I once heard a pastor talk of a young woman completing her college application. As she compiled all the required documentation, she began answering questions. Her heart sank upon reading the question that asked, “Are you a leader?” 

Filled with integrity and wanting to be honest, she wrote, “No.” She completed all the application requirements and submitted the information, expecting a rejection. 

About a month later, she received the university’s response:

“Dear Applicant: 

A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

Part of being on my company’s Coronavirus Tiger Team means watching all these press briefings. I can’t say my experience equates to Job or to being swallowed by a whale, but I liken it to some form of suffering. 

Over the past several weeks, a common phrase was repeatedly pounded into the audience.

“… likes of which has never been seen before.”

I’m not the only one who noticed. Someone created a Facebook parody. There’s been “… money we’ve never seen before; an economic bubble we’ve never seen before; a state dinner we’ve never seen before; an airport we’ve never seen before; stories (news stories) that will dry up like we’ve never seen before; obliteration (Iran) like you’ve seen before;” and, so on. He will deliver like you’ve never seen before. Truly. Truly.”

And as I watched, I reflected upon the young college applicant. Here’s the question I asked, “What is authentic “leadership?” It seems that the whole notion of “leadership” has been elevated to the level of idolatry.

I pulled out my “NKJV Spirit-Filled Bible.” (Yeah. Yeah. I have one. Ha.) While walking along the road, the disciples argued “as to which one of them would be greatest” in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ response? He stood a little child in their midst.

Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great” (Luke 9:48).

The point is that a reluctant leader is probably the best candidate for the job of being the leader. The person best suited to exercise authority is perhaps the one who wants it least.

I scribbled out several essential leadership qualities. These aren’t absolute, just my perspective. 

Genuine Unselfishness

A person who has greatness refuses to hold tightly to his or her possessions. Such a person is characterized by a willingness to release, open generosity, and selfless motives in making decisions. 

Willingness to Sacrifice

Great people not only release their possessions but also give themselves to others. Greatness steps in and assists others in need—to the point of sacrifice—without waiting to be asked and without the requirement of being endlessly thanked.

Purity of Motive 

We could also call this an absence of greed. A person with greatness doesn’t have a hidden agenda. 

A great person has pure motives. We see this absence of greed in Abram’s life when he tells the king of Sodom, “I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you. Otherwise, you might say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich’”

Restraint of Power

Great people often have authority, yet they refuse to wield that authority like a sword. They don’t threaten or control people with it. 

Granted, none of these character traits are likely to make headlines. These are not qualities discussed in high places, yet each wears well in life. A life of greatness requires a depth of humility and love. 

So, what do we receive from America’s current leadership? I will summarize with the following story.

A little boy said to his mother, “Can I go outside and help Daddy put snow chains on the car? I know all the words.”

A true leader is not the one with the most followers, but one who creates the most leaders.

~ Neale Donald Walsch ~