In a day of conflict and controversy, you want to work with family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, to face the conflict, to deal with change, and to make a meaningful difference in the world.
You know that good leadership includes teaching and learning, building relationships and influencing people. At times you feel that it would be so much easier to exercise the power of your position, but you know your leadership is not about you or how you feel. In fact, you know you must be willing to give up who we are in order to become all that we can be.
You want to reach your potential while developing the potential of the people you lead. But at the moment, you feel inadequate.
- You know what you want, the question is how do you get it?
- You know where you want to go, but how do you get there?
Those are excellent questions.
Helping You Help Others
I want you to know that you are not alone. I have been working to answer those questions most of my adult life. In fact, that is part of the reason I am writing to you today. I want to assist you in becoming the leader you have been created to be. I want you to be so effective in your leadership that you are helping others develop their potential as well.
I want you to know that you have been created for this point and time in history. God has given you strengths and talents to face the conflicts, to bring about the change, to live into your potential as you develop the potential of others. Let’s look at the scripture for some insight.
Address the Conflict
In 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, Paul is addressing conflict in the first-century church. He is writing to address the tension between people fascinated with spirituality and spiritual gifts.
I want to focus on one part of his writing as a way of talking about your strengths and talents and upon how you might use your strengths and talents in addressing the issues you are facing. I want you to use your strengths and talents in the way God has created you to use them.
In his writing, Paul uses the term “one body with many members.”
He is using a common metaphor to illustrate the nature of the church.
The people in the Roman society understood “one body with many members,” as a way of keeping the lower social classes “in their place.” The thought and practice of the day, to keep the society healthy, was that everyone had their place.
No Part is More Important than Another
Paul changes the use of the image to emphasize the equality of each member of the body. He is not saying “everyone has their place.” He is saying, no one part of the body is more important than any other part of the body.
When he talks of the body of Christ, he is not talking about a gathering of persons who call themselves Christians. He is talking about each member participating in the body of the living Christ.
Being a member means being a functioning organ in a living body. Membership, in this sense, is not about having your name on a list and paying your dues. Being a member of the body of Christ is to be a living, contributing part of an organism, as opposed to being a member of an organization.
This is why it is important that you know your strengths and talents, that you know the strengths and talents of the people you lead (family, colleagues, friends), and that you bring your strengths together with their strengths to meet your purpose.
In a living body, variety is necessary, not merely tolerated.
Being a Jesus follower is a matter of interdependence, not independence. The “superior” members, either in spirituality or social and economic class, cannot say to the “inferior” members, “we can get along without you.” The same is true regarding the common folks who “have the spirit.”
You cannot disregard the “high and mighty.”
So, there is a variety of strengths and talents all for the same purpose. Paul is stressing a mutual dependence, which is again a modification of the self-sufficiency held in high regard in his day.
- How are you relating to the people around you?
- How are you allowing the strengths of others to support and complement your strengths?
Remember, you are not in this life, work, or family alone. You are more who you were created to be when you are living in relationship with the people around you.
Leadership is not a position, but a God-given gift.
Paul illustrates the need for all the strengths and talents given by God. Although he names a few of the gifts or strengths, he is not giving a precise or complete list. He is not ranking them in priority order. But he is giving an example of what is needed at that particular time for the building up of the church.
There is a need for those who are sent out in God’s love and a need for those who can name current reality as well as hold a vision for the future. There is a need for teachers, healers, and caregivers. There is a need for persons who have the capacity to do concrete deeds of helpfulness to those in need. And there is the need for leaders. Not only persons with administrative and organizational competence, but the ability to offer wise counsel and guidance.
You don’t have to hold an office or a position to be a person of wise counsel and guidance. There is not an election that makes you wise. Only becoming who God created you to be, makes you wise in your leadership.
Love makes the difference
Paul gives a concrete expression of the life of a Jesus follower in the midst of the conflicts of a first-century church. In I Corinthians 13, Paul states that
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Love is an integral part of the context of the conflict. Apart from this context, it is too easy to misunderstand its meaning and purpose. It is too easy to misuse its purpose for sentimentality. Paul wants you to know that love is the way of the Jesus follower. I want you to know that love is the way of a courageous leader.
Love is the Way
Love is not itself a spiritual gift or strength superior to all other gifts or strengths. But it is the way of the Jesus follower. It guides the use and application of all your strengths. It should go without saying, your strengths, without love, amount to nothing. So, with love, you can use your strengths as God created you to use them. Unlike all the other gifts, which are temporary and provisional, love lasts into the dawning of the new day. Love is a gift of a leader.
Love is working for the well-being of the people around you as well as your business, organization, family, or team. Ultimately, your leadership is not about you or how you feel. Your leadership is about developing the potential of the people you lead.
Your Next Steps
So, here is what I want you to do this week:
- If you have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, look at your top 5 strengths. How are you using your strengths in your everyday life? If you are unsure, contact Sara Thomas. She will help understand your strengths so you can become the person and leader you have been created to be. You cannot become who you need to be until you become who God created you to be.
- If you have not taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, then it is time that you did. You can learn your natural talents and maximize your potential. Click here to explore your strengths. Contact Sara if you’d like to get access for a group or team.
- Make time to learn the strengths of the people around you. Help them discover and develop their strengths. Understanding and accepting their strengths helps you to see that each person is needed, that you can trust them to provide what you do not provide, and that you are humble enough to admit that you cannot know or do everything.
- Make a conscious decision that you will lead with love. Discover the awesomeness of the human potential for which God has made you responsible.
By knowing your own strengths and the strengths of the people around you, you will become a courageous leader, who with colleagues, friends, and family, can face the conflicts, deal with the change, and make a meaningful difference in the community in which you live work and play.