TRA Wordtalks

TRA Ep 10/00
Telecast: Sunday, April 30th, 2000
"How to be a Leader"

I was in Brisbane to launch a new city ministry program of the Uniting Church. My host was the chairperson Mr Geoff Hines.
While driving from the airport, I asked his occupation. "I'm a head-hunter. I find the top executive for some of Australia's largest corporations." I asked, "What qualities are corporations looking for these days in their new chief executive?" He replied, "You ought to know. The first time I heard you speak was to several thousand business leaders and your topic was "Effective Leadership." That what is needed in businesses today - leadership. That is what is needed in our Church in Australia - some effective leadership."

The need is for competent, visionary and inspiring leadership. There is a leadership vacuum. The cry of members as they see our denomination in decline and fragmenting over moral issues, is "Where are our leaders? Why are they silent?" Just ask public commentators, journalists and radio-talk back personalities who are the leaders of The Uniting Church. The answers I got included Archbishop Peter Hollingworth, Rev Tim Costello and Rev Fred Nile. One is an Anglican, the next a Baptist, the third a politician.

Karl Jaspers said "The power of leadership appears to be declining everywhere. More and more of the people we see coming to the top seem to be merely drifting." It is a problem wider than the church. Ted W. Engstrom writes: "Solid, dependable, loyal, strong leadership is one of the most desperate needs in our world today. We see the tragedy of weak men in important places, little men in big jobs. Business, industry, government, labour, education, and the church are all starving for effective leadership. So today, perhaps more than ever before, there is such a need for leadership."

We are not talking about a lack of administrators or managers. We have plenty of people to send out memos, formulate regulations, and attend committees. We need administrators to undertake management studies to improve their skills. We must expect administrators to become good managers. Some could become good leaders. Leaders can be made. Leaders read the signs of the times, look with vision, speak with skill and gather people together to get the job done effectively. Leaders do not wait for things to happen: they make things happen.

For forty years Moses learnt leadership in the desert. Today, Bedouin are Arabic-speaking nomadic peoples of the Middle Eastern deserts. Most are camel, goat and sheep nomads. In Old Testament times they were engaged in pastoral pursuits, caravan trading, and banditry. They were descended from Midian, son of Abraham. Jethro, priest-leader of the Midianites was the father-in-law of Moses. Jethro taught Moses about Yahweh, the lord of the Midianites. Yahweh was revealed as the God of the Hebrews. The Midianites before the Jews practiced circumcision.

"We beheld a string of five camels that belonged to one caravan, and they were tethered everyone to the camel in front of him. But the foremost of the camels had on a halter that was tied to a saddle of donkey. I spoke unto the man of Arabia who had the camels and enquired how he managed them. He said: "Each camel followeth the one in front, and I come after and prod up the last camel." I said: "Doth not the first camel consider there is no other in front of him but only an ass?" He answered, "Nay, for the first camel is blind, and knoweth only that there is a pull at his halter. Every other camel followeth as he is led and I prod up the hindermost one."

I inquired, "How about the donkey?" And he said: "The donkey is too stupid to do anything but keep straight on and hath been often over the road." "Behold, a picture of human life. For there are few men who ask other than how the next in front is going and they blindly follow, each in the track of those who have gone before." And Keturah said; "But how about the leader?" And I said: "That is the profound secret; for often the leader is the only one who stands on a rock and sees where they are going, and the leader is really behind the whole procession." William B Barton

The art of leadership requires a vision of where the people should go, an ability to prod, and the capacity to inspire confidence in the one who travels immediately ahead of the rest. With those qualities a crowd will follow their leader. Many leaders in politics, the defence forces, religion, and community life find that their family life is torn asunder by their tasks. Moses was separated from his family who stayed with Jethro. In a touching moment, v5-9 "Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, together with Moses' sons and wife, came to him in the desert, where he was camped near the mountain of God. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. 8Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them. 9Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians." The old man observed Moses and advised from his years of leading a desert tribe: v13 "The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening." But he was too busy! So Jethro taught Moses to be an effective leader. Note his principles of leadership:

v14-16 "14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" 15 Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws." Jethro asked two questions: "What is this you are doing?" and "Why are you doing this alone?" Leaders ask: "What is this I am doing?" to understand what is happening and whom will benefit. They ask: "Why am I doing this alone" to open up the ego problem. The person who says: "If I want it done, I'll have to do it myself", is a poor leader. Ego and fear sees self as indispensable. A leader knows his or her purpose, and never tries to do it alone. Jesus "set His face steadfastly towards Jerusalem". He knew His purpose: "For this cause I have come into the world." He went to complete man's salvation. Jesus knew His own purpose and commitment.

