The Wise and Unwise Leader
By David Brandt Berg, adapted
A good executive is not a boss—he is a servant! Jesus wasn’t just trying to teach His disciples humility when He said, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26) A good executive simply is not a dictator. He listens to his employees. When the top people don’t communicate with those under them, then of course they don’t understand them or their problems. When that happens, they’re headed for trouble!
Leaders at any level should listen to those they lead. Leaders are responsible to make the final decision, but being a leader does not mean that you have all the ideas and do all the thinking and all the consulting just within yourself. A good executive will listen to others.
When it comes to plans, goals, motivation, and other overall aspects of the work, the leaders are supposed to be skilled or they shouldn’t be the leaders. But when it comes to practical matters, leaders ought to listen to others who may know more about it than they do. A good leader will listen to his workers’ suggestions, discuss, agree with them on a course of action, and then leave them alone to carry out the work, just monitoring the progress. The executive’s job is really mostly to keep things moving, while others recommend, initiate, and by all means carry out the various actions.
Nearly every CEO or president is surrounded by counselors that advise him on what to do. Did you know that even God works that way? He calls in His chief counselors and angels and asks them, “What do you think we should do about this?” He listens to their suggestions and then has the wisdom to know who is right. (See 1 Kings 22:19–22; Job 1:6–12) And God not only listens to His heavenly counselors and angels, but don’t forget, He even listens to us when we pray.
If God Himself won’t do all the thinking for us, then who are we to try to make all the decisions, do all the thinking, give all the instructions, and carry them all out besides? A leader just can’t operate alone!
Only a novice, only a brand-new, not-yet-dry-behind-the-ears junior executive tries to run everything and tell everybody what to do. Any smart executive is going to pump people power. He is not going to try to be the pump, or the pump handle, or the water, or the bucket. Instead, he’s going to be the guiding hand that takes hold of the handle and pumps to create a lively discussion so he and all concerned can benefit from others’ ideas and experience.
A wise leader will try to keep others happy, because people do a better job when they are happy and doing work they like to do and want to do. If you’re going to have an effective team, the members need to work together, listen to each other, counsel together, decide together, and then follow through together.
As in the human body, you can’t say that you have no need of even one little member. You need every fingernail, every cell, as well as every organ and every limb. (See 1 Corinthians 12:14–17) Everybody is important, from the most insignificant to the seemingly most important. Everyone has their job, everyone is needed, and all must work together in harmony and cooperation.
Talk together, discuss together, counsel together, agree together, decide together, do together, care together, grow together, work together, and enjoy the fruits of your labors together. Then you’ll be a wise leader and a good executive.
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The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.
—John Stott (1921–2011)
Jesus said several times, “Come, follow me.” His was a program of “do what I do,” rather than “do what I say.” His innate brilliance would have permitted him to put on a dazzling display, but that would have left his followers far behind. He walked and worked with those he was to serve.
—Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985)
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