“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Junior
What does it take to be a leader?
Are you a leader?
What does it take to be a good leader?
Answering the questions above has become the first task in defining leadership in today’s society, but it seems as if the concept of leadership has become over analyzed, assessed in ways that aren’t necessarily accurate and explained in ways that are more complicated than they ought to be. Modern society has fallen into a pattern of defining leadership based on external analysis and complicated algorithms for success while overlooking the fact that defining leadership should be a very basic concept.
What does it take to be a leader? Well, to be a leader you must simply have followers.
The reality is that you are most likely a leader! So, who in your sphere of influence is following your lead? Who is following your example?
You may be in a role where your leadership is very clearly defined, or in one where you have to think harder to identify your followers. The CEO at a fortune 500 company certainly has followers and so does the coach of a youth soccer team — teachers, research assistants, pastors, high school team captains, small business owners, parents, politicians, scientists, famous athletes. All of these roles fall under the umbrella of leadership (some with many followers and some with few), but what does a leader do with this influence?
It’s obviously easy to lead, but it becomes harder when we start to think more about becoming good leaders. Good leaders think about where they are taking their followers, and that starts with knowing your followers and championing their potential!
What does it take to be a good leader?
To answer that question, let’s explore the quote above from Dr. King. It’s powerful that one of the greatest and most influential leaders of all time defines good leadership as genuine leadership.
A genuine leader is a leader that cares about their followers.
Jesus of Nazareth — Christ, Emmanuel, God with us--made a big impact during his days with us here on earth. Why is his name still on people’s minds 2000 years after his death? Napoleon, one of history’s most influential leaders, had this to say:
“I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him.”
Jesus’ empire continues today. His love for God and love for people characterized His time here on earth. Over and over again, Jesus proved his love and he proved that he was a genuine leader (John 18: Youtube “Jesus loving Barabbas” for an in depth look at Jesus’ love).
The second point to highlight from Dr. King’s quote above is the difference between “searching for” and “molding” consensus. Any leader can search out and reiterate the status quo, but Dr. King would argue that a good leader is one who breaks the mold; a good leader is a radical one.
Alongside Jesus’ genuine nature, the second reason he’s still common in dinner table discussion to this day is because he is arguably the most radical leader of all time. Jesus pushed back against the status quo. He preached truth (John 18:37). He preached love (John 14). He preached redemption (John 3:16). He healed, fed, and provided for thousands and thousands (John 6:1-14). Based on both historical records and biblical evidence, Jesus Christ lived a radical life. Over and over again this carpenter born in poverty opposed the very people that were supposedly the “holiest” of society, the pharisees, for their hypocrisy (John 2:13-17). He cared for the orphans and the widows, the sick and the poor: the outcasts of society (John 4).
Jesus flipped tables to fight for truth and love (John 2:15), talk about a radical leader.
Jesus was genuine, Jesus was a molder of consensus — a molder of the status quo — and Jesus is the perfect model for leadership. Jesus’ motto was radically simple: love God, love people (John 13:34).
Jesus was genuine — he cared about his followers. And Jesus was radical — he died for his cause.
He died for you, and he died for me, he died to bring glory to his Father in heaven, and on the third day after he died he proved he was God and rose from the grave, setting himself apart from every other leader and every other martyr in history.
So yes, nearly anyone can be a leader, but everyone is a follower.
Who are you following? Is your leader this genuine? This radical? This loving?
Jesus is worth following. If you need more evidence, go check out the book of John later today! As you begin to search for the character of Jesus as he interacts with his followers you’ll find redemption, hope, love, truth, and purpose.