Thursday, January 5, 2017
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The precision of America's weapons during recent military engagements has been pretty amazing. But even in these days of high-tech efficiency, there are still casualties and fatalities from what's called "friendly fire". In the war on terrorism, one of our most accurate bombs went astray and killed some of our own military. Several days after that tragedy, four of the men injured by that bomb – men who lost some of their comrades – were interviewed. I was struck especially by the comments of their commanding officer. Basically, here's what he said. "I will have my time to cry and grieve for what we've lost, but not now. I have men to lead and I have a war to win. My feelings will have to wait."
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Price of Leadership."
For me, that soldier's commitment to putting his responsibility above his feelings was a powerful example of the price of leadership. And most of us are a leader to somebody – our family, people at work, people at church, or people we influence. There's positional leadership which means people follow you because of the title you have. Then there's personal leadership, which means people follow you because of the kind of person you are – with or without the title.
There's a really strong model of this kind of mission-focused leadership in our word for today from the Word of God. In the chapters leading up to Joshua 8, we read about the Jewish conquest of Jericho – and then their stunning defeat at the much smaller city of Ai, all because of sin in their midst. In chapter 8, they have cleaned out that sin and they are following God's orders to now take the city of Ai. Notice how General Joshua leads his troops: verse 18 says, "Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.' So Joshua held out his javelin toward Ai."
Later we read, "Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin" until the victory over Ai was complete. The leader's job here was clear – keep pointing people toward the goal, never moving, never looking back, never giving up. That's always the leader's job – no matter how he's feeling. The mission: the battle can never be at the mercy of the leader's emotional ups and downs.
Now this doesn't mean that you deny your feelings or you stuff your feelings. That's dishonest and it's damaging. You have your feelings, but you don't let your feelings have you. Yes, leaders feel discouraged, frustrated, angry, hurt, exhausted, even like giving up sometimes. But they don't let that spill onto the people who are looking to them! You have no right to encumber your troops with what's bothering you. They don't need any more battles. You can't say whatever you feel like saying. You need to weigh your words because they affect people far more than you realize. You have to remain steady under fire or the people around you are going to start to retreat. You cannot lead if you're carrying your baggage into the battle with you.
You take your deep feelings to your Lord, not your troops. David had it right. In Psalm 142 he says, "I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble." By the way, don't forget that the leaders in your life who appear so strong really need your encouragement, your prayer, your love, and your affirmation. When you seem strong, people tend to forget that you need what everyone else needs. We can see those needs in the people who are weak. We tend to think the strong are doing just fine. You know what? They're just like the rest of us.
So with whatever leadership role God has entrusted to you, keep pointing people toward the goal, no matter how you're feeling. They're watching you to decide how they should be. The mission cannot be at the mercy of your moods.
Yes, a leader has his feelings, but he doesn't let his feelings have him.