Archive for January, 2016

The Absence of Leadership

January 4, 2016

In the 2015 year end issue of Time magazine, they ran an article called “The absence of international leadership will shape a tumultuous 2016.” Here is part of what they said:

“In a world of emergencies, leadership matters – and in 2016 it will become unavoidably obvious that the world lacks leadership. The days when heads of the G-7 industrial powers like the U.S. and Germany controlled geopolitics and the global economy are gone for good. The international group of today is the expanded G-20, which is much larger – including important emerging powers like China and India – yet agrees on much less. The result might be called a G-zero world, a global caucus whose members don’t share political and economic values or priorities. They don’t have a common vision for the future. Many years in the making, a G-zero world is now fully upon us.”

The article goes on to say “Few U.S. officials … are able to make a clear case for the role they think the U.S. can and should play in a new world. Europe can’t help – its leaders are too busy coping with migrants, maneuvering around populist political rivals, working to keep the U.K. in the E.U. and helping Greece find long-term financial footing. China won’t fill the G-zero vacuum – it’s more active on the international stage, but only in pursuit of narrow national interests. Who will take the lead in destroying ISIS, stabilizing the Middle East, containing the flow of dangerous weapons, mitigating climate change and managing international risks to public health? No one. The world’s main wildfires will burn hotter in 2016, because no one believes he can afford the costs and risks that come with putting them out.”

Wow. Those are some strong statements. And yet, to my ears, they accurately describe the world we are living in today. “The absence of leadership. Leadership matters. The world lacks leadership. People agree on much less. We don’t have a common vision for the future. Leaders can’t make a clear case for the role they should play. Who will take the lead? No one. No one believes he can afford the costs and the risks.” Wow.

Regardless of what you think should be done on specific issues, the overarching theme is that we live in a time that is desperate for leaders. We are so desperate, that polls seem to be telling us that American voters are becoming increasingly supportive of presidential candidates who will provide strong and tough leadership, even if they are narcissistic, dangerous, emotionally unhealthy, unreasonable, undiplomatic, careless, and offensive. We are so desperate for leaders that we are now willing to consider electing leaders who could lead us to an even worse place than we are today. But, who cares, as long as they are leading us somewhere, right?

Approximately 2000 years ago, a leader was born into our world to save us from our chaos, our infighting, our selfishness, our short-sightedness, and our tendency to self-destruct. His name was Jesus and he is The Most Interesting Man in the World. He stepped into a leadership vacuum in his own country and showed people a different way to move forward. People wanted to make him a political king, but he walked away from it. Zealots wanted him to start a revolution and overthrow Rome, but he didn’t do it. He did not condemn people, but He told them to go and sin no more. He told people to turn the other cheek, to bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you. He turned the thinking of our world upside down and modeled an alternative way to live. He rejected hatred and revenge. He rejected fear for faith. He brought hope to the hopeless. He reached out to the marginalized and paid attention to those who were ignored. He lived to please God, not other human beings. He did the right thing, even when it wasn’t the popular thing. The religious leaders of his day were not providing healthy, positive leadership, so He did, and it ended up costing Him His life. He stepped into a vacuum and provided the leadership that was needed.

A couple of thousand years later, we still study His teachings and try to walk in His footsteps. We live in a world crying out for leadership. As Jesus’ followers, we have a responsibility to provide leadership in the places where we live, work, and play. Our churches are in need of leadership. Our schools are in need of leadership. Our communities are in need of leadership. Our households are in need of leadership.

Who will step forward? If we keep waiting for someone else to step forward, we may be waiting for a long time. Why don’t we step forward? Why don’t we provide leadership? Isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do? Leaders don’t have to be extroverts. They don’t have to be public speakers. They don’t have to be loud. They don’ have to be rich. Many leaders are quiet, working behind the scenes, doing the day to day functions that need to be happen to get things done.

Leaders pull people together to solve tough problems. Leaders aren’t afraid to talk to people who have different opinions and perspectives. Leaders aren’t afraid to have conversations with people who see the world differently. But, leaders are proactive rather than reactive. Leaders think and dream and plan. Leaders aren’t afraid to experiment and use their imagination. Leaders aren’t afraid to fail if they might learn something in the process. Leaders are both principled and pragmatic at the same time. Leaders work to discover common values and common ground.

Most of us will never become international leaders. But, I believe most of us can be leaders in our households. I believe we can be leaders in our businesses, our churches, and our schools. I believe we can be leaders in our local communities. Jeremiah 29:7 says “Seek the welfare of the community where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.”

Have you considered that God might be calling you to make a difference in your local community? Have you considered that God might be calling your church to make a difference in your local community? Our world is desperate for good leaders. The need for leadership begins in the homes we live in, on the streets where we reside, and in the neighborhoods where we exist. What if the community saw the church exercising leadership that was lacking from other sectors? What if our cities saw our churches as key players in providing leadership on the tough issues of the day? What if our regions saw us as positive, proactive leaders willing to join hands with others for the common good? I think that is the kind of witness people today are hungry for. I think that is the kind of leadership needed in 2016. What if we made a new year’s resolution to provide that kind of leadership? We live in a leadership vacuum. Someone is going to step in and fill that void. If we don’t step in, someone else will. Where does God want you to lead in 2016?