v17 17 Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good." Moses decided issues like any bureaucrat, pleasing everyone. But leadership is not for the people who want to be liked; it is for people who want to win! Those who try to earn the approval of everybody lose because they are weak. Leaders make tough decisions and win. Jethro made Moses reconsider his leadership: "What you are doing is not good." Leaders try new methods. Jesus came with an astonishing answer for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus redeemed mankind. God sought to save us, but His messengers were rejected and killed. The death of His son, would be the means by which our sins would be forgiven. Leaders make tough decisions to achieve great ends.

Jethro said:v18 "8 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone." Moses recognised his own limitations and involved others. A leader recognizes personal limitations and adds the efforts of others. Leaders recognise personal limitation and delegate responsibility to others. Leaders delegate their strengths to others and work on improving their weaknesses. So Jesus delegated His task of proclaiming the Kingdom, teaching and healing to the disciples and prayed God would strengthen Him in Gethsemane.

Jethro told Moses 19-20 "19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform." Jethro told Moses to restrict himself to leadership tasks, and involve others in doing the rest. Tom Peter's calls this "sticking to your knitting". Church leaders who say their role is to only listen, make the same mistake that Moses made until Jethro taught him that leadership involves speaking out and trusting your own insights.

Jesus is the example of such leadership. He taught with authority insights that have changed the world. He entrusted those insights to His disciples. Jethro told Moses to teach the people God's commands, to tell them how to, and show them what they should do. He recommended his own insights. True leaders know where they are going and communicate their own insights.

Jethro said: 21 "Select capable men from all the people, men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens". Most people fear delegating their work to others. Why? Because their egos are threatened by others. The Apostles demonstrated this leadership principle when they restricted themselves to prayer and the teaching of the Scriptures, allowing others to serve the needs of the community. For followers must feel indispensable. Leaders become vulnerable by delegating responsibility to others, but they make others feel needed.

As the Chinese poet and philosopher Lao Tse said:

"Go to the people, Live among them.
Learn from them. Start with what they know.
Build on what they have:
But of the best of leaders,
When their task is accomplished,
Their work is done, The people all remark
'We have done it ourselves'."

Leaders must choose helpers who are going to develop the skills of leadership according to their varied capacity. Will we ever learn that capable, God fearing, trust-worthy people of integrity should be the only ones given places of responsibility? The lack of character in business, political, religious and academic leaders is a scandal. Ethics and core values are essential. Jesus gave the world the supreme example of selfless service to others, personal integrity and character with high ethical and moral standards. That is why leaders in the Uniting Church must be people who live moral lives of holiness and upright behaviour. No church can be true to the Scriptures and allow immoral behaviour among its members and especially among its leaders.

v22-23 "Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you, the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." Moses appointed 70 to serve with him. That is why our ministry is so strong and why we can stand the strain - we have 70 elders of great commitment and involvement. They serve others and go home satisfied. Neil Armstrong, the first Man to walk on the moon told me: "Leadership is the art of getting average people doing extraordinary work." Leadership shares burdens among people.

That way the leader does not wear out, but stands the strain, the people are served, and our helpers are satisfied. Millions of people have heard the call of Jesus to become His disciples and follow Him. They have gladly taken up tasks of service following His leadership. Christian people together make up a leadership team, knowing where we are going, bearing the burdens together, serving the people and feeling satisfied. Jesus is our leader to God. He pioneered the way of salvation. The leadership principles set out for Moses, were demonstrated by Jesus. Those principles make us better leaders in our personal, business, professional and religious life.

Our nation needs leaders who have high moral standards, who follow the way of Jesus, who serve the needs of people and who feel satisfied. The Uniting Church desperately needs competent, visionary and inspiring leaders. It starts with people making a total commitment to God in Jesus Christ. Will you make that commitment and join with a great group of servant-leaders? Follow Jesus as your leader, Lord and Saviour.

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

Gordon Moyes 2000

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