Leadership lessons abound nowadays. Ranging from TED talks, podcasts, Twitter quips or Instagram motivational sayings – everyone seems to have something to say. Often the world-views collide and confuse. Let me give you an example.
I grew up with a model of leadership where strength was celebrated and weakness was hidden. A leader was supposed to inspire and stir up up admiration through their assured self-confidence. People were meant to look up to them and ‘have something of what they had’. That inevitably created a huge pressure to live an impossible life, satisfy unreasonable expectations and often birthed a two-sided personality. There was the public leader and the private one, and the chasm between the two was often ever widening.
Nowadays, we moved on from that. Or maybe, we just overreacted. Disclosure is now pretty standard. Weakness is celebrated and uncomfortable vulnerability is worn like a badge of honour. It almost feels like you have to let your ‘demons’ be seen in order to gain credibility. While the transparency (truth) is always a better option – at what point does the celebration of weakness become another side of the same coin – a dangerous exercise in selfishness and attention seeking?
A tension – I love that word, and much prefer it to ‘balance’ – is needed. The check should always be on our real motive? Is this about building and encouraging others – or simply gaining a platform and stealing the spotlight? For a Christian leader – this is even more pronounced. I truly think that the apostle Paul ‘nails’ this one. He is transparent
He is transparent about his past and honest about his struggle with the thorn in the flesh:
“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-8: So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.
But Paul is not attracting attention to his weakness (past or present) but directs people’s attention towards a sufficient Christ:
2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has[a] come!
2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
A good leader will not hide his limp, nor will they swagger – they won’t pretend nor attract attention to themselves. They will be appropriately honest and vulnerable, yet always lifting up Christ as our encouragement and example:
Hebrews 3:1a: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus…”