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Foundation for Leadership

I wanted to share a paper I wrote tonight for a class.  We were to write about 5-7 things that serve as our foundation for leadership and expound on how these core items serve to increase our influence with peers and subordinates.  Some background info:  we have been studying the life of Gandhi as one example of exemplary leadership, which is why he is mentioned in this paper.

My Foundation for Leadership
1.      My faith in Jesus Christ.
2.      My belief that all men and women are created in the image of God.
3.      My desire to learn from others and to always be growing.
4.      My understanding that despite who I may be leading, I am always following God.  My purpose in this life is to seek to advance the Kingdom of God.
5.      My pursuit to embody love and courage.
6.      My transparency and determination to “be the change [I] want to see in the world”. (Gandhi)  I will model all that I require of those who follow me.
7.      My passion to serve others.
Explanation
1.      My faith in Jesus Christ.
a.       At the center of everything I do and everything that I aspire to be is Jesus.  There is truth that never changes, and there is One who is the only Way.  In this society where relativism reigns and individualism is valued, I will follow a higher standard.  I believe that it is possible to be open-minded while being firmly-grounded.
2.      My belief that all men and women are created in the image of God.
a.       Every person that I encounter both casually and professionally reflects an aspect of God, whether he or she believes in Him or not.  Every human was fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator, and because of that I never have a right to treat anyone as less than a child of God.  I will not tolerate it in myself nor will I allow it from those in my sphere of influence.
b.      In the area of the commercial sex trade, it is important for me to remember this not only for the victims involved, but also for the abusers.  It is easy to hate the men and women who operate the supply and demand for the industry.  It is hard to imagine the image of God being anywhere in the lives of those who participate in such evil.  However, if I am to love the world as Christ did and if I am to seek to see everyone through His eyes, then I cannot deny how His heart breaks for all humanity and the various paths that it has chosen away from Him.  As I lead in these dangerous waters, I pray that God would keep my heart tender and humble to His unrelenting pursuit of every heart.
3.      My desire to learn from others and to always be growing.
a.       I believe that the Holy Spirit is actively involved in every aspect of life and in every place in the world.  In every religion that has been discovered, whether deep in the jungle or in the middle of a popular city, there is an element of truth and a foundation of spiritual understanding.  This gives me comfort, even in the face of violent opposition to Christ, that we are not the only force at work in drawing others to God.  We serve as witnesses to His cause.  Some of the most profound and Biblical truths I have learned from those who do not follow Him.
b.      There is something to be learned from everyone.  Everyone has a story, and everyone has a journey with God, whether they are aware of it or not.  This does not necessarily mean that they know the salvation of God, but He has been pursing their hearts since the beginning of their lives.  My responsibility as a leader and eventually as an aftercare provider is to tap into the work that God has already been doing in their hearts.  Only He can heal brokenness.  I will never be an expert on the ways that He works in peoples’ lives, but I can offer my life as a means for God to love and renew others.  Every person that I serve teaches me more about Christ than I knew before.  I want to always be growing.
4.      My understanding that despite who I may be leading, I am following God.  My purpose in this life is to seek to advance the Kingdom of God.
a.       It is true that one cannot lead without knowing how to be led.  Learning how to follow God is a lifelong process, and one that we are on together.  Because of this, my leadership can never take on an “us and them” mentality.  I may be the organizer, decision-maker, and spokesperson for a cause.  I may be the face that others attribute to a group of people or an organization.  However, I never simply lead; I also follow. 
b.      I do not stand alone; I am a part of something much bigger than myself.  I am called to join the hundreds of thousands of others throughout history and the world today that are seeking to advance the Kingdom of God.  On the day I decided to follow God, I surrendered my rights, my ambitions, and my desires.  My life is no longer mine, nor is anything about me.  It is all about Him and His Kingdom.
5.      My pursuit to embody love and courage.
a.       Everyday life takes a lot more courage than they told me in third grade Sunday School.  Living a passionate life centered around Someone that the world either does not understand or is hostile to takes even more courage.  Loving my enemies and praying for those who persecute me is a command of Jesus.  As a leader, I will never have the support of everyone around me, and for someone who longs to please everyone, this is a challenging truth to swallow.  Often times (and I would say especially when I am doing things the right way), there will be constant criticism and people that are not open to the methods that I exhibit.  I will choose to embrace courage and love as inseparable in my response toward those who oppose me, and I will handle the natural struggles of life that way as well.  As a leader, my life will be watched closely by those around me.  I pray that even in the most difficult of times, God would give me sufficient strength to choose courage and love.
6.      My transparency and determination to “be the change [I] want to see in the world”. (Gandhi)  I will model all that I require of those who follow me.
a.       So many people spend their lives complaining that the world is not as it should be.  Other people, like Gandhi simply live the way they think that it should be.  It is not difficult to pinpoint who has had the greater influence in history.  The complainer is ordinary.  In fact, there are so many of them that it really is not worth naming one of them.  However, when we encounter or read about someone who lives out their values first before they preach them, we have a deep admiration for that individual, even when we don’t necessarily agree with everything they stand for.  That person can challenge the status quo without even saying a word.  St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel to all the world, and if necessary, use words.”  This is part of my foundation for leadership, because “modeling the way” is the most effective way to lead.  One could argue there is no true and lasting leadership unless the leader embodies all that he/she asks of followers.  I desire to live a transparent life in order that those who know me well and those who hardly know me will both see the same person.  In everything, I desire that my character will be genuine.
7.      My passion to serve others.
a.       The term “servant leadership” has perhaps been overused, but the premise behind the phrase is timeless.  No matter what road that God will lead me down, I pray that I will have a servant’s heart toward those I am leading as well as those I am reaching out to help.  Because I have surrendered my rights to Christ, I cannot live my life with entitlement or spend time wallowing that I have been robbed of the things I wanted.  If I truly believe in my core values that God will provide everything that I need, then I must trust Him to take away the things I thought I needed in exchange for His grace.  It is those moments in humility before Him that my leadership can take on its purest form.  Matthew 20:25-26 says, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads.  It’s not going to be that way with you.  Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  That is what the Son of Man has done:  He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”  May it be that my life is a perfect reflection of that scripture.
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