WANNA KNOW A SECRET?
Most leaders have learned a secret. It's a kind of secret where knowing it is easier than implementing it. The most difficult component to this secret is acting on it. And after several seasons of various leadership roles, I have come to realise that the difference between someone who claims to be a leader (and may even have a title to prove they are a leader) and, an actual leader, is whether they know and utilise the power of this secret. Similarly, the difference between a good leader and a great leader is the extent to which they implement this secret. Great leaders are not limited to those extraordinary fields of endeavour that people later writes books about - great leadership is needed in marriages, homes, classrooms, and small-groups. I now want to share this secret with you.
I admire great leaders. My kids thought that we got Foxtel so that they could watch Disney Channel. Kim thought we got it so that we could watch Duck Dynasty on A&E. But when it became apparent that I accepted their trial offer so that I could watch Discovery and History Channels, Kim demanded that stop wasting our precious money and cancel our subscription. The reason for my tryst into cable was to watch documentaries - particularly military and war documentaries. When it comes to leadership, it is rare to find any greater than on a battlefield. Without exception, every great military leader achieved their greatness with the help of their knowledge of this vintage secret.
Great leaders are also found on non-military battle-grounds called fields, pitches, arenas, or courts - usually encased in a stadium.
My curiosity about great leaders is one of the reasons why I am fascinated by AFL Football. Most people who watch AFL just see the match on game-day. I see the coaches assembled the day after the match with their team down at the beach wading in and out of the icy water to develop their leg-lifts and breakdown any remaining lactic acid. I see the coach and his assistants gathered early Monday morning in front of twelve video screen each giving a synchronised replay of their team's match performance. I see the Tuesday training session where the specialist coaches take their particular players and hone their skills and run them through their customised drills. I see the Coach on a Wednesday meeting with his team of nutritionists and dietitions and running through their individualised player regimes and measuring their effectiveness. I see the coach meeting with team manager and the admin staff to discuss recruitment, follow up, marketing, media-relations, sponsor-relations. Every great coach is a great leader - a great leader who knows and implements the secret.
Leadership is no greater than when the secret has been most obviously implemented. These are the moments when the war seems lost and the game seems to be all but over ... yet ... great leaders draw down on the secret and seemingly miraculously find a way to turn the tide of the war and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Without knowledge of the secret this just simply could never happen.
Perhaps it's because I'm a pastor, but it seems that this secret has been best kept within the church. That is, even though some have come to discover the power of the secret they have not chosen to share it with those who need to know it or would benefit from it. My suspicion is that if they did, there would not be anywhere near the drop-out rate of small-group leaders, department leaders, elders and pastors within most churches. If this key-secret is indeed known, it really doesn't appear to be shared very widely! It urgently needs to be known now. It is the secret to breakthrough.
The Apostle Paul shared this secret with his protegé, Timothy, when he told him -
¶ I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Second Timothy 4:1-2
'Be ready in season and out of season', involves -
- preparing yourself through reading widely (2Tim. 4:13)
- sharing your gifts, talents, or abilities, when you feel like it and when you don't
- having to share God's grace even when circumstances are adverse
- doing what needs to be done in the midst of opposition, persecution, trials and slander
¶ Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. ¶ So I exhort the elders among you
First Peter 4:19 - 5:1a
What Peter has said here is a secret that every emerging leader needs to know: even when you are going through your private hell keep working to rescue others from theirs! 'Your private hell' ("...let those who suffer...") is not a reason for you to not to fulfil your mission ("...while doing good..."). Peter, who should know, tells these elders to keep focussed, keep moving forward, keep caring - especially when times are most trying and difficult - never, never, never, give up! Keep believing! Keep trying! Keep fighting! Keep playing! Keep battling! This is the most potent leadership secret you can ever learn.
What God has called you to do - and enabled you to do - may never (and probably will never) find the perfect moment for its delivery! In fact, what we read in Second Timothy and First Peter is that it is to be expected that a leader will (not might) face opposition, persecution, or trials. A key element to the break-through secret that great leaders discover is that most great feats of leadership always occur during adverse and very trying circumstances.
Mothers learn this secret. Little girls grow up dreaming that one day they will hold their own baby in their arms and experience the wonderfully fulfilling delight of nurturing that baby to maturity. This introduction to leadership commences in pain, but that pain is soon forgotten for the joy that outweighs it. And this introduction to leadership sets the template for every leadership moment a mother is grown by: through pain comes triumph and joy. Mothers thus learn the secret of great leadership when despite the temptation to give into their persistently defiant child, they stand their ground. This barrage of defiance only grows as the child grows - but so does the determination of great leader-mothers who take a stand to truly love their child out of their defiance. Mothers employ this secret when they themselves have had a shocker of a day yet still take the time to ask their child just home from their day at school how their day was. Mothers utilise this secret when they withstand the temptation to procrastinate and take action despite their exhaustion.
Peter quietly shared the secret within the thoughts expressed in First Peter 4:19. Even when you're going through the most adverse circumstances, keep reaching out to others! When I see people doing this (and I see it regularly), I recognise that within these leaders are the seeds of greatness. Despite their own problems they help others. Despite how trying and difficult it is to achieve something for the benefit of our community, they persist. Despite, despite, despite - leaders still lead. This is how you can tell whether someone is really a leader. And now it's no longer a secret.