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Roots of Leadership

 ·  ☕ 13 min read  ·  ✍️ noel

From 12th to 15th November, I had the privilege to attend ICPF leadership camp. It was a great time of blessings. There were many sessions taken on the topics like of leadership and especially on what it means to be a christian leader. And in each of the talk there were many contrasting elements between a christian leader and a secular leader. However, nobody talked about why there was such an contrast, and that for a good reason. It was obvious. It was because one was christian and other was not. However, as G K Chesterton once said, “The things that we see everyday are the things that we never see at all.” And because of this reason, I would like to discuss the obvious.

While we are at it, I’d like to call my imaginary friend Jack to help me in this discussion.

Jack: Hmmm, I heard that you were at a leadership camp a few days ago…

Me: Yea, it was a pretty good time. So, good to have a break from everyday normal life and everyday worries…

Jack: I know what you mean. In these holidays, I was also at a conference.

Me: Oh yeah? Why didn’t you tell me? I would have come with you…

Jack: Well you couldn’t.

Me: What you mean I can’t. (What the heck? Jack doesn’t want to talk about leadership.)

Jack: It was only for imaginary people. It was called how to make REAL friends and be influenced by them.

Me: Seriously? So you guys even have conferences?

Jack: Yes. It was in Semaputa this year…

Me: So, it’s held every year?

Jack: Yes.

Me: Where is this semaputa?

Jack: It’s an imaginary place.

Me: Oh I see. It’s your idea of saying that I can’t come there…

Jack: It’s true that you can’t come there, but you also didn’t invite me to your camp. What’s up with that?

Me: Well, you couldn’t have come there… It was for special people only.

Jack: Special?

Me: Yes. Also, it had registration fees and they don’t take imaginary currency…

Jack: Hmm…

Me: Well, you weren’t able to attend the camp but it doesn’t mean that we can’t discuss the topic of the camp right now…

Jack: hmmm… so what was the topic?

Me: Leadership.

Jack: Leadership?

Me: Yes. I told you it was for special people. Not everyone could come. The reason was that they wanted to do a national level camp only for leaders.

Jack: Hmm.. I see. So, how was it.

Me: It was pretty good. We had a scientist and a professor as main resource persons. Other than that, we also had a few people who took different sessions. Also, people from all the different places like around the country came.

Jack: I see. So, what did you learn?

Me: Well, to be honest, there weren’t much new concepts or ideas that I learned. But it’s good to be reminded of these things time to time. However, as a result, I found myself more interested in other people’s experiences and stories that they told. And there were a few of them. Particularly, one piqued my interest. It was a question of “How to raise new leaders?” What do you say?

Jack: Well, train them, guide them…. help them when they are in trouble.. things like that. After some time, give them their own area to lead.

Me: Well, I also thought so, but this one came as a surprise. He told it like this: Suppose a great leader is like a tree and there are smaller younger trees/plants growing under this great tree’s shadow. They would be young leaders. What would be the best way to let these young plants grow? Our answer would be that uproot these plants and plant them in another place. But that’s not right. What we should be actually doing is to remove the great tree from above it…

Jack: Hmm, that’s very interesting.

Me: Yes, I know. But since this was something new, I pondered upon it. and it really makes sense. Because, when you uproot a small plant, it’s possible that the plant will loose some of it’s roots and be damaged. And when you plant it in another place, in a completely new environment, it doesn’t know where to look for resources to sustain it. It starts to be desperate and makes a few mistakes. Depending on the gravity of these mistakes, their future hangs. If they are too great, it’s possible that the plant will die. But if they are kept in the same place, they don’t have to do these things. Furthermore, the resources that the great tree was taking to sustain itself also becomes free. So, they have plenty of resources to grow. And the roof removed from their heads helps them to see the sun clearly, but it also encourages them to be the roof above someone else’s head….

Jack: Oh… you are starting to become poetic again..

