Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Invisible Leadership

Meander through the pages of the New Testament with the concept of leadership on your brain and you will discover that Jesus doesn’t always lead from “up front.” Something doesn’t ring true here. When I think of leadership, I think of the “top dog” who is visibly leading from the front. I think of the charismatic type who holds the attention of the enamored followers, those being led. In my mind I envision someone with influence and sway, with the right amount of power and control to get things done. In the end, I see someone who is popular and attractive OR someone who is powerful and successful. These are the leaders I’ve been accustomed to, both inside and outside the church.

Yes, I’m going somewhere with this. I’m not one to advocate that Jesus was God incarnate so that we could have glimpse into the looking glass to discover “what a true leader is.” Nonetheless, we can certainly pick up a few things now can’t we? Is Jesus the charismatic, influential tycoon that we see of most “leaders”? On one occasion, Jesus sends the disciples ahead of him in a boat…and doesn’t join them until the middle of the night. On another occasion, he sends a couple of disciples into town to get the colt for his entrance into Jerusalem. On yet another occasion, he sends the disciples out in pairs to be the good news to village after village. Then, Jesus gives them a mission, leaves them permanently, and tells them to wait for the Spirit to come. These images came to my mind recently when I read this from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk To Freedom:

I always remember the regent’s axiom: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.

This, I believe, is true of the early followers of Jesus (the Great Shepherd) and us the followers of the 21st Century. The nimble (not perfect and powerful) go out ahead whereupon others follow. This is what Jesus did in his day and the pattern is set to repeat itself: the leaders shall move to the back and lead from behind. Easy to see, I suppose, but difficult to do. Will our leaders move to the back and begin directing from behind? Or will they be so settled (addicted) to the front—the power, accolades, influence, attention, control—that they miss the opportunity (or worse, refuse) to lead from behind as a shepherd does?

I’ve seen both. It is neither a pretty nor hopeful sight to see leaders grasp and cling to the front as if it were eternal life itself. But when you see a leader let go of all that enslaves us to the front, it is a beautiful display of a kind of leadership that doesn’t sell many books. It is quiet, steadfast, and trusting. Thanks and kudos to all of you that strive to lead like this.

Thanks, especially, for my brother, friend and mentor--John Frye, who I have had the privilege of seeing this kind of leadership lived out in the flesh. John, you da man (chest bump)!

Who do you know that leads in ways that don’t typically make it into books and articles?


At 8:54 PM, Blogger ben said...

Though she did make it into the Cornerstone magazine a few months ago...

Greg, you're married to such a leader! Christine's leadership at Cornerstone often goes un-noticed by the student body in general - except for the chapels she speaks at...but those who know her and spend time with her are intrigued and blessed by her way of loving on students and being powerfully involved in their lives. So many of my friends would say things like "Today I have my one-on-one with Christine!" She met (and continues to meet with) so many students in this way, breathing life into them on a regular basis.

She's the first one I thought of as I read your post.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Asher said...

I have to agree with Ben. While she's noted for her position she spends so much time pouring in to students (and even grads!). All my friends in leadership positions who got to do their one-on-ones with Christine were ALWAYS excited to meet with her (even if we hadn't done as we were asked, hehe)

Umm... and there's also my friend Casey. One of the most honest and wise men I've ever had the honor of knowing. He may not know it, but he is so influential among his friends and newcomers.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Greg said...

I'd have to say "right on" about Christine. She is right in her element in those one-on-one's. For many people those kinds of meetings are draining, but usually they "return life" to Christine...though there are times when she's exhausted after them. Regardless, she's the bomb.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Wow, man, what a kind word after a very perceptive essay. I appreciate your affirmation and also your Jesus-style of leadership.

At 5:35 PM, Blogger John Frye said...


At 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Greg! I just found your blog tonight, and I wanted to say a quick hello! How is Christine doing? (Please be sure to tell her hello from me--I worked with both you and she in the Registrar's Office at GCTS.) My husband Ben and I are now living in OR; it sounds like (from your blog) you've had an incredibly challenging year! Take care of yourselves--I'll look forward to reading more.


At 12:33 PM, Blogger Jack said...

I think you've hit onto something here about leadership and about how we view Christ. We tend to place upon Him our preconcieved notions of leadership and lordship, and then read the Bible and find him to be quite different.

I think the behind the crowd type leadership is ultimately the most effective, although it is obcensely (sp?) challenging. Jesus empowerment of his disciples to carry on without Him is an example of leadership that is hard, but worthwhile to follow I think

At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read » » »


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