Teaching my kids the meaning of true leadership is a challenge in a culture where poor examples get kudos, and honor is overlooked. Politicians lead by observing trends, and running ahead of the crowd. Celebrities and athletes gain popularity through public displays of immorality and foolish choices. Businesses exalt employees who conform to the current mindset, and sacrifice honesty for gain. These arenas rarely provide examples of authentic leadership; in fact, most examples of leadership are from those who lead by following the trend of the moment.
When my kids were young, they followed a boy who led the group into mischief. They excused their behavior by saying, “Everyone was doing it.”
This is the worst possible excuse. I explained, “A true leader does what is right, even if they have to stand alone.”
Elijah stood alone, and became an enemy of the state. Jeremiah stood alone, and lamented over the scorn he had to endure. Those who hated Jeremiah said that he was a discourager and weakened the hand of the people, yet, seventy-years later, the people found encouragement from the words of Jeremiah as they waited for restoration from the Lord.
Anyone can follow the shifting mindset of the culture, but leaders stand as lights anchored to truth as they point to the right way. An authentic leader influences others to stand upon the word of God, but they also accept that they may rarely find glory on this side of eternity. It is easy to follow the counterfeit leadership the culture praises. Few, however, have the courage to stand in the face of criticism.
Some churches are abandoning truth, and critical of those who will not sway. This trend confronted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who participated in the German Resistance Movement against Nazism. He spoke before an auditorium of pastors and criticized the church’s cooperation with Hitler. As he spoke, pastors walked out in protest. By the end of the speech, he addressed an empty auditorium. Despite his many shortcomings, history testifies in favor of this man’s willingness to stand for what was right.
All leaders are motivated by something, whether it is the desire for praise, the desire for gain, fear of rejection, or eternal truth. A Charismatic leader may influence others, but an authentic leader does what is right regardless of consequences. In the end, a leader’s success is measured, not by the number of followers gained, but based on the truth upon which they stand.
Martin Luther, while being tried for his faith, pointed to the scriptures and uttered the famous words, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” His faithfulness to truth inspired many to return to the word of God. Our ultimate example is Christ, whose life testified to His words. Let us lead by standing on truth as we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith. We are all leaders, if we stand upon truth, and do what is right.
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