Ira Nicodemus

Stewardship. Leadership. Faith.

Category: Leadership

Find Your Donkeys

If you care at all about finding your “call” or “destiny”, you need to read this. Finding your donkeys may be the single most powerful thing you can do right now to achieve your specific, God ordained calling.

At some point, to some extent, you have likely worried that you are going to “miss it”. Somehow you’ll take a wrong step and not end up where you were supposed to. It is a scary thought. You only have one life, and to waste it because of a few wrong turns is an overwhelming thought. Whether you are making decisions about a professional career, education, ministry, or just life in general, all of us have to figure out what God wants us to do.

I’ve often been faced with this fear. One of my top five strengths is being “Futuristic”. I can rarely go for more than a few minutes without thinking about the future. It is difficult to live in the moment when I am so focused on what’s ahead. This is a blessing and a curse. Strong vision is an asset when it comes to strategy and planning, but a liability when it comes to focusing on what is given today. Combine this futuristic mentality with a dream and drive to achieve great things and the worry of somehow missing “it” can become near debilitating at times.

Thankfully, God showed me this truth that helped put my anxious heart at ease.

In 1 Samuel chapters 9 and 10 we see the first story of Saul. In chapter 8 we see where Israel wanted a king so they could be like other nations and after trying to convince them otherwise, Samuel took their requests to God and He told them He’d give them a king.

While all of this was happening, Saul was not on the top of anyone’s list for greatness. Yes, he was tall and handsome, but he was from the least of the tribes, a Benjamite.

Saul was also not looking to be king. All he was seeking to do was take care of what he was given day by day. One day, that task was finding the donkeys.

Saul’s father lost some donkeys and he asked Saul to take a servant and find them. They searched for a few days and were about to give up when the servant suggested they go ask Samuel for guidance. Initially Saul didn’t want to as he didn’t have any gifts for Samuel, but the servant had some money on hand. He finally agreed to go.

Saul and Samuel had never met and yet God had told Samuel to expect Saul that very day. He even had dinner prepared for him. Samuel revealed that God wanted him to be king, anointed him with oil and laid out exactly what would happen in the coming days.

Saul did as Samuel asked, but on the day he was to be crowned before the people he chickened out. He hid but God revealed where he hid (among the supplies) and the coronation went on as planned.

There is much we can learn from this story about your destiny and I want to highlight a few of those lessons here.

  1. God Calls You to Steward Today
    When we try to achieve our destiny, whether it is God ordained or our own, we usually fail to steward what we’ve been given today. Saul was not trying to become a king. If he were, he’d be out making political connections or fighting grand battles. All he was doing was what his dad had asked him to do.Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 to “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”. We often think of this a way to just plod along and get by, eking the best we can out of each day till we die. In reality, this is the recipe for greatness in the Kingdom! God is looking for those that are faithful in little so He can give them much (Luke 16:10). All we should “worry” about is what we’ve been given today.Also, notice that it was Saul’s father that had asked him to go look for the donkeys. At that time in his life, his father was his authority. Sometimes we can even worry about what the right thing to do each day is. An easy answer is to look for the things the authority in your life (your boss, parents, etc.) have asked you to do and start with those. If you get outside of what they’ve asked, be very cautious!Be like Saul and don’t try to find your destiny. Just find your donkeys.
  2. God Is in Control of Your Destiny
    Saul made a couple missteps that could have easily cost him the meeting with Samuel and changed the course of his entire life. First he didn’t want to keep looking for the donkeys and wanted to head home. When his servant tried to convince him to go ask Samuel, he still didn’t want to. Lastly, he tried to hide even after God had confirmed what Samuel promised.It is pretty hard to mess up a plan that God puts in place. He will put the resources and people around you to make it happen. The servant was persistent and provisioned. God gave him exactly what he needed to make the meeting with Samuel happen. Saul couldn’t mess it up although he tried!If we read on in the story of Saul we see that eventually he allowed rebellion in to his life. He spoiled the destiny that God had placed on him not because he missed it, but because he stopped doing our first point (stewarding today). You don’t wander in to rebellion. It’s a choice.If you are focused on stewarding today, God will bring you exactly to the point He wants you. You’ll know if you mess it up.
  3. Your Destiny Doesn’t Need to be Achieved, but Received
    Proverbs 20:21 reads “An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end”. When we go try to achieve our destiny on our own, we usually make it happen too quickly with disastrous results. This is exactly what happened when Abraham had Ishmael. Rather than waiting on God, trusting His promise, and receiving the blessing in time, Ishmael became a burden forever.Notice that God often honors the promise even when we rush ahead. If He has put skills and abilities within in you for a certain task they will manifest themselves in some form. If you do it in our own time, it is usually for bad. Perhaps you get anxious in your current job and go look for another rather than waiting for a promotion. While you may be “successful”, that rushing often leads to sorrow and difficulty along the way, rather than peace.Proverbs 10:22 reads “The blessing of the Lord brings Wealth, without painful toil for it”. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have wealth without painful toil! Work is great, and encouraged by God, but painful toil is something I want as little of as possible!What is another way to know that our destiny is of God and not our own doing? Destiny is almost always given by authority.

