Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Seduction of a Leader

Yesterday I showed our staff a talk given by John Ortberg (pictured) at the Leadership Summit in 2002 called The Seduction of a Leader. Here is a summary. When in the Bible does God give someone an easy job? He doesn’t. That is why there are certain abilities that make up effective leaders. But each of these abilities also have dangers and leaders are particularly vulnerable to these certain temptations, especially when under pressure.

A great leader is a RISK-TAKER. But the danger is when a leader begins taking risks for the sake of taking risks, because they are bored. Wise leaders have a relentless commitment to building accountability into the structure of their life and work. Risk-takers want accountability the least but need it the most. Someone should always know where you are as a leader. Risk-takes need a fearless truth teller in their life.

A great leader has SUPERB VERBAL SKILLS. The danger is that when the pressure is on, people who are very good with words will experience the temptation to misuse them. They begin to shade the truth and exaggerate things. They start deliberately distorting the truth so they can control the outcome. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but the wise hold their tongues.” It is so hard to talk without sinning. Silence is one of the most important spiritual disciplines that needs recaptured by leaders today. Leaders need to set aside time on a regular basis to get away from noise and not speak. Where instead they meditate; they listen; and they're still. In Matthew 5:37, Jesus said to let your ‘yes” be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Just speak simple truth.

A great leader is able to THINK STRATEGICALLY. The danger is that a leader can get so focused on their cause and career that they begin to view and treat other people simply as tools that are valued solely because they can be used. The danger is not that you will become too strategic as a leader but that the person you are strategically serving is really you and other people become spare parts in your machine. One of the most strategic things you can do is to occasionally engage in non-strategic acts of servanthood. Sometimes it is good to do something that will not help your career at all and to not tell anyone about it. The world is hungry for leaders who are genuinely humble servants.

Finally, great leaders have PASSION. The danger is that passion can get misdirected and addictive. If a leader is not experiencing passion in one area of their life, they will seek it somewhere else. One of the easiest ways for passion to get misdirected is into sexual misbehavior. One study found that keeping clear boundaries in the danger zone gets harder, not easier, with age. Misspent passion can also turn into anger or rage resulting in hurtful words scalding people around them. Leaders need to become experts at passion management. Leaders need to do whatever it takes so that the joy factor in their life is high enough that sin and temptation doesn’t begin to look good. No one has an inexhaustible supply of passion so you need to rest and care for your body; have relationships with replenishing people; and participate in interests outside of your work in order to keep your passion for God and His calling on your life as pure as you can.

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