Am I Worthy To Be A Leader?
February 13, 2022
I have observed leadership from several perspectives over the years. One thing I have learned is that leadership is not as simple as many think it is. It can be complicated. Ask many leadership mentors on what the pillars of leadership are, and you will get many different answers and they are all valid. Some of the main mantras of successful leadership seem to revolve around empathy, learning from failure, diversity, ability, accountability, and authenticity….. to name just a few. Might I add that I believe these and others to be valid and real characteristics of leadership. I am truly grateful for leadership teachers that have and can continue to provide new and refreshing perspectives on this important topic. Many of these leadership pillars I have observed first-hand in a long business and theological career.
I was brought up in a military family and a couple of leadership traits that seemed to rise to the top were always ability and authority. My Dad was a soldier. He operated fully on the pillars of ability and authority and he used these pillars effectively and I must say with fairness and love. I believe these will never diminish in importance, but times do change. Leadership cannot be fueled on these two things alone, although even today, some supposed leaders think they can. That said, to diminish their importance totally is to potentially lose two important aspects of leadership. Further I do agree, that these two can be overworked and abused. How many leaders do we know even to this day who have either lacked ability or who have abused their authority? So, these two traits need to be kept in careful perspective and handled delicately.
Consideration of worthiness as a leadership pillar
Recently I have been thinking about a perspective on leadership which I do not see talked about much. This perspective may even be on the opposite pole from ability and authority. It is, admittedly, in the softer realm, and many might find it difficult to define. Yet what I have been wrestling with is the aspect of worthiness as a leadership pillar. In other words, if we were to have the most glorious leader with capability, empathy, diversity of thought, inclusiveness - the list could easily go on - but that individual is not actually worthy of leadership, where would we be? I hesitate to say that worthiness of being a leader is not a small point. In fact, it seems to me that the more I experience life and the more and more that I observe leadership as a much-appreciated skill, the more I observe that the worthiness of being a leader is something that must be considered.
Am I worthy to be a leader? Are you worthy to be a leader?
Understanding the lifeblood of worthiness as a leadership pillar
To even understand this, what would go into the definition of worthiness as a leadership pillar? There are some things I think need to be included in such a definition:
- Have you shared the experiences of your followers? - to be truly worthy as a leader we need to experience first-hand what followers go through. This may seem like a cliché, but the truth is that it is very difficult to effectively lead if one’s perspective is only from a hierarchical position of power. A dear resident in the long-term care facility where I work as a Chaplain recently said to me: “you have no idea what I am going through until you walk in my shoes.” How can I realistically lead this person to another place of joy until I actually understand where they are now?
- Do you embrace integrity as a thread in your worthiness fabric? - integrity can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Leadership requires an emanating sense to others that the leader tells the truth, answers questions frankly, and with clarity, and lives by the standards to which the organization is being asked to live. It means taking responsibility when things go wrong. In my opinion there is no room for “wiggling” in this aspect of worthiness - it is either there or it is not.
- Does your sense of authority and track record match with your ability? Being worthy of something assumes that the life and fabric of the leader reflects pre-determined expectations and real skills. This is an interesting one because setting expectations should be a shared responsibility between the leader and followers. But when those expectations are set, does the leader live a daily existence of ensuring to the best of one’s ability that the expectations are met with one’s best efforts? Are you skilled in the functional areas to actually accomplish what is needed and do others look to you for your guidance?
- Are you sacrificial? - being worthy as a leader has a large element of being sacrificial. This is rarely considered as a leadership pillar, because being sacrificial might be considered being weak or prone to defeat. Yet there is nothing more inspiring to a follower than seeing their leader sacrifice for them. Those upon whom have been bestowed the Victoria Cross are always sacrificial warriors - always going to heroic lengths to give of oneself for others.
- Are you present? - I am a Pastor in a Long-Term Care facility. People are basically there for the duration of their lives. Think of it. A room, albeit comfortable, but that’s it. Many residents have told me when I have gone in to encourage them that I can only really understand their emotions when I am present at different times, observing different things, experiencing what they experience. If I want to “lead” them into a place of encouragement, I must understand completely where they are now. That only comes with conversation, listening, and being uncomfortable. Being present is different from sharing experiences as suggested my first pillar above. How is it different? Being present often means you would rather not be there, but you must be. Being present constricts your freedom to do just what you want to do. You need to be present with someone else. Being present transforms lives. Especially when we don’t say anything.
There are likely many other components to leadership worthiness that could be spoken about. These are some of the key pillars.
Where is there an example of such worthiness? To answer this question I propose - at least as one example - the worthiness of Jesus. In the Book of Revelation there is a dramatic scene and conversation as to who is going to be able to open the seven seals of the scroll - a scroll which ultimately will reveal the realities of the unfolding of history under the sovereignty of God. Who is it that is worthy to open these seals? Astoundingly there is no one ‘in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it” [Rev. 5:3}. The Apostle John weeps at such a void of worthy candidates. But alas one of the elders of heaven proclaims that there is One who can undertake such a task - the Lamb of Judah that has been slain [Rev. 5:6} - none other than Jesus.
Of what qualification we might ask? Surely Jesus has the ability and the authority. Yet that is not the point. The question is who is actually worthy?
“Worthy is the lamb, who was slain [note sacrifice] to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” [Rev. 5:12]. Taking careful note of this statement there are seven things are seven things that emanate from good [power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise], solid leadership - but they are all subservient to one thing - being worthy.
So we are appointed to be leaders. We train, we are mentored, and we are refined in the crucible of real life. The question is - are we worthy?
Rev. Michael Dell is the General Manager of Footpath Leadership [www.footpathleadership.com] and is a life-long student of strategy, leadership, and theology. He spent over 36 years in executive leadership with a major global pharmaceutical company and he is also an ordained minister.