Leadership in a Culture of Cowardice (part thirteen)

We’re examining what may be a unique kind of leadership—leadership that is compulsory if the Church is to provide the redemptive influence in American society that she was given, by Jesus, to bring. For nine segments, we examined the regressive and infantile culture that has become normative in so much of the Church in North America. For the last eight, you’ve been invited to reinvent yourself as a distinctly courageous leader.

Now, we’re considering a fourth leadership characteristic: Stand, as an exemplar, in the sabotage and backlash that must come. You were invited to recognize that, like Jesus, every leader is an exemplar.

It can be no other way.

A leader is not simply someone who decides things, who gets stuff done, or who gets other people to behave in desirable ways. A leader is different. She presences herself in life and relationships in a uniquely beneficial way.

This uniqueness transcends behavior, skill, and knowledge.

It can better be described in terms of being. A courageous leader’s way-of-being is distinctive.

It provokes maturity in those she influences.

The differences are palpable.

One difference is the way a leader is in the midst of sabotage and backlash.

Fuller Professor Dr. J. Robert Clinton has identified 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.

27 backlashA courageous leader recognizes how common backlash and sabotage is, and that both are the product of evacuated courage in those disheartened by difficulty.

The leader interprets backlash as an opportunity to model a way of leading that inspires confidence [from the Latin, literally “with trust”] toward God, and to deepen the maturity and faithfulness of colleagues and followers.

Further, this kind of leader chooses to interpret the opposition as provision from Heaven.

Consider Jesus. In John 6:66 we read that many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Immediately, Jesus turns to the twelve and asks: Don’t you want to go away as well? He saw the departure of the many as an opportunity to assess and challenge the resolve of the leaders closest to him.

Would you?