Me: Ha ha ha… oh yes. Let me come back to the reality (says the guy talking to an imaginary friend) and let’s translate that in the terms of leadership. When a great leader goes away, the young ones always have more than they can chew. That will happen in both cases. Whether the young leader is assigned to a new place or the great leader has moved to another place. However, if the young leader is left in the same place instead of being assigned to a new and different place, the earth under his feet does not move so to speak. Which will happen literally, in the latter case. The young leader still knows where to go look for help or who is the person for a certain job. Because he know the area, he will know where to look for new resources. His attempts will be guided by his knowledge of the area. But if he’s moved to another place, the attempts will be guided only by desperate need.

Jack: Hmm, the theory does seem to hold water…

Me: Yes it does. It holds plenty of water. It has to… trees can’t grow without water…

(both laugh)

Me: Well, that was the beginning. Did you notice how that whole metaphor mainly depended on the ability of the roots to find resources and support itself?

Jack: Yes. Now you mention it, it does depend largely upon it.

Me: well since I didn’t have much else to do in the camp, I found myself tracing the same idea over and over again. The idea of roots. And the metaphor of tree is true about leaders in more ways than the one that we just discussed. In the remaining days of the camp, I was thinking about the same things over and over again. To me, most of the camp (especially the discussions) seemed like we were comparing two trees with different features. One called secular leadership and one called christian leadership. They both have different features. One is not like the other. However, unlike the real world trees, these particular trees can turn into each other. Nothing keeps a secular leader from being a christian leader. Nothing but himself. Nothing except his beliefs.

Jack: Beliefs? What has beliefs got to do with it?

Me: I know it’s difficult to make a connection from leadership to beliefs. However, I had time so I thought about what made them different. That was the easy part. Because it was obvious. One was Christian, other was not. However, how exactly the beliefs influenced the style of leadership was a bit more difficult to figure out.

Jack: Uh huh?

Me: The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me as if our beliefs are our roots. We establish ourselves in our beliefs. If your beliefs are weak, your character will be weak. If your beliefs are shaken, you become vulnerable. If your beliefs are changed, you will change.

Jack: Hmm… that does seem to be true. When people change, that change is almost always accompanied by the change of beliefs.

Me: Exactly! And if you have come so far in understanding this, what do you think would be the next step in figuring out the cause of difference between the two paradigm?

Jack: We must examine their beliefs.

Me: Absolutely right! We just need to examine the beliefs. “Secular” comes from the Latin word “saecularis” which means “worldly” or “temporal”. So, it follows that it would center around the worldly things. Worldly man seeks after the things of this world. A worldly leaders seeks after the things of this world by using the people he leads. Whatever he does, he does it for his own self. He is the end that all of his schemes serve. He is the God of himself. And as long as it is just one person, it might not be ideal but it might be bearable and sustainable. However, the problem starts to arise when everyone becomes like that. Everyone wants to be the topmost stone of the pyramid. And the problem is, every stone of this peculiar pyramid is alive and all have only one desire. To be on the top. So whenever, somewhere, somehow, against all odds, a triangle forms, after a while the two who were supporting the base leaves to try and form their own triangle with themselves on the top. This bizarre exercises takes place on all the different levels of our hypothetical pyramid and the pyramid takes on strange and unimaginable shapes reflecting the disarray and conflict going inside the hearts and minds of each individual. The fallen man desperately desires to rise.

Jack: Wow! That’s some description…

Me: Oh yes! You just have to look at all the different political systems have been tried in this world. Monarchy, aristocracy, autocracy, democracy… to name just a few. Each with a different shape, size and structure. Each has different operating structure. Each with their own unique beliefs. Each a different philosophy. Why do you think that there are so many?

Jack: Because people’s beliefs are different. Great intellects of the past have created these systems after their own beliefs.

