The Mark of a Great Leader

Michael Beck

“As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.” (1 Corinthians 16:12)

There was that which Paul wanted, even “greatly desired,” but he respected the right of another to decide differently.

The Apostle Paul is a wonderful witness of both the boldness and the gentleness of Christ. “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you” (2 Cor. 10:1) Paul had an acute awareness of when he was acting and speaking in the authority of his Master, and when he was speaking on his own behalf. He was careful not to abuse his authority in Christ. He did not confuse his own strong desires and preferences with the will of God. When he knew God’s will, he communicated it; but he did not impose his own will on those around him.

According to Jesus, great leadership begins with servitude. “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11) Those under us are never to be our pawns, whom we manipulate to do our wishes. We are not to have “dominion” over the faith of others. (2 Cor. 1:24) Honoring all men means respecting their ability to think and choose differently than we would.

Those who rule others well always remember that they are also under God’s authority. They will answer to Him for their stewardship. David, God’s anointed ruler, had these last words to give to those who came after him: “… He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” (2 Sam. 23:3) What made David a great shepherd? “… Thy gentleness hath made me great.” (Psalm 18:35) God promoted David because He saw the way the shepherd boy treated his flock.

“He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” (Psalm 78:70-72)

Gentleness doesn’t push people beyond where they are. It lets them “catch up” if they have to. Gentleness doesn’t force people into a mold we have for them. It may beseech and implore, but it understands others have their own mind and will and must be allowed to move at their own pace, however slow or inconvenient that may be to us. Gentleness has no whip.

In the end, it is the gentle leader who finds favor with God and man. Those who show respect gain respect. Paul could have commanded Apollos. He could have commanded Philemon. Yet, he says: “But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.” (Philemon 1:14) I doubt Paul lost the respect of these men by the gentleness and respect he showed them.

May we learn how to be a great leader by looking at the example of those who ruled with integrity and skill before us. Our great desires are temporary and soon forgotten; our great example will always be remembered.

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.