The Only Leadership Principle You Need

Thought leader. Business leader.

Leadership principles.

Leader, leader, leader.

Leaders—we’re eaten up with them, maybe even obsessed.

This morning I sat in the local coffee shop and spoke with a fella I know to be good-and-decent. He’s smart, competent, a hard worker. He’s a man of faith, too, and as we talked about life, church, and business, he shared his workday struggle.

Why was integrating vocation and faith so difficult?

How could you chase a buck and stay true to the message of scripture (a message to which he gave intellectual assent)?

How could you sell twelve hours to The Company and feel good about the scraps of time you reserved for the girls, the wife?

What about time for prayer, for spiritual connection when you’re always chasing the rent, the mortgage, the next client payment, the next development opportunity, your own tail, whatever?

These were honest questions, questions that The Company, The Men’s Group, The Christian Business Gurus shirked. “These are the wrong questions,” they said (and say ad nauseum). “Instead, ask yourself this: What are you doing to be a more effective workplace leader?”

They were answering questions that were unasked (as tends to be their way).

Be more of a leader. Lead by example. Set the goals. Set the course. Stay the course. Ask others to follow you on the course. Achieve, achieve, achieve.

“Aside from it being unhelpful in answering any of my questions,” my friend said. “What does any of it mean? I’ve pondered my friend's quandary, and here’s what I think. Leadership principles are easier to teach than principles of integrating faith, career, and family. But becoming a better leader in the workplace cannot help him (or you or me or any of us) solve our disintegrated compartmentalization. Perhaps increasing your leadership capacity can help you feel important, maybe even indispensable. It's a good ego drug, one that helps numb the conscious when burning the midnight oil. Being a leader can help you earn an extra buck, can pad the retirement account or help you buy the extra toy for your daughter, your wife, yourself. Leadership (as defined by the current business milieu (even the current Christian business milieu)) is good for some things, but it cannot teach you the way of Christ, unless, of course, leadership is redefined as this:

[tweetherder text="Leadership is asking others to follow you on a mad mission of certain death for the sake of others."]Asking others to follow you on a mad mission of certain death for the sake of others.[/tweetherder]

This, I think, is the Key Leadership Principle, the model embodied by Christ himself. This, I think, is the only leadership principle the person of faith needs.

Don’t get me wrong, we need good leaders. Some are born leaders; others are made. But as painful as this may be to read, know this: not everyone can be a leader. (Those peddling these models are selling snake oil; trust me.) Here's where the life is: everyone can die for the sake of another.

This week, I’d like to kill the leadership model of vocation. It’s overdone, outmoded. In its place, I’d like to build a model that keeps us connected to the larger purpose. What is that purpose?

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If this was our filter, would it help us better integrate our faith into all aspects of our lives, vocation and family included?


I thought I'd written my last piece on vocation a week ago. Alas, sometimes fortune, fate, or the Spirit comes calling. Feel free to invite others along as we continue this exploration.  I know I'm not alone in my questions on this topic, and I'd love to hear how you and your people are processing your own questions.


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