John Trent, Ph.D.
I have a good friend who is a businessman and an avid golfer. Several years ago, on an international business trip, he was invited to play on the King of Morocco’s personal golf course—fittingly called “The King’s Course.” He got up to the first tee, which was a dogleg right. His group finished the first hole and, as he stood on the second tee box, he noticed that the second hole was also a dogleg right. And the third hole… and the fourth hole as well! Finally, he asked his caddy about the layout of the course and he was told, “Oh, yes, every hole is a dogleg right. The King has a slice!”
That story is funny and profound at the same time. It also illustrates the first of three key thoughts I’d like to share with you about the place of leadership and influence that God has given you and me. In an earthly kingdom, sovereign rulers can establish the values, priorities, and even the laws as they see fit. They set the lead. Their decisions impact everyone. In this case, the King of Morocco could have taken a few golf lessons and built a normal course. But instead, by accommodating his weakness—a slice—he influenced and impacted everyone else who played on his course.
“But I’m not a golfer!” you might say. To which I would respond, “Yes, but you are a leader.” And every one of us has been placed in a leadership position—be it at home, in ministry, our place of business, school, or in our counseling practice. In some area of life, we all lead. And, unfortunately, for many of us, we look at that position of leadership as our “kingdom.”
I would venture to say that most of us have worked at some time in our lives for a boss or supervisor who looked at (or lived like) their place of ministry or business as, indeed, their “kingdom.” They may not have worn a crown, but they sought to install their own rules, values and priorities on others. With that “look in their eyes,” that dismissive attitude in a meeting, or that growing list of “rules and demands,” each day at work you would see a “leader” working to bend others’ actions (if not their wills) to accommodate their own weaknesses. As a result, their focus became “lording over” others instead of leading from their God-given strengths.
Whose kingdom are we building? This is the first point to consider as a leader. Remember, Jesus spoke constantly about His “Kingdom”—about the character and nature of its subjects… about how believers are to “seek first His Kingdom” and not their own. And while it may seem like in this day-and-age it’s the “Lord it over” leaders who get “promoted,” not penalized, God’s judgment will, indeed, one day right all wrongs.
For example, the Bible speaks of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. He lived from 605-562 B.C. and was the most powerful man on the planet. Yet, placed in a position of authority, he looked down on all he had and not up to the God who had given him everything. In Daniel 4:30, we’re told, “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’” And if you know the “rest of the story,” as for the next seven years, God judged him for exalting himself and consigned him to dwell with the beasts of the field. What “woke him up” from acting like an animal and not a true king? It was when he finally looked upward to Almighty God as the true “Kingdom Builder”—the One who is the giver of all His gifts, strengths, successes and abilities. In the words of a “reclaimed king,” Nebuchadnezzar said, “I raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me” (Daniel 4:34).
That’s the first principle we need to realize as those who are placed in positions of leadership and influence. We must understand that we battle God—not our employees, competition or teammates—when we seek to set up our own personal “kingdom.”
A Second Key to Leading from our Strengths
If the first key in leadership is looking up to heaven in humility instead of looking down on those under us, a second key is closely related—namely, not only has Almighty God “placed” us in our position of leadership, He actively and purposely “places” those around us as well!
As a marriage and family counselor, I often hear from couples who are experiencing “irreconcilable differences.” Truthfully, I’ve heard that same complaint in numerous churches, ministries and business teams that I’ve worked with over the years. In fact, I just spoke with a pastor who actually said, “I know what I need to do. I need to fire my whole congregation!”
For many of us, it’s the people we work with or try to lead (particularly if we’re focused on “our kingdom”) who we often believe to be the problem. And, unfortunately (and unwisely), that often means, “I’m sick and tired of the people I work with who are so different from me!” Like the detail-oriented person who always seems to shoot down our ideas in a staff meeting; or the dreamer who can’t seem to stay focused on the task; or the co-worker who steps outside of his own area to “coach” people who don’t directly report to him; or the sensitive person who says “yes” to every assignment, even when she is hopelessly buried in projects and knows she can’t get that task done. “Why isn’t everyone like me?!?” We can lament but, when we do, we are negating a key reason why God put “different” people in our lives in the first place!
What if we valued the strengths of that detail-oriented person who frustrates us so much, but who could also give us those two or three insights that are keeping our ideas from becoming reality… or the creative dreamer who might also have the key idea that breaks through a log-jam we’re facing… or the person who is gifted at coaching but feels “underutilized” and could perhaps be given a broader area of influence to use more of his gifts so we wouldn’t have to do so much… or that caring person who is so perceptive to what’s going on in the workplace and could specifically share what is causing the hurt that is holding back others from doing their best?
Rodney Cox, President of Ministry Insights (www.ministryinsights.com) and the online designer of the “Leading from Your Strengths Online Report,” goes all over the country and world sharing a very simple message: “God gives us our strengths… but He delights in our differences.”
That is so true and so biblical! “Irreconcilable differences” can actually be grounds for a great ministry team, friendship, or family relationship! You see this clearly in 1 Corinthians 12:14, where we’re told, “For the body is not one member, but many.” Yet it’s important to know that it’s God Himself who distributes gifts and talents, for to continue Paul’s thought, “But God has placed the members each one of them in the body, just as He desires” (verse 18). In other words, it is Almighty God Himself who has placed us with those in our ministry or family, as Rodney says, “… to complete us, not defeat us… to protect us, not lead us to frustration.”
When we realize that our place of ministry is not our “kingdom” to rule and its “subjects” are there by God’s divine design (not to live out our will), it can change our attitudes and actions as leaders. For example, instead of demanding that every problem in our ministry or work be solved in an “aggressive” way (because we’re an “aggressive” problem solver), we start realizing that God “placed” that “reflective” problem solver on our team as a means of protection and help for making good decisions, not to stop or frustrate us.
And this leads me to one final thought on leadership that I try to personally practice each day, and recommend for you as well. Before I get out of the car at the office, I remind myself, “We were all made for ‘more.’”
Many people feel so unfulfilled, so unappreciated, so unused and so undervalued. We long for “more” in significant ways. At home, at work or in a ministry, we long for more impact, more openness, more love, more significance, more God-honoring service and more life-changing results. My encouragement to you is to start your day by reminding yourself that God is a God of “more.”
In His Kingdom, there is more love, more grace, more fulfillment, more joy, more significance, more acceptance, and more value of strengths and utilization of differences. Before you walk in the door at work, pray for more humility as a steward of one small part of God’s great Kingdom, including greater patience and wisdom to see the “high value” of each person He has graciously, purposefully given you to lead.
C.S. Lewis was right in saying, “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” May we claim His Kingdom, not our own, as we lead in our area of service each and every day.
John Trent, Ph.D., is the president of The Center for StrongFamilies and StrongFamilies.com. He is an award-winning author and highly sought-after family conference speaker. Find out more by visiting www.StrongFamilies.com.