    Saul did not achieve his kingdom by force. It was given to him by Samuel. Prior to Saul, Israel was a theocracy, ruled by God and administered through prophets and judges. As such, it was God’s prophet, Samuel, that anointed Saul. It was clear that he was chosen by God and (almost) all the people saw that. He came to his destiny in peace.

    Wait on the Lord and receive your destiny rather than trying to achieve it.

  4. Your Promotion Often Comes When You Least Expect It
    The Bible is replete with stories of ordinary people that were propelled to greatness in mere moments. Gideon was hiding in a wine press threshing wheat when an Angel appears to him and told him he was going to deliver his people from the Midianites (Judges 6). Abraham was 75 years old when God told him to leave everything he knew and go start a nation (Genesis 12). Joseph was in prison one day and 2nd in command of Egypt the next (Genesis 41).God has a tendency to prepare for a long period and then promote in a short time. The difficult period is the waiting prior to the promotion.Sometimes He reveals the destiny in advance. This can be encouraging as it gives something to hold on to in the waiting, but also can make us tend to become anxious and attempt to achieve the destiny in our own time. Abraham gave up on God’s promise of a nation and had Ishmael.  Joseph almost gave up on the dream of ruling and asked the cupbearer to put in a good word for him and get him out of prison early. It is even more difficult to bear the years of waiting when you have such a clear vision of your destiny.If you are in the place of waiting, be encouraged to know that the promise of your destiny may be closer than you think. Saul went from looking for donkeys to being king in just over a week. Just because you aren’t seeing the gradual build-up that you’d expect toward success doesn’t mean that you won’t end in the same place. Hold on to hope and don’t rush. Rapid promotion often comes when you least expect it!

If you have ever been like me and felt overwhelmed with trying to achieve the call you know God has placed on your life, I hope you find rest and peace in this truth. Stop asking what next 10 steps you need to do to achieve greatness and start asking what your lost donkeys are. They are likely right in front of you and someone in authority has already ask you to go find them.

 

Go find your donkeys.

Why Diversity Matters

Last week’s media buzz surrounding James Damore’s infamous “Google Memo” has already slipped quietly in to the background. #GoogleMemo isn’t trending anymore and we’ll soon forget who Damore was, if we ever really knew. This week brings new hashtags and the 24-hour news cycle continues.

 

In these tumultuous times, it is hard to discern who and what is right or wrong. Many well-meaning people are confused and have difficulty knowing how to act and react. I’ve waited till after the dust settled from the Google Memo before I commented because I didn’t want to add to the din, but present a clear solution for Business and Community leaders. This is what I hope I have presented here.

