#6 – Leaders are strong

We are up to our final instalment of this 6-part blog series, of Leadership Myth Busters.

For our final statement, I want to tackle “Leaders are strong”. In recent years, there has been a lot more information out there about vulnerability and leadership. Courtesy of Brene Brown we are for the first time really seeing the significance of vulnerability as a society. Despite all the information out there, and the millennial generations desperation to see vulnerability, it appears to be still taking some time to get traction in practice. I still don’t meet many adults that are that vulnerable. I still don’t meet leaders whether in faith-based settings or not, that have vulnerability as a notable value in how they operate. My theory is because the above myth: “Leaders are strong”, brainwashed our society so successfully that it requires its removal before space can be made for the revolutionary change vulnerability could create. Vulnerability has traditionally been seen as ‘weakness’. And weakness is not generally considered an attractive quality in a leader. The truth is most people are repulsed by what appears as weakness. Especially in ourselves. We are often ashamed of anything about us that might be seen as a weakness. And therefore, whilst we all concur that vulnerability is needed in leaders, most leaders aren’t willing to fully go there until it’s safe to not be labelled ‘weak’.

Strength is a great quality. But my experience is, that many differ in their interpretation of what strength looks like. Some see strength as focus, or determination. Some see it as power. But with every quality, there is a delicate tension to be balanced. Even focus needs to be tempered, lest you alienate your followers. Determination needs to moderated too, because the determined have been known to justify bulldozer-like behaviours in lieu of perceived gains.

As with most people in society these days, I am a little nervous about powerful people. I’ve heard way too much about what power can do to you, to allow myself to trust those with it…unconditionally.

Some might say strength is resilience. And I would say I sit in that camp. But I’m not even sure how you can be resilient without vulnerability. True resilience is developed in the battles of life. Often the battles you don’t win. Vulnerability is necessary to learn the lessons that are buried deep in those hard places, requiring you to face your weaknesses and learn how to see life again in light of them. Those who are afraid to be ‘weak’ would struggle to take that risky journey.

The fact is there is plenty in scripture that encourages all believers, without exception to embrace vulnerability.

How can we go past the classic 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT) that says “‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

In such a verse, the recognition of the absence of human strength is a prerequisite for true strength – the strength that comes from Christ. For as long as I have been a Christian I have believed the opposite. I was convinced that God was impressed and pleased with my demonstration of strength. But it’s quite the opposite. He is pleased with our faith, yes. But not necessarily our strength. Who would have thought that being devoid of strength attracts the power of Christ?

In Matthew 5 where Jesus is teaching the famous Beatitudes…He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, they will inherit the kingdom”.

Poor in this context means powerless and helpless. This is so oppositional to our modern minds. We endeavour to be strong, self-sufficient and capable. But the word promises that none of those things improve our posture for the kingdom and the power of God.

So my conclusion is: strength is overrated. And vulnerability in leadership is needed.

I would much rather be a safe leader, than a strong one.

Well, I hope you have gotten stacks out of these little thoughts. My heart is to lighten the load of every leader, by dispelling the beliefs that sometimes entrap us into unrealistic expectations. If you’ve enjoyed any of the blogs you’ve read in this series, and especially if you play a leadership role in a church or faith-based ministry, I encourage you to click this link to pre-order my book “Ministry Stinks”.