The story of the “Rich Young Ruler” is the story of a young, rich ruler who is seeking, truly seeking, the Kingdom of God. He has obeyed all of the laws, followed every rule. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus loved him. Jesus broke his heart. Leadership is hard.
A young couple with a wonderful vision, a vision they believe is from God, came to us for advice. He wants to start a business in an unreached area. They have written a reasonable business plan. Having observed their lives and gifts, baring a miracle, their pastor, mentor, and my wife and I, do not see that they are wired/gifted to make it happen. They came to us for advice and encouragement, and instead we broke their hearts – dashed their vision. We just don’t see that they are capable of doing what they want to do. I hate those discussions. Truly, leadership is hard.
Hard decisions are part of being a leader. Whether we are leading our wife or our children, running a business or an employee, whether we are a coach or a player, sometimes leadership is hard.
Jesus made many hard decisions. The key to His leadership was to lead out of His character, and out of His relationship with the Father. If I consider myself a leader, one who is a leader of character and relationship with God, then I too must be willing to make hard decisions, even if I do not like making them.
Here are some situations I hate about leading others:
• Having to fire a good friend because he/she is not meeting the minimum standards
• Telling the truth to someone while everyone else has ‘sugar coated things’ or said nothing
• Needing to tell someone about something I did wrong
• Pointing out to a co-worker or friend their immature or ‘borderline’ behavior
• Working hard on the areas of our business or team that I don’t enjoy doing
• Telling a friend what he needs to hear instead of what he wants to hear
• Confronting anyone about anything
• Dismissing a top performer because his bad attitude and negative influence is hurting the rest of the company/team
In every situation we have two choices.
1. Do easy, the comfortable thing – do nothing.
2. Do the right thing – confront the issue, speak the truth.
Jesus made choices daily. Both His enemies and friends were constantly badgering Him with questions. Doing the right thing is a choice, a choice we too face daily. But, as with the Rich Young Ruler, it does not mean that doing the right thing is always enjoyable.
In fact, choosing to do the right thing will often come at a personal cost. The choice could make our lives harder. The choice could put us on an island alone with our values. The choice could make other people angry, and they may not understand. Did you ever consider how much financial support Jesus and His team could have collected if He’d played along with this Rich Young Ruler?
The person who leads out of character and a relationship with God does not make choices based on whether others will like the decision. Nor does she/he make decisions based on what she/ he is comfortable with. Leaders of character and relationship with God understand that when it comes to choosing between right and wrong, we will at times have to choose something that will make other people unhappy.
Remember, leaders grow from being common leaders to becoming leaders of character by making the right decisions, the hard decisions. They choose to do the things they know are going to upset others, simply because it is the right thing to do.
Being a leader involves denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, and making decisions as Jesus did – making decisions out of your character and relationship with God. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. I have much to learn in these areas, yet I’ve experienced the benefit of making hard decisions. Six times I’ve fired people and five of those times the former team members/employees later contacted me to say, “Thank you, though I was very upset with you at the time, you made the best decision for me.”
The easy way is not the way of character. Choosing the path of least resistance is what Jesus calls the wide and easy path, and we know where that leads. The easy choice will lead us to become something we never intended to be. The hard choice may be tough in the short term, but the rewards are well worth the discomfort.
Question: Are there any aspects of leadership you avoid because they may be hard?
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.