 

We as Americans, business leaders, corporations, communities, etc. pride ourselves on both our diversity and equality. In many ways, the words have become synonymous with one another. We have special groups and names for all the diverse people. We have laws and HR surveys, all designed to promote and encourage diversity and ensure no one is left out.

Yet, in this pursuit of perfect diversity, we have achieved the exact opposite. We have mistaken diversity for equality, and in doing so lost our ability to see the beauty of true individual diversity.

 

This is Jason Witten. He’s a tight end for the Dallas Cowboys and is 6’ 5” and a solid 260+ lbs. Jason goes to my church so I’ve passed him in the hall a few times and can attest that a guy is absolutely massive in person.

This is Simone Biles. She’s an Olympic gold medalist and is 4’ 9” and barely 100lbs. I haven’t passed her in the hall, or perhaps I have and I just missed her because she’s so tiny.

 

 

The height difference between Jason and Simone is nearly 2’. The weight difference is a factor of 2.5x. There are both tremendous athletes and yet they are completely different.

 

Now suppose Mr. Jerry Jones decided that he wanted more “diversity” on his team (not talking about race, but physical makeup). It isn’t fair that people are different. He wants to ignore those differences and not talk about them. He wants to celebrate inclusion and fairness. Equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity. So Mr. Jones calls up Simone and says “Look, Jason’s been great but we want to have some diversity so I want you to be our new tight end. I saw what you did in Rio and I know you’re going to be incredible here in Dallas.”

 

Now Simone is a real go getter and loves Texas so she says yes. Two minutes in to the regular season the entire nation is mourning the end of her athletic career after the first snap leaves her in physical rehab for two years.

 

Now we all know what went wrong and how ridiculous this example is. It is easy to see the difference in ability and how these two athletes are built for their respective sports but would do horribly if they swapped positions.

 

The issue we face in our organizations today is we do things that are just as ridiculous as swapping Simone Biles in for Jason Witten. Rather than viewing the individual and assessing their own skills, desires, abilities, and experiences, we force diversity and promote equality over individuality.

 

Don’t hear me wrong when I talk about equality. I am all for equality of opportunity. However, equality of opportunity does not equal equality of outcome. When we, as leaders, begin to focus on promoting equality of outcome for all our employees, we do them a disservice in not recognizing their individual diversity.

 

Albert Einstein is famously credited (albeit most likely wrongly) as saying:

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This is often shared on LinkedIn and quoted by those who would like to appear wise, but it is often not followed in corporate settings.

 

James Damore’s memo went viral not because it was so well reasoned and written, but because it went contrary to our belief of what diversity means. To state that people have differences of abilities or desires based on their gender is absolute blasphemy in our PC culture. We readily recognize the difference between Witten and Biles but close our eyes to the possibility of physical and genetic differences that would give unfair advantage or tendency toward people in a corporate setting. We don’t want to acknowledge that some people and people groups are inherently better at certain tasks due to their genetic makeup.

 

The brilliance of Damore is that he became a proof of his own hypothesis. Tweet This. He set out to write about how Google’s echo chamber has devalued individual diversity in exchange for perceived value of group diversity. He predicted that Google will become a consequence of its own policy, weakening until the point of collapse due to their lack of true diversity. In Google’s pursuit of perfect “diversity”, they lost a great mind. If I were Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), not only would I have kept Damore, I would have made him my head of diversity for the company. In failing to recognize his talent, ability, insight, and courage, they lost a brilliant mind and weakened their organization.

 

America was founded on the concept that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”. These words, while 100% true (or, “self-evident”, as John Adam’s wisely suggested), are often misinterpreted. The truth is, all men are not created equal. Tweet This If that were the case, I should be playing tight end for the Dallas Cowboys right there with Mr. Witten. Instead, I’m 6’ and 185lbs and am happy when my squat is higher than my bench press (#dontskiplegday).

