The Position of Leadership
There are a lot of wrong ideas about leadership tossed about in the world today. A quick examination of what leadership is not will allow us to better understand how each of us can lead better.
Not From Behind—Many think leaders should push their constituents along. This type of leader is typically aggressive and domineering. The problem is that this type of leadership produces no compassion between the leader and those forced. This type of leadership might work for a season, but eventually those being pushed will either push back or leave. This is why Peter tells shepherds not to be “domineering over those in your charge” (1 Peter 5.3). Instead of mimicking the image of a cattle driver—hooping, hollering, and cracking a whip—mimic the image of a shepherd who walks before a loyal group of sheep. This requires the strength of relationship and trust, not a display of power and fear.
Not From Beside—Others will argue that leaders should stand beside their charge, sharing in a partnership as if all things are equal. The problem with this type of leadership is that no one leads, no one decides, and no one takes charge. This type of leadership fails to be leadership at all. The shepherd does not walk amidst the sheep or the sheep would never know where to go. This is why Peter charges elders to “be examples” to the flock. If the shepherd wants the flock to head north, he must first head north so they know which direction would please their leader. A strong leader will have vision and lead their people there.
Not From a Distance—However, to lead in this way, the shepherd cannot be too far away. The shepherd must be accessible and reachable. The shepherd must be close enough to hear when he calls the sheep. The shepherd must be near so the sheep can examine his behavior and copy it. The shepherd must be close enough to ward off danger. All leaders will be in front of their charge, but they will be close enough to be actively participating. No leader can be distant and still be leading. If the leader is not close enough to keep watch, the people will feel no closeness or loyalty to their leader. A strong leader will know those whom they lead because he will be close to them.
The only right place for a leader is the only place left—Directly in front. The goal of a leader is to take a group of people from where they are to a place they need to be. For sheep, the shepherd desired to take them to green pastures and still waters. For a shepherd of God’s people, his desire is to take God’s people from earth to heaven. This requires the spiritual shepherd to example faithfulness and righteousness. A spiritual shepherd will know the difficulties of each sheep, because the sheep will trust their shepherd enough to share those struggles of life with him. The shepherd will walk through the difficult valleys of life with their sheep because he knows that is the only way they will survive. A shepherd does what it takes, no matter how much it costs, to ensure a healthy flock.
Understanding this godly type of leadership is important to all of us, not just those with official titles and opulent offices. So much of the Christian mindset is dependent on our concept of leadership. All of us are involved in leadership in some way. We Christians are to submit to the leadership of Christ just as Christ submits to the leadership of our Father. Wives likewise submit to the leadership of their husbands (all mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11.3). Often women are leaders of their children. Older women are leaders of the younger women (Titus 2.4). The church submits to the leadership of both Christ, the chief shepherd, and their mortal shepherds (1 Peter 5.1-5). Leadership exists in so many areas of our lives when we accept God as Master and humble ourselves under His mighty hand (1 Peter 5.6). Let us all lead from the right position.