Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ReTool Leadership Part 7 - Transparent Leaders

I walked into the workout room in the hotel I was staying at and found one of the two treadmills available.  I jumped on it and began to jog at a slow pace while watching the news on the TV.  There was a man on the other treadmill who greeted me and identified himself as one of the attendees at the conference I was speaking at.  As we were running, he began a conversation with me about part of my topic from the previous evening.

I had felt sort of flat at the end of the talk that he was referring to so I was very interested in what he had to say.  He began by telling me that he had wanted to come and speak to me after the session ended, but there were too many people milling around where I was and that his comments wouldn’t really be that important anyway.  He said he knew God wanted us to talk once he saw me enter the workout room.  He began with moist eyes and tears were quick to follow.  There was no one else in the workout room and we remained alone until our conversation was finished.

This man was a pastor who was caught in isolation.  He knew something was wrong but couldn’t find his way out.  He had been in isolation for along time.  He was craving to be honest with someone in the church he is part of and to be cared for in his pain...but he found himself alone.  The night before, I had shared some thoughts about leadership and the need for true transparency in our leaders.  Allow me to give you the highlights of what I said.  

As we migrate away from the top down leadership model that has been copied from the world, we must also become real and transparent with people.  A hierarchical model allows for perceived perfection and the elevation of leaders to heights not desired by Jesus.  We must remember that Jesus has called His leaders to be servants and slaves of those He has charged to shepherd.  When leaders choose to step down from the pedestal they have been put upon, the perceived perfection is taken away.  As people begin to see leaders as real people with imperfections, there may be a gasp at first, but the gasps quickly become sighs of relief. 

Leadership is a gift from God and distributed to people as the Holy Spirit directs (1 Cor. 12:7).  People do need leaders in their lives.  According to Jesus, people need leaders to be ‘among‘ (Matt. 20:20-28 & 1 Pet. 5:1-5) people not ‘over’ people.  Leaders are to be servants of people, not expect people to serve their vision and plans.  Many leaders like describing themselves as servants, but they don‘t like being treated like servants.

The best leaders equip, empower and encourage people to employ their abilities given to them by God, not elevate their own gifts to a level above others.  All people need to be influenced to move in the direction of Jesus and this, in my opinion, is what leadership is designed to accomplish.  For this to deeply happen, leaders must lose the aura that they are better or that they sin less or that they are somehow more endowed by God with power or abilities.  We must take off our masks of perceived perfection or greater importance and we must become transparent with people.  This is vital if we are going to see the priests in our churches released in our communities to realize a rapid kingdom expansion.

Paul had to fight this ‘rock star’ elevation in his own life.  He often had to quell others wanting to elevate him to unhealthy levels.  We see him stop the crowds in Acts 14:8-15  from beginning to worship him for performing miracles.  We find Paul teaching the Corinthians to not follow any person (Apollos or Paul) but to focus only on Christ as the foundation of the church (1 Cor. 3:4-9).  In 1 Timothy 1:15, we find Paul being transparent calling himself the chief of sinners and then there is the Romans 7:14-21 passage where Paul confesses that he continues to do the things that he knows shouldn’t do.

Another strong portion of Scripture that has to do with being honest and transparent is found in 2 Corinthians 3:1-18.  Here is a quick over view of this section of Scripture.

2 Corinthians 3:1-18
1-6 Paul indicates that he had a deep connection with the people in this church....they were written on his heart!  We also see Paul reminding them that they, like he, are competent or adequate ministers of the new covenant. 

7-16  We are not to be like Moses who put a veil over his face once the glory of the Lord started to fade.  This is dishonest at best - Moses wanted to keep up the facade that he had something they didn’t have.  Paul says in verse 12 we should be very bold, not like Moses, and take off the mask (the veil) and be transparent with people.

17-18 We learn here that as we grow in Christ we are transformed by Him.  As leaders, others will be watching us.  When they see that we too are growing in our faith just as they must, it will spur them to move forward in difficult times.  As we tell the story that it is safe to trust God and allow Him to transform us, people will also trust God to transform them.  We must be honest with people and grow with grace ‘among’ them.

Too many leaders have grown up in the church learning that being transparent with others in the church is not safe and may even be a really dumb thing to do.  The logic goes is that if you are actually honest with others, they will not want to follow your leadership.  I actually think the opposite is true and that the church and her leaders have believed a lie about this for a very long time.  I believe that if leaders became honest in healthy ways, that the people would rise to a new level of health and the church once again would shine.  I believe that transparency by leaders would take them off the pedestal and put them on the same level as everyone else which would once again raise Jesus back up to His rightful place.

My new pastor friend from the gym told me that if I came all the way from Arizona for this moment, that it was well worth the investment.  I hope that you are able to be transparent with the people God has given to you to influence for Him.  I pray that you are free to be who you are which will only help the church be more vital to the world around us. 

I would love to hear from you regarding the benefits and liabilities of leaders being transparent with the people they serve.  You can post here or write me an e-mail.