The Life of a Leader: Analysis and Application
Part 1: Priorities and Balance of Leadership and Calling
Priorities and Balance in the Life of a Leader
After interrogating the lives of some influential spiritual leaders in the history of Christian leadership, I have concluded that effective leadership requires a balance between vocational calling and leadership duties. A leader is often tasked with a myriad of responsibilities. However, being humans, leaders face time and energy constraints too. Furthermore, these responsibilities subsist in every sphere of a leader’s life from their spiritual, emotional to physical and mental.1 Therefore, it is imperative that a leader prioritizes their needs and responsibilities so that they can fulfill the most important ones in a defined order as demonstrated by Bonhoeffer and James MacDonald among others.
The relationship between priorities and balance in the life of a leader is hinged on the importance of the need.2 Leaders often get carried away especially when their leadership seems to become incrementally effective.3 Ambition can easily take over and derail the quest for spiritual nourishment of the followers. If the leader does not have a clear strategy of determining priorities, it becomes easy to lose sight of their objectives in the long run. To have the right priorities, one has to determine the importance of each need and responsibility. Leaders have to differentiate the urgent and important ones. The ones that are important and urgent should be given preference.4 However, in the event that there is conflicting interest between urgency and importance, just like in Bonhoeffer’s case, importance should always take precedence.5 As such, it is vital for a leader to strike the right work-life balance. A leader should not make work excessively important and forsake his relationships especially with own family. For one to effectively lead others in a spiritual sense, one must be able to lead his home first.
After reading the texts on the lives of Christian leaders I felt empowered to draw my own priorities. God ranks first. God has instructed believers to seek first His Kingdom and that all the other things shall be added unto us.6 Next, comes own self. If I cannot attend to my own spiritual needs then I will be ill-equipped to fulfill those of another person. After own self the family follows, then church, work and everything else can jostle for attention thereafter. Probably they will change any time soon. A balance should be struck between physical, mental, ethical, emotional and spiritual life. If any is neglected the leader may not be able to lead optimally. Factoring in physical needs helps a leader to stay energized so that they can effectively attend to other needs. In as much as the spiritual leader is engaged in spiritual responsibilities, they must also remain ethically consistent so as not to lose touch with core convictions and integrity.
Vocational Calling and Family Leadership
A calling is experienced in a myriad of ways. Some are overt while others are covert and subtle. Overt calling include those where there is a direct, unmistakable command from God to perform a certain task or dedicate oneself to a specific duty.7 Examples here include the calling of Noah, Moses and Aaron, Samuel, Jeremiah and Amos among others. If one experiences this form of calling then they should leave all they do and focus on their vocational calling. On the other hand, the covert form of calling is experienced through the conviction of God’s guidance to perform a particular task. The guidance is experienced through Bible study, prayers and self-reflection. This type of vocational calling is common and should be balanced against one’s duties to family.
After interrogating the lives of various Christian leaders I have concluded that in as much as God should be given the priority over all the other things, church and vocational duties should not override one’s duty to own family. A good leader should ensure that he leads his own family in pursuing righteousness. It would be a tragedy if one focuses on the spiritual nourishment of the larger church and neglect that of those closest to him, those he is personally responsible for.8 Today’s vocational calling does not have to remove one from the world they live in. There are many church leaders who demonstrate propensity for ministry service at the expense of their families.9 It is a myopic way of describing service to God. It still boils down to the issue of priority and balance. God should be the top most priority; church and its activities should not. Setting aside time to lead own family does not mean that one does not care about the church.10 In fact, it is one of the things that delight God if it is undertaken for the purposes of seeking righteousness. In the course of serving own family, a leader also serves God.
Crucially, the Holy Spirit should determine the balance between family leadership and vocational calling. Proverbs 13: 22 states, “The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children.” This means that a good spiritual leader should focus on the spiritual nourishment of own family and pass the same unto posterity. If one neglects family leadership then he is similar to the woman described in Proverbs who destroys her own house with her own hands.11 In fact, 1Timothy 5:8 warns that, “Whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Therefore, in as much as one would like to pursue vocational calling, it is imperative that one serves own family first. After all, it is also service to God, who is the top most priority.
Part 2: SWOT Analysis
After analyzing the lessons learnt from other leaders, it is only logical that I apply these lessons to become a better leader. The application part (SWOT analysis and leadership plan) will focus on the ministry/vocation aspect of my life as a leader.
One of my major strengths is that I possess extensive leadership skills. I have grown my leadership skill set over a long period of time. I have been a spiritual leader since I was in high school and through college. Along the way, I have influenced many of my close friends to know Christ and pursue holiness as God wills. The unique experiences acquired and perspectives embraced as a result of sharing God’s word with others have provided meaningful insights and gusto with which I serve in my vocational calling as an evangelist. Another of my strengths is that I possess some spiritual gifts. I have faith in God in whatever I am doing and His wisdom is manifest in all my undertakings. The faith enables me to overcome challenges and sustain my quest for righteousness.
Moreover, my personality style is in sync with my vocational calling demands. For instance, I am humble, compassionate and understanding. These attributes have been vital in the works of my ministry. For instance, they have helped me to avoid being judgmental and have other people’s interest at heart. These attributes have also enabled me to dedicate myself to my vocational calling without much conflicting interest especially those arising from secular needs. Another key strength is that I am always open to God. He is my top-most priority, hence I always set aside time to spend with God and build a stronger relationship with Him. The stronger the relationship with God, the better a spiritual leader one can become.12
I observed that I also have several weaknesses that have derailed my efforts to become a better spiritual leader. The first is that circumstances that require a lot of patience often bring out the worst in me. I like to make plans that are executed flawlessly to the letter. I can lose my patience and get worked up easily if things are not going according to plan. Another of my weaknesses is that I work too hard. Sometimes I lose sight of other things that are important in my life, such as my closest friends and family, immersing myself into vocational work. Sometimes I do not get my priorities right. However, now I have determined my priorities and made them clear; they are God, self, family, church, work and then everything else, in that order. I hope I will observe them. The priorities bring me to another of my key weaknesses; keeping my resolutions. I have low expectations about accomplishing most of the resolutions I make especially at the start of the year.
