Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Good Leadership is Courageous

The first post on leadership dealt with the necessity of a principial foundation. One who would lead well must possess strong moral and ethical principles that will inform and motivate his leadership. The uppermost set of principles, it was argued, are those of the Christian faith, and the ultimate example of strong leadership is the God-man, Jesus Christ.

With that first idea in mind, we proceed to the next essential characteristic of good leadership. A good leader is courageous. There is no other alternative. In fact, it might be argued that the essential quality that separates leaders from non-leaders is courage. Think about people of strong character that you know. Then mentally divide that group into two categories: those who were leaders and those who were not. What provided the line of demarcation? I would guess that it is often this matter of courage. Some of the best men I have known were not leaders. They were high-caliber men, morally strong, and principially sound, but they did not exercise much influence on other people or direct them to a better way. They were quiet, and perhaps meek, and slow to step to the fore in a moment of dramatic necessity. What would they have been with a healthy dose of courage to match their character? One can only guess. Where they might have made a mark on history, the books of the ages record only silence on their part, and leave us alone to our speculation.

What a beautiful thing it is to see courage in action. As with all the fleshed out qualities of Christ, there is such good in seeing a man live as he ought, and everywhere stamp his life with strength and virtue. This quality does not look the same in every man. We ought to realize this right away. Some exercise a bolder, louder courage, while others communicate it with few words and simple actions. In a physical sense, there is no one way to be courageous. Emotionally, there is no one demeanor that is courageous. Want proof? Look at sports. Some lead and show strength by quiet, brave composure, others by fiery, daring fiat. Neither is better than the other. In both temperaments, though, a man shows a willingness to act, to not sit idly while other, lesser men decide the contest. A good leader of courage understands that it is his role to lead the group to safety, prosperity, wisdom, or whatever the ideal outcome may be. He acts according to the requirements of each situation, then. If his children are verbally rude to their mother, he acts swiftly to correct and counter such behavior. If his coworkers act unethically, he compassionately addresses the wrong and seeks to make it right. If his family falls on hard times, he redoubles his efforts to provide, and does not allow doubt or worry to handicap his action. If a large body of church members proposes a foolish course, he risks popularity and speaks against the course. In short, the courageous leader assesses the situation, identifies what action is necessary to overcome or succeed in it, and then puts aside concern for reputation to lead his peers in the wise way. His is not always an enviable task. But it is always a valuable one.

In closing, a few personal words. As a young man desiring to be a leader, I love to see men lead with principled courage. I do not exaggerate, in fact, when I say that it is somewhat thrilling to see good leadership in action, and strong courage in practice. In a culture that is foolishly esteeming feminized masculinity and softshoe manliness, it is a blessing and a necessity to observe Christian men fulfilling their calling and leading their families, churches, and workplaces with courage. Every man can and should be a leader, and should boldly display his brand of courage. In so doing, he follows the example of Christ, the ultimate man of courage, whose strength of purpose and character was so strong that He took upon Himself all the wrath that God could pour upon Him to save His own. Many today celebrate a "cool" Jesus, a "buddy" who just went around passing out love, but we celebrate a man who was hated, scorned, and shamed, and who did not flinch a millimeter in the face of such opposition. To the end, He was courageous. May we think on that example throughout our days and tasks. May we of the Christian church embody it as we, like our Savior, walk through a world of fire, wind, and rain to reach the city of God.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks O. That was an encouraging shot-in-the-arm. I was feeling uncourageous about the paper I'm trying to write (seriously). I might write on courage in Plato's Republic now (also seriously).

And, I watched the Office last week and laughed very hard. Its so funny.


1:09 PM  

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