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Leadership Principles for the New Year

Written on January 3rd, 2017

The Christmas break finally led to some time to clean up the piles of paper on my desk. I ended up throwing a lot of things into the recycling—not sure why they were added to the pile in the first place.  There were also a couple of, “Oops! I’d better deal with that first thing in the new year!” moments.  I also discovered a few great articles that had been obviously set aside for such a time as this.  In the midst of those stacks of papers, I came upon my own handwritten notes from a speech I’d listened to, but I seem to have lost the page identifying who gave the speech.  So if you recognize the ten principles listed in this blog as yours, please let me know and I will be delighted to give you credit for them.  If not, at least know that these are the thoughts of someone else that I have added my own twist to.

  1. Christian leadership is dependence. We will discover often in our leadership journey through 2017 that, “We can’t, but God must”.  Part of this will mean that we don’t always know what we are doing, creating a sense of declared need.  We are in good company.  In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat—in the midst of people who come from everywhere to seek his advice and leadership—admits in his prayer to God: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”  In John 15. while describing himself as the vine, Jesus reminds us that “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  In 2017, may your leadership live out dependency.
  1. Christian leadership is affliction. Start your 2017 leadership journey with love for God, knowing that when our love for Him is the driving force in how we lead, it will often lead to affliction. In Revelation 2, a letter written to the church in Ephesus, John commends the Ephesians, saying, “You have persevered and have endured hardship for my name, and have not grown weary.”  Leading with the love of God, in God’s name, is not always recognized as great leadership; at times you will appear soft or overly compassionate.  You will endure hardship as you do.  In 2017, may your leadership reflect the love of God, and may you not grow weary in the affliction this may cause.
  1. Christian leadership is humility. Pride is dumb; theologically stupid.   As leaders we tend toward pride and we fight against pride.  Think of the times in the past when pride got in the way.  In Peter 5:6 and 7, Peter tells us to “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.”  As you are tempted to count your successes this year, remember the story of David and the counting of the people (2 Samuel 24).   In 2017, may your leadership reflect the humility God requires of us.
  1. Christian leadership is faith during trial. Anyone in leadership can attest to the trials of leadership.  In the preface to their book “The Wounded Leader”, the authors (Ackerman and Maslin-Ostrowski) write that “crisis is an emergent occasion for transformation”. They also state that the wounding we feel in times of trial “feels like an attack on the heart, perhaps like a heart attack, that reflects some of the same characteristics: loss of control, powerlessness, fear, and vulnerability.”  When the inevitable criticism and accusation come, what will dictate your response?  In 2017, may you stay faithful in times of trial.
  1. Christian leadership is the discipline of hard work. We can’t teach what we don’t know, and we can’t lead where we aren’t led. Leadership is constantly learning from our experience.  In leadership we are always learning.  It is difficult, even impossible to completely shut it off.  Self-discipline is exercised in self-control.  Prayer and quiet reflection are part of the act of discipline.  Look to the stories of Moses in leadership where, when he tired, others came into to hold up his arms. In 2017, may you find the energy for the discipline of hard work, and the support from others when it is simply too much to do on your own.
  1. Christian leadership is perspective. In former days, seals on letters often had the motto of the leader.  Today on our letterhead and our correspondence, we state the mission or vision of the organization.  Randy Alcorn says that perspective is everything. Our passion arises out of our perspective.  In 2 Kings 6, Elisha’s prayer that his servant’s eyes can be opened allows the servant to see God’s armies surrounding them.  Our leadership perspective needs to be established in our faith.  Our communities look to us to live that perspective out daily.  In 2017, may you lead with a passion that arises out of your perspective.
  1. Christian leadership is brokenness. We acknowledge that we live in a fallen creation, a broken world.  In our work we will encounter both our own brokenness and the brokenness of others.  Peter had denied Christ three times, prior to Christ’s crucifixion; Christ restores Peter after His resurrection in a story told beautifully in John 21: “Peter do you love me? Then take care of my sheep.”   In 2017, may our own brokenness make us better leaders of those who come to us with their brokenness.
  1. Christian leadership is wisdom. When Solomon took over the throne from David, God offered him anything. But in his fear of the task before him, in wondering how he will possibly be able to lead this great people of God, he simply asks for wisdom and a discerning heart.  God entrusts His people to us as leaders—is our response the same as Solomon’s?  In Ontario, the not-for-profit corporation’s act has a summative statement that demonstrates a skill required of a responsible leader: to be prudent (wise or discerning).  In 2017, may your leadership be wise, always discerning and prudent.
  1. Christian leadership is perseverance. Christian leadership is far more than just stubbornly sticking to the task (although that is often necessary). Paul’s letter to the Galatians says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  Leaders not only do what is before them, they do the right thing, regardless of the cost.  In 2017, may your leadership persevere in doing good to all people.
  1. Christian leadership is hopeful. We need to continue to believe that tomorrow is a new day.  When we are spiritually sensitive, we are also vulnerable as leaders, and so are the people we lead—vulnerable to darkness and losing hope.  Our hope rests in God, because He is faithful. It is impossible for Him not to be faithful.   From Romans: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” It is through our hope (in Christ, in God’s faithfulness, in each other, in our cause, etc.) that we model for our communities true Hope.  In 2017, may your leadership model hope for your communities.

I pray that the Lord’s blessing will be evident to you, and deeply upon you, as you fulfill your leadership calling in this coming year.