When we choose to follow someone, many times it is only because they are the boss. They have an office above ours and it is our job to do what they say. But, can’t leadership be more than a job? Most good leaders are recognized not just because people follow them, but because people want to follow them. Yet, what is the difference between someone that we must follow and someone that we wish to follow? Often times it is character.
Character is more than just personality. It is who a person is and what they have been built up to be (See Rom. 5:3-4). In some cases, a person may have learned how to be a leader through their office; learning through endurance who they are. But, it would seem that the office is not the only thing that designates someone as a true leader.
Paul is a great example of this. Long before he was proclaimed as one of God’s chosen instruments (Acts 9:15), he was a leader of the Jews. He was highly educated and respected. Known as Saul, he stood by while Christians were persecuted (Acts 7:58) and he led arrests of those who believed in the Lord (Acts 9:1-2). It was by his office that he led.
On the road to Damascus, he changed. God’s words rang in his ears, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) and Saul became transformed by Christ (Rom. 12:2). He was no longer known as Saul, he became Paul. He did not continue to lead in an earthly way, solely through his office, but in a loving way, through his character.
Instead of being like the deceitful Pharisees around him, Paul now exuded authenticity. He did not wish to please others so that he could boast in himself and his own reputation, like many other leaders do. Instead of being greedy and self-serving, Paul only wished to boast in God and focus on who He is (2 Cor. 10:17-18). Paul strived to live, as any Christian should, by example (2 Thess. 3:7). He took his vocation even further. He not only walked the walk, he ran the race (2 Tim. 4:7).
In his change of character, Paul also became approachable. He did not hide in the temple or behind the Law, like the other religious men did, Paul stayed out in the open proclaiming the Gospel. He lived in the community, amongst those to whom he preached. Not only that, Paul encouraged questions and hoped to help others know God.
Instead of living to be served, Paul now lived to serve. Learning to become humble, he put others above himself. This was not through some sort of understanding of his duty, but it was through the affection that he had for others (1 Thess. 2:8). Paul served out of love, “like a nursing mother taking care of her own children,” (1 Thess. 2:7) and encouraged others (1 Thess. 2:12).
In learning to lead as Paul led, we can understand that no matter what type of leadership your office may hold, your character is what should shine through. Whether you are a teacher, minister, politician, or shepherd, your authenticity, approachability, humility, and genuine love for others is what truly leads others to you. Perhaps it is because these other characteristics, given by God to you, are also truly what will lead you.
I wrote this for YouthWorker Magazine. Please, click the link here.