Friday, October 2, 2009

Leading with a Strong Will

John Ortberg on The Strong-Willed Leader:
The truly transformational leaders differ in almost every imaginable respect except for two common denominators: they have a deep sense of humility, and an indomitable will. In church leadership, a good deal gets written about the importance and virtue of humility, but not nearly so much gets written about the need for an indomitable will.

We are a little distrustful of the whole notion of will in leaders. Willfulness comes pretty close to the essence of sin. And perhaps the highest prayer ever recorded is an expression of surrender: "Not my will, but yours be done."

However, there is a fundamental difference between a surrendered will and a weak will.

Jesus' surrendered his will. That meant he placed it in submission to his Father, to the mission his father gave him, and to the service of sacrificial love. But that did not mean he was weak-willed. To the contrary, it required a tremendous exertion of moral courage to defy power and authorities and influences that tugged on him from all sides trying to divert him from his calling.

An indomitable will is not the same as sheer stubbornness (being Swedish, this is something of an inherited trait.) Stubbornness lacks precisely the humility that makes learning possible, and gives conviction the flexibility needed to achieve ultimate goals. It is not egoism, which seeks to gain control for the gratification of the self.

At its heart, an indomitable will involves a sense of commitment; a binding of oneself to a task or a cause or a value so intensely that mere external forces are not allowed to sway or deter. At its best, in the words of Gerald May, it involves not willfulness but willingness—a giving of my will in the service of a greater mission . . .

When I am alone with [God], the forces that drain my will are diminished of their strength. My choosing is both purified and strengthened. Amazingly, the One who demands the most surrender of my will is the One who wants and makes my will to be its strongest and best.

Something remarkable happens when one is gospel wakened. They are humbled about themselves and in the light of God's grace, but they are emboldened in the light of God's love and power.

This is something I wrote about recently in a post called Gospel-Driven Leadership.

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