Me: Yes. Yes. However, you know what a system is, right? A system in political sense is a set of ideas, theories or guideline to govern a city or a nation. It’s kind of a call to action. Instructions for doing something. All different political systems have different guidelines. What do we learn from them? We learn that if we start out with different set of beliefs we will perform different set of actions to achieve the same goal. That is really revealing. It teaches us something about ourselves. It is our beliefs that determine our motives and in the end our actions. That’s the reason why when someone’s beliefs change, their character and their behavior also change. So, it’s the beliefs that influence the actions. Not the other way around. However, we only know about someone’s beliefs by looking at their actions.

Jack: Hmm… that is interesting. But how does that connect christian leadership?

Me: Well, it connects. It connects to everything we do. Not just christian leadership or leadership in general for that matter. Our beliefs determine our actions. That is the singular truth of everything that we do. Not only for leaders, but for everyone.

Jack: That makes sense…

Me: So, we have established one thing. The actions of a person are determined by their beliefs. That also goes for leaders. The reason that the methods of a secular leader and a christian leader are different is that their beliefs are different. We have already taken a brief look at the beliefs and consequences of that beliefs in the world. Let’s do the same for the christian. How are the Christian’s beliefs different than that of the secularist?

Jack: Well, he believes in God. In Jesus Christ.

Me: Exactly. Not just in him, but in his teachings too. And regarding leadership, Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be the first, he must be the very last and servant of all.” What a paradox! If the paradigm of worldly leadership is a pyramid with the leader on top, the modal for christian leadership must be an upside down pyramid, with leader at the bottom of all. The servant of all.

Jack: Hmm… interesting.

Me: Yes. That’s very interesting. However, it’s not a concept that can be easily grasped. Especially not when all the towering philosophies of our materialistic world says, “Being a leader means dominating your subordinates and having them do slave-work.” How can a man come to believe in such a contradictory paradigm when all he has learned in the whole world tells him otherwise? That becomes the real challenge for a young christian leader. That’s where the battle lies and that’s where the battle will be decided.

Jack: How so?

Me: You know, like most of the things in this world, you can analyze and learn pretty much everything about a topic. It’s like a story I read somewhere… Mathilda’s aunt baked a cake. This cake was presented to all the leading scientists of the time and they analyzed it. They figured out everything about the cake. It’s weight, shape, the things in it. The whole recipe and everything. However, they couldn’t figure out the most important thing about the cake. It’s purpose. Supposedly, it was Mathilda’s birthday cake. They knew everything except it’s reason for existence. Everything except the one thing that gave it its value. Sometimes we become like that… For most part of the camp it seemed to me as if we were just discussing the features of a tree called Christian leadership. Talking about its shape and size. But there were a few sessions that did talk about how to become that tree…

Jack: So what was it? How do you become that tree?

Me: Well, there were a few things like integrity, love and sacrifice. However, I’d like to go to the root of all. I’d like to go to the root from which those values come. Why should one hold onto his integrity? It can’t be because it’s advantageous. Because if that’s the reason for holding onto integrity, then it might be right to let go of it when it’s not advantageous. So, what is it?

Jack: Well you said it. Beliefs.

Me: Absolutely right. Beliefs. It’s a battle of beliefs. The battle of values upon which a person will build his life. So how can a young leader win this battle? Against the continual onslaught of the cerebral nonsense of our postmodern world, how can a christian youth march onwards and upwards? The question does include our conduct and actions but it is not essentially of it. One must work on the foundations. The roots must be deep. Otherwise, just as the tree with shallow roots falls with a sudden gush of wind, he will also fall. However, when the foundation is rightly laid, then it is easy to build upon it. The growth won’t be hindered. What happens above the ground always depends upon what’s underground. How does one strengthen their beliefs? Well, I have written about it earlier, dealing particularly with doubt. However, I think the same principle can be applied here too.

Jack: Hmm… that was interesting.

Me: It is vital that we understand this. Otherwise we are put in the danger of becoming legalistic hypocrites. Which reminds me of a quote by T S Elliot. “The Last Temptation is the greatest treason; to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” It is vital that we never forget the right reason. The reason of our existence. Christ.

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