 

What all men (and women) are created equal in is their inherent worth in the eyes of their Creator God. Regardless of race, color, sex, intelligence, physical attributes, birth (pre or post), or anything else that we can see or measure, their soul is absolutely priceless. Each life is worth as much as the next. No exceptions. Because of this, all have rights. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit (equality of opportunity) of Happiness. When we lose sight of this truth of equality is when humanity goes to the dark places of racism, segregation, subjugation, slavery, and other evils.

 

So how do we balance the equality of the human soul with the inequality of human ability?Tweet This For this, we must go back to the (alleged) Einstein quote.

 

If we take a fish and decide that because of equality we are going to put it on land so that it can enjoy all terra firma has to offer, it will not only do miserably, but will quickly die. Poor little guy.

 

If we take an employee who is not suited for a certain task and decide that because of equality we are going to put them in that task so they can enjoy all the rewards it has to offer (say, the great careers available in the STEM fields), they will do miserably. It won’t be good for them, for the organization, or anyone else. In our desire for equality and diversity, we actually created suffering and inequality of outcome. No one was able to achieve happiness here.

 

James Damore, in his memo, made an observation that women, on average, have more:

“Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally

also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also

interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).

 

These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social

or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even

within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both

people and aesthetics.”

 

Damore cites this as a reason why there may not be as many women in coding. He does not say this is the case for all women, but that this is a tendency for women on average.

 

When dealing with social and organizational issues on a large scale it is easy to speak in generalizations and averages. “There aren’t enough women in STEM fields! We need to fix this! We need to get more women in and close the wage gap too!”. This is certainly well intentioned, but if we force equal numbers of women in to STEM with no regard for the general tendency toward more artistic fields, we will end up with a bunch of poorly performing and unhappy workers. The wage gap grows as women in that field don’t do as well as their male counterparts. Not because they are less, but because we’re trying to make fish climb trees. We fail to recognize the diversity of the individual and therefore weaken our organizations as a whole.

So what is the alternative? How do we encourage equality and harness the strength of individual diversity?

 

We must treat people as individuals. We must value true diversity. Not diversity for the sake of saying that we have an equal or even representative mix of people in our organization and in all fields. Yes, we should give equality of opportunity, but we need to focus more on a person’s inherent strengths, desires, and abilities. We need to develop our employees as individuals and encourage everyone to understand who they are. What is their own pursuit of happiness. We need to be ok that for many women that may be taking lower paying jobs in artistic fields while men continue to gravitate to STEM. It is only by encouraging and celebrating this that we’ll see the beauty and success of artistic intelligence.

 

Diversity matters. Diversity of the individual. Tweet ThisWe must value differences. Not by forcing equality everywhere, but celebrating the differences between races, cultures, men and women, upbringing, aspirations, personality type (Myers-Briggs), strengths (Gallup Strength Finder), and everything else that makes us human.

 

Individuals are unique and those differences must be recognized, encouraged and celebrated. This is where strength comes from. If you want to a weaken a society and control it (Communism, Socialism, Fascism, etc.), you generalize. You promote “equality” and the benefit of the State over the liberty of the individual. Ultimately this leads only to destruction, violence, and at worst, horrible crimes against humanity. While not as egregious, making the same mistakes in our corporations will lead to a weakened, discouraged, and unhappy workforce and organization.

 

We must never stop caring about diversity, but must reclaim the true meaning of the word and use it to lead, and lead well.

 

Blessings,

Ira

Is a lack of Faith limiting your Ability?

I stood on the edge of a 300′ canyon, palms clammy and heart racing as I looked down through the narrow walls and in to the raging river below. Hesitant, I visualized the steps needed to make a successful jump, thinking through each piece to make sure I wouldn’t mess it up. After a few long seconds, there could be no more delay. I stepped off the edge in to free fall…..

