Leadership Courage Series # 39

The fourth trait to lead effectively in a Church caught in a culture of cowardice: Stand, as an exemplar, in the sabotage and backlash that must come.

A Christian leader is not simply someone who gets things done or who gets others to behave in desirable ways, in a religious context. 

A leader is different.

She presences herself in life and relationships in a uniquely beneficial way.  This uniqueness transcends behavior, skill, and knowledge.  It’s best described in terms of being.  A courageous leader’s way-of-being is distinctive.

Its exceptionality is that it provokes maturity in those she influences.

The difference is palpable.  One difference is the way a leader is in the midst of sabotage and backlash.  My Fuller Seminary Professor and mentor, Dr. J. Robert Clinton identifies leadership backlash as one of the most common methods God uses to develop leadership character.  Backlash occurs when once-enthusiastic followers turn against their leader in the face of unexpected difficulties.

In A Failure of Nerve, Edwin Friedman elaborates: “Mutiny and sabotage came…from colleagues whose will was sapped by unexpected hardships along the way.”

It is the leader’s person and posture amidst this collegial sabotage that is so stunningly effective.

A courageous leader recognizes that backlash and sabotage are normal and are the product of evacuated courage in those disheartened by difficulty.  The leader interprets backlash as an opportunity to:

a) model a way of leading that inspires confidence toward God, and

b) deepen the maturity and faithfulness of colleagues and followers.

The leader chooses to interpret opposition as provision from Heaven. 

Consider Jesus.  In John 6:66 many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer followed him.  Immediately, Jesus challenges the twelve: Don’t you want to go away too?  He saw the departure of many as an opportunity to test the resolve of the leaders closest to him.

Embracing the reality of God’s sovereignty and apprehending the security of God’s unconditional love, she leans into the resistance with a posture of confident curiosity.

Grounding herself in the shelter of a loving, all-powerful God, the leader can reach for people for their benefit.

“God has this!” she might remind herself while stepping toward those who, unnerved by fear, have turned against her.  Aware that God’s agenda is to grow all of us into Christ-likeness, the leader can stand, as Jesus did, for her parishoners’ progress into maturity.

Having taken full responsibility, before the Father, for his being and destiny, Jesus lives as if his actions, attitudes, and words are on purpose: to establish the Kingdom of God in the lives of men and women.

Acclimate yourself to the rigor of taking responsibility, before God, for your responses to your environment and circumstances.

After all, everybody’s watching.