Leadership in any sphere of life can be a lonely experience. It’s not that a leader isn’t surrounded by amazing people. No, it’s that the buck must stop somewhere. This is where true leaders step up.
In the late 1970’s, there was a British Prime Minister called Jim Callaghan. He was a decent man with a chirpy demeanour who the tabloid media nick-named ‘Sunny Jim’. Yet behind the seemingly relaxed exterior was a burdened soul who carried the weight of heavy criticism. Many historians today accept that Callaghan was unfairly blamed for a national crisis. During his twice weekly performance at Prime Ministers Questions (an unforgiving environment at the best of times), he always asked his wife Audrey to accompany him. She would sit in the public gallery and Jim would regularly look up to her for comfort and reassurance. You see, she was the one person who came anywhere close to grasping the loneliness of what he had to bear.
In the good times, leaders resist credit and instead share it with others. In the tough times, leaders get out onto the front line and embrace responsibility, often receiving far more flack than they deserve. Yet any leader worth their salt will never complain about this apparent injustice. They simply accept it as part of the price a leader must pay. The worst kind of leadership is that which deflects and blames others. This produces toxic culture which eventually ends up with an implosion of trust. People will never flourish in an environment like that.
If you should aspire to leadership in life, my advice is to quickly ditch any notions of privilege and position. Leadership is lonely. No-matter how prestigious others think it might appear, you will rarely ‘feel’ it. But you will be all too aware of how vulnerable and weak you are. Criticism will come at an incredibly fast pace. Thats why faithfulness matters. In our weakness, Christ’s strength is made perfect.
The ultimate example of leadership is Jesus. He held no position and occupied no office. Instead, he made himself of no reputation and carried a servant heart (Phil 2:5-11). He embraced the responsibility of our sin and covered the cost, a travesty of justice which he bore with grace and love. Despite the loneliness and misunderstanding, Jesus went all the way. This is REAL leadership.