I've Been Thinking...

I’VE BEEN THINKING........ about leadership. For some reason, even as a small child, I’ve always thought I was to become a leader of some kind. However, a problem for me was my physical size. I was the smallest in my class, and my personality was relatively non-aggressive. In American society leadership is almost always associated with power and size, two things I didn’t have while I was growing up.

In the forth grade, I remember who the leaders were very well. They were all strong, athletic, beautiful, and/or domineering kids. I remember one guy, Scott , and his popular older sister Vicky, fit the mold. Scott could really play baseball, and so it did not matter that he was selfish and self - centered most the time, even the teachers recognized him as the leader. His sister was beautiful. They were a natural pair.

I changed schools in 5th-6th grade, but again the leaders were tall, or very strong and athletic, and on the girl’s side, beautiful and outgoing. Jr. High was the same. High School was no exception, other than one unusual experience which I had on the very first day of school, which had a long term effect on my life.

The very first morning of High School, all the kids were nervous, and we were sitting in the stadium for the introduction speeches. One kid was picked from the audience to be used for a practical joke. That kid happened to be me. Some of the senior kids had made an elephant costume, and dressed up as a trained elephant name Opel. I was asked to lay down on the ground with a towel covering my face so I could not see. Opel walked forward and backward, trying not to step on me. On the last time by, she lifted one leg like a dog and out came a bucket of water, as if she had just gone to the toilet. I was drenched, and not sure if the laughter was for me or against me. I just went back to my seat and pretended to laugh, too.

Normally this would have been a nightmare for a teenager, except that two popular kids gave me their approval. We all had come from different schools and were wondering who the “top dogs” would be. These two decided that since I had been picked to be up front, I must be someone popular from my last school. As a result, one boy, Gary, wanted to be my friend. He went on to become one of the most popular kids in our class. He was a leader, but he had chosen me to be his best friend.

Now I was not a leader in any way, but I continued to be Gary’s best friend. I found that Gary listened to my ideas, sometimes for causing trouble, sometimes to do good. I was the thinker, he was the organizer. Other kids listened to Gary. For the first time I found a new formula for leadership that was neither by physical strength, beautiful, or popularity, but rather by influence.

I have discovered there are leaders, who change the world by influence. It is possible to influence others through our ideas. Charles Darwin and Karl Marx are both examples of men who have changed the world though the influence of ideas rather than strength or popularity, though I don’t personally care for either of their opinions.

Yet there is another form of leadership, that I believe is even better than either physical strength, beauty, popularity, intelligence, or influence. This is the leader who leads by being a good example. Leaders by example are extremely rare and the most valuable type of leader in the world we live in today. Too many people are now leading with power and influence using beauty or strength, only to be a bad example in their personal lives. This leads our nation downward rather than up.

In the world of politics, education, media, entertainment, business, and unfortunately even in the church it is not uncommon for people to use physical strength, beauty, popularity, financial influence, or superior knowledge to move things around in their worlds. They are the “movers and shakers”. These things in themselves are not bad. Unfortunately, all humans are wholly selfish by nature, and it is next to impossible to use physical strength and beauty, financial power, or intelligence for the good of others without taking the biggest share of the pie for ourselves. This self-centered style of leadership is so common that we expect it in our politicians, actors, athletes, educators, business leaders and even church leaders.

I think God hates this form of leadership. It is a slander to His personal example and character. It not only misrepresents Him, it steals away the hearts of mankind to serve wealth, fame, power, beauty and intelligence. What do we seek on a daily basis through our work efforts, conversations, and lifestyles? I’ll be honest, I’d like to be popular. I’d like to have an extra million in the bank, the abilities of a pro-athlete and a star musician, and the superior intelligence and education of say ... a nuclear physicist. But if I did, do you think I’d still daily stop to honor and reverence God? Or ask for His wisdom and guidance and help? Or to discipline my heart to fear the awesomeness of God while believing in His abundant mercy and goodness?

No, I wouldn’t. Would you? Yet, God has opened up the door of leadership, especially leadership by example and service to others for each and every person on the face of this earth. No one’s disqualified by birth, race, intelligence, looks, or skill level. We are only disqualified by our own choices. It’s painful to make right choices in everyday life when no one is watching anyway. Yet for anyone who’s willing to trust God, there’s nothing or no one who can stop us from gaining our area of influence and leadership by being a good example in some area. Just a Gary befriended me after the Opel the elephant incident, and I influenced others though him, now even more when Christ befriends us, we will influence others through Christ and Christ’s example living in us!

I think I want this leadership more than anything in the world. It was completely unavailable to me by my own power and strengths. But though Jesus I can walk with princes and I talk with kings. And according to the Book, the future is out of this world.

I can’t think of a better way to live.

© 2002, Warren Okerman