Lukewarm Leadership: We Are Supposed to Be Different

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Jesus does not call us to lukewarm leadership. He does not want us to blend His way with the world's way.

The news headline caught my attention. It read: “Marathon Cheat Crosses the Line to Win Second Place.” Intrigued, I started reading about a marathon runner who was so determined to get on the podium that he resorted to cheating. Instead of running the race with all of his competitors, he hid among the spectators and rejoined the group of runners shortly before crossing the finish line.

His success was short-lived. Soon after the race, the young man was exposed, arrested, and will be facing fraud charges. Ouch!

It’s easy to read an article like this and make quick judgments about the lies this young man bought into. After all, his willingness to go to any lengths to win clearly demonstrated his belief that “the end justifies the means.”

As I read this young man’s story, I began thinking of similar lies many leaders have bought into, especially those revolving around success, drive, performance, achievement, winning, prestige, position, power and, of course, financial independence. The allure? All promise a sure-fire way to secure a spot on the leadership podium of life.

Often, though, the lies offering the “cheater’s way to success” are not nearly as obvious or public—allowing many leaders to continue building their leadership personas by giving lip service to one set of values while living out and practicing another.

Serving is not an option, so let’s stop leading as if it were!

If there is one non-negotiable mandate Jesus left for all of us believers, it’s the mandate of serving others. Service before self is not an option for leaders who profess to follow Jesus. So why is it that so many continue to lead and manage as if it were?

Instead of hiding in the crowd waiting to illegitimately secure the podium like the cheating marathoner, we buy into a false belief system in order to achieve a man-made definition of success, which Webster summarizes as: “The fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”

While we still publically acknowledge and praise biblical virtues and leadership principles, we quietly choose to follow the world’s formula for success. In the race to win as leaders, we slowly drift toward the selfish side of leadership, making it all about us, what others say and think about us, and how successful we are or aren't based on world-defined standards.

Allow me to share with you an excerpt from our Lead Like Jesus 6 Week Study Guide that delineates serving vs. self-serving leaders. It says:

“Few people admit to themselves or to others that they are self-serving leaders, yet we see self-serving leaders all the time. We read about them in the paper. We see them going into trial for corporate corruption. We meet them in church, work or other volunteer organizations. We experience them in our own families and sometimes we see them in the mirror.

“Self-serving leaders operate out of pride and fear, and in turn, they drive people by fear or greed, or sometimes encourage others to sacrifice for causes and principles in order to fulfill their own ambitions.

“The fact of the matter is that if the stick is big enough, the carrot sweet enough, or the appeal lofty enough, self-serving leaders get results in the short-term. The trouble lies in the long-term, and in the impact of the spiritual well-being of both the leaders and the people they influence.”

Means justify the ends

In a recent survey Gallup survey, we find that 51 percent of U.S. managers are not engaged in their work. Even worse, 14 percent are actively disengaged. “This lack of interest among bosses is turning off employees,” the report explains. It found that approximately half of employees leaving a job have done so “to get away from a manager.”

Gallup also tells us that 65 percent of U.S. workers don’t feel appreciated. It appears that “thank you” and “well done” do not come easily to many leaders.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics Resource Center (ERC), one out of every five employees reports that their manager or supervisor has lied to them within the past year.

These statistics are troubling. It appears that many leaders are taking the approach of “the end justifies the means” as they attempt to drive results and achieve specific outcomes.

Let me share a recent example. After years of billions in losses, a CEO of one of America’s largest airline companies finally reached an agreement with their employees for $1.8 billion in wage reductions. The CEO used the threat of bankruptcy as well as the need for “shared sacrifice” in order to convince employees to sacrifice in the short-term for their long-term good. 

On the day the representatives of the employees signed the agreement for wage reductions, shocking news became public knowledge. As the negotiations were taking place, the CEO and his management team secretly preserved millions in retention bonuses—200 percent of salary for top executives. If that were not enough, it was also disclosed that a secret supplemental retirement plan was also created for the top 45 executives, while the average workers’ retirements were put in danger if bankruptcy were to occur.

Needless to say, the “shared sacrifice” argument used by the CEO was exposed as a fraud and ultimately destroyed any trust in him and his leaders.  

We’re supposed to be different

We are supposed to be different. Our leadership should send a message to those we lead that:

  • They matter
  • They are loved
  • They are not just a number, and
  • They are more important than what they can do for us.

Jesus is not calling us to lukewarm leadership.

In the book of Revelation Jesus appeals to the church of Laodicea to take a stand. He says: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

I believe Jesus is still sending us the same message. Just as He implored the church in Laodicea to pick a side, He wants us as leaders to choose whose side of leadership we are on. He is not interested in us trying to blend His way with the world’s way. That only makes for lukewarm leaders.

His Word is so rich and full of wisdom to help make us into leaders after His own heart. Choosing to lead like Jesus is not easy, especially in the culture that glorifies achievement, success, climbing to the top, being the #1 in your industry, driving large revenues, etc.

Choosing to lead like Jesus will, however, give peace that passes all understanding. It will help you to experience the “calm” during the proverbial storms of life. It will equip you with the “backbone” to stand for the truth when giving in to the lie would be so easy and so much more “beneficial.”

Leading like Jesus will grant us the privilege of pointing others to Jesus so that they can experience His love, His forgiveness, and His grace—communicated simply by the way we choose to lead. 

By Megan Pacheco

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