SIMPLY and plainly defined, a leader is a man who has followers. A true leader deserves to have followers. He has earned recognition. Authority alone is no longer enough to command respect.
The leader is a great servant. The Master of men expressed the idea of leadership in a democracy when He said: "And who soever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. 20:27). In Mark 9:35 Jesus tells His disciples that the greatest will be he who serves others unselfishly. Apparently, the approval of Jesus rests upon the desire to be great in terms of serving instead of dominating.
The leader sees things through the eyes of his followers. He puts himself in their shoes and helps them make their dreams come true.
The leader assumes that his followers are working with him, not for him. He considers them partners in the work and sees to it that they share in the rewards.
These are various definitions of leaders and leadership. In a conference we have the executive officers to whom we all look for inspiration, encouragement, and direction. These in turn, look to the union officers. We also have the department leaders who disseminate to the pastors their suggestions and plans for advancing God's work. The district pastors probably have a greater responsibility than all, for in their hands lie the leadership responsibilities of each layman in the church and district. We laymen meeting with you pray daily that our lives may be used by God to support and uphold you in these leadership responsibilities.
These leadership positions all carry awe some responsibilities, for herein lies the success or failure to carry out the great challenge of sending the message of God to those living in the field where we are la boring. This requires a dedication and a personal consecration that will allow God to lead directly in the decisions that are made for the advancement of His work.
A sad thing about human nature is that a man may guide others in the path of life without walking in it himself. This is a situation we have all seen, yet it is a condition we must avoid at all cost, for not only will our influence as leaders be lost, our very lives and the heaven for which we strive may be denied us.
The responsibility of leadership carries with it the opportunity of criticism. No man that does anything will please every one, and the amount of leadership responsibilities you carry' may in direct proportion determine the amount of criticism you will receive. Satan knows that nothing is more discouraging to a man than criticism at a time when he is sincerely trying to do his best.
To bear criticism without retaliation one must truly be a man of God because it is so contrary to human nature. How Satan tempts the leaders to behave like the unconverted! He will be successful if the leader fails to maintain his hold on the Saviour and keep open the lines of communication between them.
Seeds of Discontent
There has never been a time when the adversary has tried so hard to plant seeds of doubt and discontent. One man will spread a false report and immediately a hundred men report it as true. If Satan can cause feelings of doubt and distrust among the laymen toward our leaders, the efficiency of their program will soon be at a minimum, and once this attitude has developed, regardless of its truth or falseness, the effective leadership has been lost. For this reason it behooves each of us to constantly guard our words so that we will not plant thoughts that could be misconstrued or start little avenues of doubt. Of course, none of us would deliberately make careless statements. But being human, we are led at times to open our hearts and discuss problems one with another.
Situations develop that cause great concern and the load becomes too heavy to bear alone. That is why, sometimes, unpleasant things need to be discussed in groups such as ours, but here it becomes very important that these problems go no farther than here with us. It seems that Satan is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to take some statement we may make and by having it repeated out of context or even with a different vocal inflection change the entire meaning or interpretation of what we were trying to convey. This gives opportunity for much unwarranted criticism and often leads to harm and dis trust.
I will always remember a statement my dad made to me one day when I was really telling him what I thought about the actions of a fellow minister, and I was sure that terrible mistakes had been made. "Son," he said, "never criticize or condemn a person until you know the whole problem, and then be very careful because you don't know what you might have done if you had been in the same set of circumstances."
Careless Words at Home
Our conversation at home should be equally guarded when our children are around. They comprehend our feelings through our remarks to a much greater degree than we imagine and their attitude toward our leaders and the confidence in our organization can be severely under mined. There have been times, even in the homes of ministers, where problems with the church, concerning personnel and standards, have been too openly discussed in front of the children and young people. This is often done with no thought of malice, nor of undermining confidence in denominational leadership. However, these seeds of criticism have ways of implanting themselves deeply in the minds of young people, and can in time completely shake the faith and trust of a child in the ministry. Having grown up as a minister's son, a large share of my friends were also children of families working for the denomination and I know from personal experience that this can be a major factor in molding the attitude of the children of ministers.
We need an attitude of positive confidence in upholding our leaders in their position of responsibility. We must remember that these men are all human and have the same temptations as other men; how ever, because of their position, Satan works harder to cause them to fall. How well he knows the tremendous amount of damage that can be caused by a misstep. This should lead us to continually support one another in our prayers and in our associations. Let us be loyal to our leaders. There will be differences in opinion but this is no cause for disloyalty or unwillingness to pull together to achieve our one aim that of spreading the message so that our Saviour may return to take us all to our promised home. Let us remember a leader has faith in people and these people must have faith and confidence in him.
As leaders we must keep our eyes on high goals and strive to make the efforts of those who follow successful in the enrichment of their personality and the fulfillment of the aims of the great commission.