The Pathways to Leadership

There is both good and bad leadership. You can have someone like Adolph Hitler who was a strong leader – but a bad leader, he lead people to death. We need good leaders, not just leaders.

How do we move towards good leadership? What does the path look like?

We start the leadership journey as a Zealous Disciple. We’re excited for what God has in store for us. There’s vision and excitement.

We then move into the second stage where we are Willingly Involved, and fully engaged. We will gladly fulfill any responsibility given to us, even cleaning toilets at the ministry center serving in facilities.

Somewhere along the line our expectations are not met; the dreams we had don’t come true. This leads to the third step: becoming a Disillusioned Student.

This is the critical juncture. At this fork in the road, God will test your commitment level. (Commitment can be defined as staying true to a worthy decision long after the emotion of having made that decision has passed.) When you come to this point, will you hold fast to the truth that God has called you? Even though you’re not as zealous as before, can you still say, “I am committed to what God has called me to“? If you say no, and can’t pass this test you will go to Option A. When you say yes, then you pass this stage and you can move on toOption BThe vast majority of leaders (80%) take Option A, and a few (20%) take Option B.

Let’s look first at Option A.

The first step is being Cautiously Involved. You’re still involved, but you don’t throw your whole heart into it. You walk lightly. You are always looking for the path of least resistance; if you do meet the slightest resistance, you back off. You are not fully engaged, nor fully committed. When things get tough you won’t push to break through, you just give way.

Eventually you move on to stage 2 of Option A, People Centered. You become a people pleaser, or you’re easily swayed by people, or you’re frustrated by people. You orbit around people, and are very susceptible to what people say or do.

This leads to the next stage, you begin to start Following Voices. You want esteem from people, you want to escape from the pain and frustration in life, so you begin to justify your choices with “the Lord said” or “God is telling me…” to validate the choices you have made to get out of the pain you are in.

We all need esteem because we are human. But if you are empty because you’ve been wounded and you “leak”, even God given encouragement won’t be enough. And if you’re not careful you’ll be open to a spirit of deception. Once you are deceived, thoughts that are wrong begin to sound reasonable. If you stay here, silent agendas running your platform, past hurts running your philosophies, unresolved issues driving your decisions, attitudes and perspective, it’s a really dangerous trap.

The final destination of Option A is becoming an Underdeveloped Leader. A leader who doesn’t build teams, doesn’t hear God correctly, and doesn’t give correct vision. In an effort to please people, and get out of internal pain, this leader will wrap personal desires in “God said” because it’s hard to refute someone who uses “the Lord told me to…”.

Option A is what I call the consolation bracket. People who take this path are the winners of the losers. They never progress past the fork in the road, and stay as underdeveloped leaders for most of their lives.

The Bible says to run in such a way as to win. You can’t win taking the Consolation Bracket, Option A.

The alternative path is Option B. I call this path the high road, or the winner’s bracket. It starts at the same place Option A does, right after Disillusioned Student.

The first stage in Option B is Commitment Tested. When you’ve counted the cost and chosen to stay the course. You reaffirm your original commitment and calling. When you pass the test, then all of a sudden you move to the second stage where you are not a people pleaser, but you’re now a God Pleaser. You are God centered.

And because you are a God pleaser, instead of following voices you Return to Your Call. You go back to the original call and you push the “re” button, you reinvent,recalibrate, refresh, restore. You get wiser, start to reorganize and resolve the things that brought you disillusionment, and rethink what God is calling you to. Maybe your zeal is a little different, but the call hasn’t changed; just the way you approach your call has.

This then leads you into being a Fully Developed Leader, someone who has self-initiative and is a self-starter. Only 20% of leaders choose this path, the higher calling.

If you become a people person you’ll never become a self-starter. A mark of a great leader is one who makes work for himself. He sees what needs to be done and starts going that way. He can see the future, make recommendations. He doesn’t need to wait to be told what to do.

The turning point in the Leadership Pathways is after we become a Disillusioned Student. So here are some symptoms of the disillusioned student to watch for: Frustration, loss of vision, loss of motivation, and purpose. You still show up, but are purposeless, you don’t initiate anything. You are vulnerable to lies at this point (the enemy’s lies). Be careful if you see any of these symptoms in yourself.

Here are some practical ways to apply this teaching:

  1. Look at where you are on the Leadership Pathway. As soon as you recognize the state you’re in, the better. It’s easy to be imperceptibly moving down the wrong path until it’s too late. Pain is building and you want out of the pain, but not necessarily out of the calling.
  2. When you start to recognize the symptoms of disillusionment, and you don’t do anything to change, you become complacent and they become your companions. Don’t tolerate the company of these symptoms. Get help. Seek godly counsel and accountability.
  3. Write down the commitments that you’ve been given from God. Write down what is most important for this season in your life. If the devil can derail you from your commitments he’s got you.

How do you do counsel someone else through this process?

First, encourage people to take the high road, it may save them from deception and being stuck in the consolation bracket. God said we are to be messengers, not Messiahs. So do your best to give the message gracefully. And second, if they make an unwise decision anyway, you stand there with bandages and ointment to help them to restoration after they fall.

The choices made in the Commitment Test are what define a leader. It’s a test of character. The commitment to God’s call needs to be settled in early on in ministry so that you consistently take the path to becoming a fully developed leader.

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