My younger brother, Benjamin, and I took a trip of a lifetime through Europe this Summer (2016). We began in Italy, spending time in the Tuscan mountains and Ligurian coast, before a short weekend in the French Alps, followed by several days in Switzerland. It was here in a land of surreal alpine views, countless waterfalls, and pristine lakes that the above adventure played out.

Benjamin has always been more of a risk taker and adrenaline junkie than I. The one thing he wanted to do more than anything while in Switzerland was a canyon swing. This is certainly the place to do it, with one of the highest and most daring swings in the world. Canyon swings differ from bungee jumping in that they allow for true free fall for a long distance before catching the arc of the swing and rushing along the ground and back up, before eventually coming to a stop. The proximity of walls on either side, combined with the unrestricted free fall leave most people saying it is more of a thrill than a bungee jump.

After thankfully surviving the canyon swing, the next day led us to an even more challenging adventure of canyoning one of the most intense and difficult commercial canyons available. Canyoning sounds simple in that it is essentially working your way down a canyon through a series of jumps, slides (think a natural water slide carved in to the rock), and rappels. Sounds easy until you’re standing on the edge of a 40′ waterfall being told to jump in to a tiny pool of water below, this time with no rope attached. O, by the way, make sure you swim out of the pool as soon as you land or you may get swept over an even bigger drop….

Opposed to the canyon swing, which was a big thrill that lasted mere minutes, canyoning was 2 1/2 hours of frigid water, rushing slides, and those big jumps over waterfalls and rock ledges. Physically it was a challenge, but mustering the courage to face each feature left me pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone again and again.

Swiss Waterfall

I am naturally very risk adverse. I tend to only take very calculated risks after weighing the options and risk/reward for a long time. When I do embark, I tend to proceed cautiously, feeling for a secure foothold before I release my last one. I saw this on the edge of the canyon as I carefully visualized each step, holding on to the rope and taking the least risky position for the plunge. By comparison, some of my fellow adventures took flying leaps, headfirst and spread eagle, with seemingly no concern for the consequences. One canyon swing participant ended up with a close call as he did a full 360 rotation on the way down, narrowly missing the rope entangling him and leading to a nasty end. The canyoning was similar, although more controlled, as I saw my careful visualization before each challenging jump, compared to the other’s carefree jumps.

Taking a risk that requires you to get outside of your comfort zone shows you a lot about yourself. The same way you approach the edge of a cliff is likely the way you approach a business deal, or new relationship. When you come through one of these experiences unscathed, it also teaches you that getting out of your comfort zone likely isn’t going to kill you, and instead you’ll have a great story and memory! After the trip I found myself thinking a lot about these concepts. In hindsight, these were some of the best memories we made, and I wouldn’t have done them if not for my brother’s prompting.

God spoke to me clearly in the days following our time in Switzerland that my fear of risk is holding me back from achieving the potential He has placed inside of me. He has given me gifts and talents that are currently being invested for a meager return due to my hesitancy and fear (lack of faith) to step out in to the unknown. For example, I know I have abilities in business, speaking, and leadership that are best in class, but currently they are used in exchange for a comfortable salary rather than launching out with my own business and potentially limitless returns in finances and influence.

It isn’t pride to acknowledge that through God’s grace He has placed certain talents within you that must be carefully stewarded. God expects us to fully use our ability. Even demands it! The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 talks about how the Master (God) gave each servant in accordance with his ability (v.15). Upon His return, He was not upset that they had varying levels of ability, but that they did not all invest in accordance with the ability they had. The servant who had buried his talent was severely punished for not at least taking a level of risk in giving it to the bank to earn some interest! Note that the Master didn’t expect that servant to go out and start a business, invest in futures, or undertake some other type of daring, high risk investment. He just asked him to do something in accordance with his faith. At the end of the story we see that the servant who had the most received the talent that the other servant didn’t invest wisely. I imagine that the other two servants weren’t born with a level of ability where they could be trusted with their two and five talents, but rather it came through a series of tests that challenged and built their own faith.

