Leadership is a very self-less proposition.

I’ve seen any number of leadership articles in the mainstream media, and many of them come close to getting it right. Several mention the humility required of a leader, and the integrity and genuineness needed to effectively lead. Even more discuss the focus, passion, and engagement a leader needs to drive his or her team forward to success.

But none of them capture what I see as the complete scope of leadership. That is, until I started thinking about leadership in terms of family.

Of all the relation-ships you can have with other human beings outside of marriage, the position of leadership requires the most selflessness of any of them. The greatest picture of selfless leadership available to us today is in the Bible, where the Apostle Paul describes the husband’s leadership of his wife and family. The Bible tells us that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and that he is to give up his life for her.

While leaders don’t love their followers in exactly the same way as a husband loves his wife, a leader is still called to love them, as Jesus instructed in his second greatest commandment (“Love your neighbor as yourself”). And as a leader, what does “giving up your life” look like with respect to those you lead? As I mentioned in my previous post, it looks a lot like respect — for the responsibility, for those you lead, for those who help you lead, for those you don’t lead but who may see things differently.

And, this advice applies as much to women who lead as it does to men.

But aren’t leaders, especially in the business world, also asked to fulfill many other tasks, and to perform with excellence? Yes, absolutely. But a tyrant who excels at identifying end goals is still a tyrant. Pushing a team to achieve by oppression is not leadership but subjugation. And in the end, there is no two-way relationship between a self-important dictator and a group he is charged to shepherd. The communication only flows one way.

Ironically, not every company or organization is looking for or wants true leadership. Too often, corporations seek only “results” that can be measured in number of customers, profits, and satisfaction metrics. The people who fill those roles are better called “managers,” “bosses,” and “supervisors.”

But people who selflessly guide others to a common goal while changing the lives of their team members for the better? Those people have earned the title of “leader.”

One thought on “The Character of Leadership

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