Consequently, it has been challenging guarding my spiritual legacy as a leader. The last major weakness is that I tend not to attach a lot of importance to or work at peak efficiency in vocational work that involves representing the church in secular settings.
There are a host of opportunities available for me to develop my leadership skills and experience spiritual formation. The greatest opportunity is that I have safe, authentic, grace-filled relationships with fellow leaders that will enable me to grow in the Lord. These close friends, who have no other agenda other than to ensure my wellbeing, are essential in keeping me in check through addressing my weakness and vulnerabilities with utmost honesty. Another great opportunity is that the local church in which I head the evangelism ministry has a lot of conferences, classes, seminars and coaching opportunities lined up for the next calendar year. Attending and teaching in these forums should help me to further grow spiritually and my knowledge of God’s word. These are opportunities to optimize my strengths and limit my weaknesses.
Another opportunity is the monthly door to door evangelism that we undertake. It is a perfect opportunity to teach others about God and His will for them. There are also intergenerational mentoring and fellowship programs in place that allow us to visit colleges and high schools to share God’s word and mentor the younger generation through motivational talks. An additional opportunity exists in the form of the changing religious landscape in the locality. More and more people are gradually levitating towards God. The religious forums increasingly attract more participants. It is an opportunity to lead all those who show an interest in knowing God to appreciate God’s desires for them. It is an opportunity for spiritual awakening.13
The major threat to my spiritual formation and leadership development is my unattended character flaws. I need to address them lest they hold me back; preventing me from becoming the leader God intends me to be. Another major threat is continual financial constraints. The ministry often has inadequate financial resources to minister effectively. The church has been supporting the ministry but at times the financial assistance has not been enough to sustain the operations even for the foreseeable future. However, I trust that God will provide. An additional threat exists in the form of inadequate capacity. Many people are getting saved. As the number exponentially increases it puts a strain on the leaders who are supposed to grow and nurture them in their salvation.14 Apart from resulting in a burn out for the spiritual leader, the strain can also cause new converts to backslide due to insufficient attention and guidance from their supposed mentors. The last threat is that of late there has been a worrying, and growing, trend where believers are becoming dependent on the spiritual leaders instead of God. The opposite should definitely be the case.
Part 3: Leadership Plan
In order to effectively address my weaknesses, build on my strengths, take advantage of the opportunities and hedge against the adverse effects of threats, I have come up with a detailed plan that will enable me to also mature in my leadership roles. I intend to revise the plan on a yearly basis or as needed.
The first undertaking is to facilitate spiritual formation. I intend to achieve this through employing a gamut of spiritual disciplines. While I already employ most of them, the attention will be in consistency and growth. The spiritual disciplines under consideration are prayers, fasting, offering service to the needy, scripture reading, self-reflection and meditation, fellowship with family and other believers and observing the Sabbath. I will be praying, reflecting on self, meditating and reading the Bible on a daily basis. I will also be volunteering for a worthy cause that promotes the welfare of the needy and observing the Sabbath day on a weekly basis. I will fellowship with my family at least twice a week and fast as and when the need to arises. Practicing these spiritual disciplines should enhance my spiritual growth and help me to become a better spiritual leader.
To corroborate the spiritual formation, I will read at least four books on Christian leadership in the coming year to grow my knowledge and practice. I have identified Good to Great by Jim Collins as an invaluable source. It will enable me to identify the two oddly fitting characteristics that an exemplary leader should have; humility and tenacity. I have also identified Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership: Practicing the wisdom of leading by serving by James Sipe and Don Frick as a crucial source in perfecting the art of servant leadership. I will complement these with Servant Leadership: The heart that serves by Holly Spence and John C. Maxwell’s Becoming a Person of Influence. These sources will not only empower me to serve others as Jesus did but also help me replicate myself in others. The implication is that I will not only be able to lead by example but will also avoid burn out through developing leaders around myself and delegating some of my responsibilities.
To limit my weaknesses, I plan to delegate some of my responsibilities so as to free more time for my close friends and family members. I used to immerse myself in vocational responsibilities so much that I felt I was drifting apart from the people around me. I have realize that only God, and may be self, should take priority over family, but not vocational work or church assignments. I also plan to develop and observe my resolutions with the help of the Holy Spirit, just like Bonhoeffer did.15 I plan to keep Godly friends only as my closest circle. Just like MacDonald, I will develop my own version of “moral fences”, the first being to keep a respectable distance between myself and the opposite sex so that I do not get tempted into sexual immorality.
I plan to take advantage of the opportunities by intensifying the rates of holding the religious conferences, seminars, classes and crusades so as to realize spiritual awakening in my locality. From the close group of friends I keep, I will choose one to mentor so as to share in the workload of the ministry. I also plan to take advantage of a church program that sponsors church members to pursue higher education to enroll for my masters in theology. Lastly, to hedge against the threats, I will attend monthly seminars and counseling to address my character flaws such as being impatient and rigid. Avoiding bad company will also be vital in maintain good morals.16 I will also expand the evangelistic team to make sure we operate at optimal capacity and that we do not lose new converts because our hands are full with other activities. I will, also, actively seek for partnerships and funding from non-profit Christian organizations interested in spreading the word of God so as to bankroll the ministry’s activities.