In the Kingdom, faith is the currency of ability. God isn’t just looking for those with the most natural talent, but those who trust Him enough to let Him use them fully. God can do more with someone with seemingly small talent but tremendous faith than someone with the reverse. Faith is the ability we need to do great things for God, not natural talent. Yes, God gives us that too, but it is through faith that we can exercise those muscles of talent. Talent without faith is not ability.

How often do you get outside of your comfort zone? Is your return being limited by your lack of risk? I encourage you to embrace things that challenge your fear and build your faith. It is only by pushing those boundaries that our faith is grown to the point that we can do all that God has planned for us.

The Distraction Addict’s 5 Step Guide to Freedom

We live in an era of distraction. Never before has so much stimuli been so readily available and constantly present. Thousands of advertisements pass our eyes and ears every day. We impulsively check Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, the news….try to focus for 10 minutes, then do it all over again. We can no longer stand to be alone with our thoughts for even the shortest moment. We’ve become addicted to the rush of constant information. Our phones are the needle and we are the junkie.

This is the paradox of our modern age. We have access to more information than ever, yet we rarely think deeply and creatively enough to utilize it. “Big Data” has become the buzzword, when deep thought would likely accomplish much more. Our ability to think clearly and deeply has been undermined by distractions.

When you look at the incredible advances made in centuries past, it is humbling to think how many were done with relatively little information and communication. Some of the world’s greatest discoveries and achievements were the product of great minds thinking long and hard on creative solutions. I’m willing to bet that if some of these minds were here today, they’d be too muddled and confused by the barrage of stimuli to accomplish much of lasting good.

We think that we can manages our distractions. We tell ourselves that information is power. We try to quickly jump between short bursts of focus and distraction. We fail to be fully present as our ragged minds fight the FOMO (Fear of missing out). We feel busy, but we accomplish little.

What are we to do? Here’s a simple 5 step recovery plan for the information addict!

  1. Like any addiction, first you need to admit you have a problem. I know I do. I constantly struggle against the tendency to distract myself with random thoughts. I’m not saying you need to make a full time log. Rather, just commit to taking action and take the next step. This step is perhaps the easiest one.
  2. Once you come to grips with how real the issue is, it is time to quit cold turkey. Find the biggest time wasters in your life, be they social media, news websites, Youtube, etc. and limit your access to those. Here’s a few helpful tips:
    • For many of us, our phones are our primary medium for distractions. Simply deleting an app from your phone may be enough to curb your habit. Not being able to habitually click on that familiar icon will be enough to make you think about the next time you start to waste time. I’m not saying you need to make one of those dramatic Facebook exits(I just distracted you….), just delete the app.
    • If it is your web browser (preferably Chrome), install the StayFocused Chrome extension. This extension allows you to block certain sites during periods of the day and/or limit your visits for a certain time. As with any tool, it will help but ultimately the decision is up to you! This will make you think twice before you disable and go to that favorite time waster….
  3. Now that you’ve limited your access through practical ways, you need to make it through one week of withdrawals.  Sound easy? Not so fast. You will suddenly be acutely aware of how often you hit up those  time waster apps and sites. You’ll feel very uncomfortable all of the sudden while standing in line at the grocery store, or sitting at the doctor’s office. You will stare blankly at your screen at work trying to muster up the will to continue working on that spreadsheet or presentation while your brain cries for stimulus. It isn’t easy, but stick with it through one week!
  4. Once you make it through one week, something starts to shift. Now is your time to start thinking deeply. Suddenly, you won’t miss those apps and websites anymore. You’ll start being able to work for long stretches and accomplish more in an hour than you used to in a day. You’ll sit down to read a book and get thoroughly engrossed, enjoying and absorbing every page. Solutions will come to you as you ponder deeply, rather than Googling the quick fix. People will notice that you are more present and your relationships and charisma will improve because of it. The fog is lifting, and your life is changing.
  5. After two weeks, you should have pretty much detoxed from your distraction addiction. Now you need to decide what you want to do with your found time. With a clear mind, get quiet with a journal and a pen to think and pray about what is most important. This exercise itself would have been nearly impossible a few weeks ago, but the results are what will really change your time. Do you want to read two books a month? Have a daily quiet time with the Lord? Spend an hour each night alone with your spouse? Not only are you applying the time you were previously wasting, but your mind is going to be clear enough to fully engage and benefit from whatever you choose. This is where real change happens.

