highly politicised. Such leaderships violate and betray the paragon that the Lord Jesus Christ established, though it might appear appealing.
Further, contemporary leadership patterns, whether Christian or otherwise, are overtly selfish, skewed and self-promoting. They let down God's purposes for human existence and promote themselves at the expense of the weak. The Church is expected to reproduce His leadership patterns in its environment.
Leadership Is Delegated
Today, the conventional perception of leadership is highly individualised and, normally, it involves exploiting others to reach a goal and explore opportunities to reach personal gains and yields. This perception, from Scriptural point of view, springs from one's natural drives and inconsistence where nothing counts except the end which justifies all means. Naturally, it involves exerting authority over the underprivileged and squashing their rights without qualms. However, Christian leadership is to be viewed as a bestowal of grace and a delegation of responsibilities so that God's purposes can be accomplished. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that it was He who chose them and appointed them to produce fruits on His behalf making clear that it was a God-entrusted work on Christ's behalf marked by perpetual commitment to Him and His concerns. At no point of time could a leader lower this guard or think otherwise except at the peril of ceasing to be a leader on Christ's parameters. Hence, a leader should be unassuming and should nurture a sense of utter unworthiness keeping God's priorities supreme.
Further, he should be totally committed to the re-establishment of God's kingdom and reign on earth, denying the Devil his claim. He can never concentrate on the enlargement of his personal pursuits or private prospects while being a leader or else the entire exercise flounders. Therefore, Christian leaders are obligated to lend their hands wholeheartedly to consolidate Christ's stakes on earth, upholding His glory and the existence of His people supreme. Biblically, a leader is God's choice over the destinies of His people and their environments. When leaders become self-assertive or cocky, they ignore this vital constituent and become illicit. Regrettably, contemporary Christian leadership is more slanted and standardised towards the world's pattern, undercutting its very legitimacy.
Leadership Is Stewardship
The Lord Jesus Christ revolutionised leadership perspectives by equating it with stewardship. Generally, a steward is a faithful caretaker on behalf of the actual proprietor and he has no personal agenda to nurture whatsoever. Moreover, a steward is a servant with a scrupulous sense of his calling and responsibility crested with the sensibility that he will be held accountable for all his behaviour, manners and accomplishments. It makes leadership a situation of liability and indebtedness than a privilege. Further, stewardship espouses an ideal situation where the concerns of the Lord alone are supreme. It is a sobering prospect, indeed!
Biblically, Christian leadership is stewardship anchored on the Bible and predicated within its purviews while every other leadership pattern is pure bossdom and mastery. As a matter of fact, bosses are people that are interested more in their own career, organisational agenda and performance than in the people placed under them or their wellbeing. Unfortunately, the worldly mindset of leadership has seeped into contemporary Christian leadership domains, making it the defining characteristic, and strangely it vaunts to be biblical in perspective.
The present twist in leadership perspectives emerged mainly due to skewed leadership choices which subscribe to the so-called universal pecking order over Biblical enjoinment, asserts Calvin Miller. He continues, "The choosing of an Israelite king by the prophet Samuel is a classic example of pecking order. He went to Bethlehem and got the seven sons of Jesse interviewed against the post of a king. As Samuel read their resumes closely, he concluded that none of them was eligible to become the king despite their imposing appearances. Consequently, they were all rejected summarily. Earlier, Samuel had mistakenly chosen Saul, the tall, debonair and impressive person, as a king and it was a huge liability as appearance was mistaken for ability. In general leadership selection procedures, candidates are lined up, their credentials are eyeballed, and the most competent from among the line-up is selected and assigned as leader. The procedure is leadership by relativism where the most competent from among the contestants are chosen presuming it to be God's ideal choice, procedurally bypassing the most eligible from God's view point as clear from the case under study." It is relevant both to the secular as well as the Christian contexts. Such leadership is a slapstick manoeuvre. In contrast, Christian leadership as stewardship is a commitment to act under Christ's supreme authority and be an unassuming caretaker until He returns.
Leaders Should Be Dynamic
Leaders are characterised by exceptional dynamism, rare foresight and good governance, with the ability to relate to the contemporary needs of the people under them. Equipped with these, they should act dynamically and impact their generation for God with the ultimate intention of aligning lives with His master designs. Nothing stops them till the work is accomplished; such is the grit of dynamism. The leaders' rock-solid convictions and subsequent functioning stem from the text of the Bible, and nothing can deter them from carrying out what is socially relevant, ethically right and spiritually valid, with the strength of seamless dynamism abundantly at work.
Next, leaders have the ability and the expertise to relate to people and their needs pragmatically, keeping contemporary realities and their implications obvious with reassuring leadership presence. Hence, they are able to guide people's destinies sensibly towards a valid end consistent with God's definitive concerns. Moreover, their altruism, integrity and transparency make the justice and righteousness of God relevant premises in every contemporary context. Such leadership is always fibrous and bold, living up to its name and the expectations of the people. Biblical leadership values character over charisma, reversing the popular trademark of leaderships; it appreciates ability over appearance, and excludes superficiality in pursuit of profundity. Superficiality is a hallowed vice where what a man appears to be is all there is to him. It is, as Stephen Covey calls, "a state of being a symbol without substance" where depth and surface lay close together.
Finally, leaders are expected to be astute visionaries with organisational skills, who can envision the future and plan accordingly so that they guide, shape and perfect lives approximating on God's expectations and His definitive purposes. Thus, leadership becomes dynamic and relational. May Scriptural perceptions of leadership prevail and endure.