How To Be a Leader

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour…

1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NIVUK)

I was impressed a week or so back when I saw the photo of Bear Grylls praying over President Obama. Here is one of the many articles about it.

Most of the comments I’ve read have been praising Bear for this public manifestation of his faith, and I applaud that too – it’s something I could learn from. But I was equally impressed with Obama for allowing this image to be shared, and for what this says about him.

In previous generations he might have been described as “Leader of the Free World”. Even now, whatever you may think about his policies, character or beliefs, he is undoubtedly the most powerful individual human being in the world today, with an extraordinarily wide influence. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live that life.

So what the photo with Grylls says to me is that this most powerful man recognises his lack. He has the humility to allow another man to reach out and intercede with Almighty God on his behalf. This is what I want from a leader. Leaders must make decisions, and sometimes those decisions are not ones that we all agree with, but no leader is infallible, no leader has all the answers, and I have more respect for those leaders who admit and embrace their frail humanity, and who accept advice – and prayer.

You can learn a little more about Bear Grylls’ background and faith in this article.

This week brought a similar story from closer to (my) home, as Queen Elizabeth II became the longest serving monarch in British history. Again there were many articles all over the web, but this one spoke to me.

The Queen has no real power to speak of, although she has a certain amount of influence. Like the US President she has her critics, but from a slightly different variety of Republican!

In terms of leadership she is merely a figurehead, but the way she has carried out her duties – and continues to do so into old age – and how she has chosen to serve her country in the role assigned to her for the rest of her life, is a lesson to us all. She clearly has a strong Christian faith and feels that this is the way she has been called to serve God.

In the more humdrum environment of my workplace we have annual performance reviews, and these include an appraisal of our “leadership traits”. To say that I don’t enjoy these reviews would be an understatement, and I often wonder what’s the purpose? Why are you examining the leadership qualities of everyone, including the most junior employees, some of whom are content to just get on with the job and take home their pay, with no ambition to become supervisors, managers… leaders?

Well, although I wonder, I really shouldn’t, because the truth is that every one of us is a leader in some respect, if not at work then within our families, or friendship groups. Even if our roles in those groups seem to be more sheep than shepherd, in reality we are influencing everyone around us in the way we behave, especially in the way we respond to negative situations.

I often pray for leaders. Occasionally it is for political leaders, but most often it is for the leaders of the church – my own church, or those I have connections with, and sometimes for global church leaders such as the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury.

What we should all do is pray for everyone who has an influence on us – that they would be positive motivators for us. And we should pray that we will deliver a positive message to everyone whose lives we touch, that we can become more interested in serving than in being served, and that we will recognise our weaknesses and accept help and prayer in those areas.

Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Mark 10:42-45 (NIVUK)

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