The areas of my life that have seen the most success are the areas where I have been forced to focus fully. School and work are perhaps the best examples. Being accountable to grades and objectives and applying the steady time will yield strong results. Other areas of my life that are left purely up to my discretion don’t always fare so well, but with God’s help I’m getting better!

We are tremendously blessed to live in this modern age. However, don’t let the much get in the way of the most. The rest of the world will keep spinning if you don’t read the news or scroll the ‘gram, and your world will only get that much better.

The Leader’s Pursuit of Service

It is unfortunate that “servant leadership” has become little more than a corporate buzzword. While the concept is proven and good, the practice is hard and rare. In his classic “Good to Great“, Jim Collins correlates the humility of Level  5 leaders with the concept of servant leadership. People have even equated Jesus Himself as the greatest of all servant leaders, and I would agree.

If this virtue of leadership is so powerful in transforming companies, and even the world, why is it still such a rarity?

The problem is, leaders are pursuing leadership through service. Rather, leaders should pursue service itself, and let leadership follow.

“But, Ira!”, I can hear you say. “Surely pursuing leadership through service is a noble pursuit?! How could you fault someone for that?”

Truly great leaders are often reluctant leaders. Tweet ThisWhen you look at the story of Joseph of the Bible, he did little to pursue the leadership role he was awarded at 30 years of age. Rather, from the age of about 16 when he was sold in to slavery till the time he was set in place as Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself,  he served. It was because of his service and the blessing of God on his life that came through that service that he was able to achieve greatness*.

Fast forward a few generations and we see Moses was a similar story in that when he was 40, he tried to achieve leadership forcefully. He killed the Egyptian that was persecuting a fellow Hebrew, but God didn’t want Moses to deliver the Israelites in his own strength. It took 40 years in the wilderness to get Moses to the point that he was humble…and reluctant…enough to be used by God in delivering His people. At 40, Moses was well equipped to be a leader. At 80, he was well equipped to be a servant.

God does not share His Glory with anyone. When we have pride in our lives, we tend to rob God of His Glory. We strive to accomplish much, and often succeed in doing so. Once we get there, we are unlikely to attribute the glory to God.

The difference between pursuing leadership through service, and pursuing service itself is a matter of the heart. The person who is pursuing leadership has leadership as his goal, and the service is a means to an end. While you may be able to fake this for a while, it is not sustainable. However, a person who genuinely pursues service itself, with no ulterior motive, does not care if he becomes a leader. There is no hunger for power. No thirst for recognition. Their goal is servanthood, and this is where true leadership originates. It can’t be imitated. It won’t be forced.

Leadership is a worthy attribute and one that we should all aspire to. However, don’t consider service as another tool to help you on the way to leadership. Consider it the goal in and of itself. This is where truly great leaders are born. Don’t try to fake it. Don’t think you can make a “paradigm shift” and then move along on the same path. Take a long, hard, painful look inside yourself and ask what your true motives are. If there’s an ounce of pride, don’t take another step till you root it out.

God wants to use you despite of you, not because of you. Tweet ThisAsk yourself honestly “Am I pursuing leadership, or am I pursuing service?”. Consider “Would I be happy to only serve, and never lead?”. The answers to these questions may truly change your life.

 

*For more excellent parallels on how the life of Joseph shows God’s plan for our lives, read “From Dream to Destiny” by Robert Morris. It is highly recommended. 

© 2017 Ira Nicodemus

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