I recently had the opportunity of being interviewed on UBC, Uganda’s national TV station, for about 30 minutes. The program was intended to raise awareness for our college (Africa Renewal University) and its new developments, especially the expansion from a rented half acre campus to an 18 acre property located at Buloba.
During this interview, both Edwin (my host) and I were carried away by the question he posed right at the beginning; “What do you have to say about leadership in the wake of Uganda’s current political climate?”
This question triggered my mind to something that is the passion of my life and the mission of both Africa Renewal Ministries (ARM) and Africa Renewal University (ARU). For that reason, I would like to use this opportunity to share with you what I shared with the TV audience and also to expound on some of my other thoughts on leadership. In fact, here are the four main questions I will be trying to answer:
1. Who is a leader?
2. Why are servant leaders so important?
3. What is “success” in leadership?
4. And what is the church’s role in providing leadership to the nation?
1. Who Is A Leader?
Simply stated, a leader is a person who has followers. John Maxwell, one of the leading writers on leadership, says; “If you want to know whether you are a leader just look over your shoulders to see whether there is any one following and if so, then you know you are a leader.”
Let me expand what Maxwell says by adding that you also need to observe who is following you and then you will know what kind of leader you are.
You will notice that in the Bible the word “leader” is not as common as the word minister or servant. This means that in God’s terms, leaders are those who serve those people under their care. In other words, because real leaders are also real servants, it is appropriate to call them “servant leaders.” To this end, a leader is that person who inspires, directs, motivates and equips others (through teaching, training and mentoring) so they can succeed and fulfill God’s call for their lives.
2. Why Are Servant Leaders So Important?
Joshua 1:6 says: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” This verse shows that the servant leader leads God’s people to inherit God’s promises. To me, this is a great responsibility. It means that our calling as leaders is to help the people we serve maximize their potential to the glory of God. Our job is to help them fulfill God’s destiny for their lives.
For Joshua, it was not just leading one individual but a whole nation. That is no simple responsibility. Nations rise and fall at the expense of their leaders. The same goes for organizations, churches and companies.
Joshua was not just another leader, he was a servant leader. He therefore stands before us as an example of what it takes to be a servant leader and a great one as such. He was a man of humility; a man of faith and trust in God; a man of God’s Word; a man of prayer; and a man who put God first. Before Joshua was a leader, he was willing to serve. For forty years he served under Moses in the Wilderness. He was known as “Moses’ assistant”. Even as a leader, Joshua had no problem with serving others. Although he was magnified by the Lord Himself (Josh 3:7; 4:14), Joshua did not let praise go to his head. He stayed humble enough to glorify the One who had lifted him up and meek enough to serve those that had been put under him. It was qualities such as these that made Joshua the servant leader that he was. His humility, obedience and courageous servant leadership surely had a powerful impact on Israel (cf. Josh 24:31).
Every generation needs good leadership, especially in times of struggle and doubt. For those who lead, or who might one day serve as leaders, Joshua serves as a role model. (For those who follow, he serves as an example of what we should look for in our leaders.)
Many leaders today have chosen self-serving leadership over servant leadership. Self-serving leaders normally wield power with one major objective, and that is: to be served. They often seek first to be understood; (and if it serves their ends) then, to understand. They consider self-image, advancement, and entitlements of their own position primary. They see and treat co-workers as inferiors who usually do not participate in decision-making, nor are they offered important information. They create an atmosphere of dependence using power of position to manipulate and direct. They reject constructive criticism and take the credit for results. They use expediency as the main criteria; make decisions in secret, and often times from their own view of truth and wisdom only. They are usually accountable to no one or if they choose to be accountable, it is only to superiors but still, they always shun personal evaluations as interference. Many of these self-serving leaders also enjoy clinging to power and position.
That is why I say, there is an urgent need for servant leaders today. With servant leadership, the leader’s objective is to serve. He seeks first to understand; then, to be understood. He values followers’ potential and achievement; and promotes them before self. A servant leader sees and treats co-workers with respect as a team that works together to accomplish a task and make decisions with shared information. He creates an atmosphere in which others are encouraged and power is used to serve others. He encourages input and feedback and shares credit for the results. He uses biblical and moral principles as the main criteria in leading people; and makes decisions openly and in consultation. He is accountable to God and others and welcomes personal evaluations as a means to improve performance. A servant leader is always willing to step aside for someone more qualified.
Anyone who chooses servant leadership will sooner or later realize this: when you resolve to be a servant leader, your influence increases and your greatness expands.