Pictures of Leadership Five Snapshots of Model Leaders
Leadership. For the last ten years, I have researched and written about it. I have practiced it, and I have breathed it. Still many times, I lose my bearings and forget the way of good leadership. Why does this happen? Because leadership is hard. Being a businessperson is easy—or at least easier. But being an impactful leader requires consistency of character and depth of spirit.
When I’ve lost my footing, it’s helpful for me to remember these pictures of leadership and simply ask myself, “How well am I doing as a leader?”
- The parent. A good leader is like a good parent. A good parent spends their life doing what they can to elevate the life of their child. They genuinely love and sacrifice. They regularly look beyond imperfections, and do what it takes to guide, to help and to support their children. That’s how great leaders behave. I am regularly reminded of what sportsmen say of legendary coaches they’ve played for. They say, “I loved him like a father.” Of all the pictures of leaders I will share, for me this is the hardest one to constantly achieve. Why? Because loving someone to the degree a parent loves a child, and doing that consistently, is not easy. If you’ve followed my articles for a while, you would have seen the following quote. I love this quote. Written thousands of years ago by a Chinese philosopher and military strongman, Sun Tzu. It shows how the same good leadership principles are as true now as they were then.
Regard your soldiers as your children and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. – Sun Tzu
- The pastor. A few years ago I heard about a man who complained about not having the opportunity to have a ministry. His mentor told him, “You must consider your team as your church, your flock. Be their pastor. Maybe that’s what God is giving you to minister to right now.” Many times as Christians we look for something outside of our work team as ministry to make us feel worthy, but consider your role as a leader your ministry. What if you see yourself as a non-ordained minister? My father was a pastor and I saw firsthand how he cared for everyone in his flock. He was their teacher, always there for everyone, patient, understanding.
- The quarterback. The image of a quarterback in American football is an example of how great leaders position themselves to pass the ball to someone else who can take it and run with it. The quarterback rarely runs the ball. In each play his obsession is to find the best suited player to run the ball forward. If a quarterback were to run the ball himself, two things would happen. The ball would not travel forward much, and the quarterback would get beat up by the opposing team. The quarterback would be responsible to do too much work. It is the same with leadership. When we try to run the ball ourselves, we don’t get far and we get worn out and beat down. We must lead like quarterbacks and always look for he best team member to hand the work they can move forward for us and for the team.
- The shepherd. Most of us have not seen or interacted with shepherds. I grew up in the Lebanese mountains overlooking the Mediterranean, and there were many shepherds with their goats roaming the steep hills and green meadows. What I remember most about them was their patience, waiting for their flock to eat. I remember their hurried movements, to and fro, hissing and whistling, making clicking and ticking sounds to lead their sheep away from danger, and to keep them together. I witnessed their calm spirit while they watched their flock graze, but I also saw how they sprung into spirited action to guide a straying goat back into the fold. Leaders must do the same, always aim to nurture their people and keep them safe together.
- The conductor. At first glance a conductor of an orchestra seems to simply be waiving his baton, in a beautiful choreographed fashion, keeping the musicians on tempo, tick-tock, tick-tock. But a conductor is much more than that. Riccardo Muti, director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is one of the most well known conductors today, and this is what he said about great conducting.
To conduct an orchestra means to be able to get from the musicians the best of their souls, of their feelings. That is what conducting is. Not jumping on the podium and making all kinds of gestures. -Riccardo Muti
A leader must do the same. He or she must not only direct activity and keep the team on tempo and on task. A great leader must somehow connect with people’s souls and move them in a way that is beyond mere activity.
I hope these five images will help you when you need clarity and direction as a leader.
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