By Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock –
Growing up in the ’50s, I was always fascinated by the sci fi stories of that era. Invading aliens invariably would exclaim, “Take me to your leader!” The extraterrestrials were interested in communicating with those in leadership.
Truth is often stronger than fiction. Most of us want communication with our leaders. One of the things we want to know is: Where are we being led? It’s a good question. Pick the wrong leader and you could find yourself ending up somewhere you had not intended to be.
For example, think about Herff Applewhite, leader of Heaven’s Gate, who recently led a flock of New Age dreamers to their deaths. Some have called him a “master manipulator” who asked countless individuals to “leave all behind” and “come follow me.” His cult members saw him as “….the One, a modern-day Christ,” and 39 committed suicide to follow him to the “next level.”
Today, in government, business, and even the church, we seem to be experiencing a crisis in leadership. The British are disappointed in Majors, the Russians are angry with Yeltsin, the Germans re-elected Kohl by the narrowest margin ever, Japanese polls show little support for their Prime Minister, and the Mexicans are hopping mad at their President. Leighton Ford says of church leaders, “That generation of post-World War II leaders, which emerged on the national and international scene with tremendous vision and energy, has now largely moved offstage. Interestingly, I do not see many visionary leaders in their late 40s and 50s taking their places. Those in that age range tend to be managers of their elders’ visions and the organizations they built. But I do see God raising up a new band of leaders among men and women who are under 40.” Hallelujah for that assurance!
In a world that cries out for leadership, few of us have any idea what real leadership is. What is leadership? How do we identify real leaders? What is it we expect of our leaders? Good for you if you have thought through and found answers to these questions. I know I am endlessly working on my own definitions. The most recent book I’ve found helpful in this regard is Transformational Leadership – A New Model for Total Church Involvement by Phillip V. Lewis. Lewis and Leighton Ford agree, leaders have vision.
While it’s true great leaders envision the future and imagine possibilities, there are some specific ingredients of a Christian visionary. Lewis says there are four: (1) A positive appraisal of reality (2) Specific and attainable objectives (3) Worthwhile and possible movement forward and (4) Faithful application of the gospel.
For me, the foregoing ingredients are essential in some important ways. It’s necessary to have leaders who are neither defeated by failure nor overjoyed with victory. They have perspective. They are positive but realistic as well. We can trust their appraisals as not over-enthusiastic hype or overly critical opinions. They set goals high enough to make us stretch but not so high we never clear the bar. We sense that what they are asking is possible to achieve and worth our investment of time, resources, and energy. Most importantly, we sense scriptural concepts are understood and applied in practical and appropriate ways that relate to current issues and situations faithfully and consistently.
I hope we will all do some thinking and praying about leaders and leadership. One journalist who was led astray by a cult’s absurdity made my point in these words, “If you’re stupid enough to surrender your God-given independence of thought to a guru, don’t pick one who is about to book passage on a dirty snowball in the sky.”
Examine where your chosen leader is taking you. Or, if you aspire to leadership, be a Christian visionary and apply the aforementioned four ingredients. Our Army is always in need of leaders who establish realistic priorities, leaders who are people-centered and God-focused. Such leaders do not lead us astray.