We are told that everything rises and falls with a leader. However, leadership is not about titles because everyone is a leader in his own right, the only difference being in where it is exercised. It is not about political, church, societal or institutional positioning; it is about you.
When Paul met Timothy in Acts 16:1-5, he was impressed by the young man and quickly took him under his wing. We are told in verse 2 that, ‘The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him’. Timothy’s character preceded him; his values were encrusted by two women-his mother, and his grandmother.
Mothers have a central role in shaping their children They should pour into their children good values and Christian teachings that they may not depart from when they are older. A former president of the United States-Nixon- was once awakened in the middle of the night to give authority to assist the Israel nation. About to protest the interruption to his sleep, he remembered his mother’s caution in his early life that he should never turn his back on helping the nation of Israel if a chance ever arose. He immediately awoke and did what was expected of him as president. At this moment, it can be well concluded that it was the mother who made the executive decision. Mothers have the enviable opportunity to be leaders of tomorrow through their children and they should capitalize on this.
According to John Maxwell, there are different levels of leadership. One may command authority because of the office that one holds or it may have been thrust onto him by people whose trust he has earned. It may have been given to him because of what he has done for them as usually happens in the political arena or it may be a recognition by the people of the work a person, such as Billy Graham, Mother Teresa or Mandela have done; they were leaders by their person-just who they were. And this, we should emulate.
There, however exists a process to being a leader. Firstly is to recognize your calling. Recognition means acceptance, taking a step towards leading others into some course or the other. 1Timothy 3:1 says, ‘If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task’. We are all born with a desire and a purpose. This purpose constitutes your calling and it is what drives you. God does not waste his resources, He creates and in-builds. Jeremiah literally heard the voice of God and carried out instructions; Nehemiah on the other hand heard from people that the walls of Jerusalem had broken down- but he also acted. This goes to show us that we do not have to wait for the voice of God to be heard by us in order for us to act. He may speak to us through visions and dreams but often times He will open the eyes of our hearts to a situation that will prompt us into action.
It is imperative to know where your passion lies-where do you feel that something must be done? If it is singing, then sing because he who desires to bring out what God had put inside him desires a good thing. Recognize what needs to be done and do it. If it is teaching, teach; influence people with your calling, whatever it is. But remember that if you pursue the wrong path, you will fail because leadership must be intentional. However, it does not end at identification of one’s calling, it must be cultivated and this is the second thing to remember.
Saul was anointed to lead the people and he ruled well for 10 years but out of the 32 years that he ruled, the last 22 were done so in utter hopelessness and in rebellion of God’s instructions. All he had done well could only be remembered as of ‘before the 22 years’; he was yesterday’s man. If you do not cultivate your calling you become yesterday’s man, a spent force. Is this who you have become, a dreamer whose passion can only be recalled in the past and not in the present? Then it is not only time to be today’s man of integrity and be counted but also tomorrow’s man and be remembered as a legend. Everybody is God’s man for tomorrow therefore we all must pursue our goals by discovering what God has implanted in us and be the people who stand out today.
1Timothy 3:2-3 continues, ‘Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money’. This speaks to the character of a leader and integrity is key. This is a man who lives by values and beliefs that he upholds and which motivate him. He is a man of credibility, truthfulness, faithfulness, selflessness, accountability and is committed to what he sets out to do. From the above Scriptural reference we see that he is an honest individual who is composed and sociable. However, popularity and charisma should not be mistaken for leadership.
Fellowship with other brethren help us to be men and women of character because we become accountable for our actions and are also able to measure and gauge our actions against those that profess the faith like ourselves. What to ask yourself is-what do people say about your character? What does your family have to say about you but ultimately, what does God see when he looks into your heart?
Cultivate your character through your competencies- abilities, skills and knowledge. Invest in bettering yourself through training and sharpening of already existing skills. Acquire more skills and stand out because such a person commands respect.
We are told that design determines freedom and that a ship cannot sail on a road nor a car float on water, furthermore, a fish can only live in water. Similarly, many of us are in the wrong calling because we are trying to copy the trends. You should however cultivate within that which God has given you. This entails that you identify what is within you and develop it.
Leadership is not the occupation of an office but rather servant hood. This means working in the area that God has directed you, not having others do it for you because you can afford to pay them to do it for you. A leader must get his hands dirty, he must get into the thick of things, he must get down on his knees and show others how it is done.
Wisdom is about strategy so you must know how you are going to get to where you want to be. Information may inspire but wisdom makes you a solution provider. If you provide solutions for the people, you will be a leader.
Finally, you must provide mentorship if you want to be a true leader. Talk to and encourage those behind you. Find someone to pour yourself into, someone to build. Paul was mentored by Barnabas and he in turn mentored Timothy; we know how fondly he wrote about the latter in his epistles. You too need a mentor, someone you can learn from and who can urge you on in this journey of life, someone who cares enough to guide you and steer you in the right path. Train the next generation so that they may grow.
But above all else, have God close by so that He can help you identify what He implanted in you and which can now help you lead the rest into fruition. He will help you produce good fruit. In John 15:1-4 Christ says, ‘I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be more fruitful. You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me’.
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