“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Marketplace leaders are judged by their goals, friends, actions, and—ultimately—authenticity.
Authenticity. Goals, friends, and actions are vital . . . but the most important way leaders are judged is on their authentic humility. Leaders who try to be perfect, or appear perfect, will lose their teams. Leaders who can admit weakness and failure, on the other hand, will find their teams willing to follow them toward important goals.
When I was sixteen, my friends assumed I was good at fixing cars. It seemed reasonable. I’d been around cars for most of my life. But what my friends failed to consider was that in the wrecking yard, the valued skill wasn’t fixing cars but dismantling them. Fixing was what our customers did.
So I could rip parts out of a car pretty well . . . and then I could stare at the pile of parts and wonder how to put everything back together. Like the time I was seventeen and bought a dilapidated Datsun pickup at a car auction. I drove it home and immediately started stripping out the interior. I had no real plan, but I knew the interior was ugly, so it needed to go if I wanted to look cool driving it. I never did finish the interior. And the next summer, I drove that pickup with a buddy all the way to Alaska with the seats unbolted to the floor. Which was great when we stopped at campgrounds; we were the only ones for miles with comfortable seats to use by the campfire. Stupid, yes, but unforgettable.
The point here is that leaders need to be willing to jump in and attempt to figure things out, even if that results in failure.
When we aim for attempted perfection it will always get in the way of productivity.
Yet Jesus tells us to be perfect, so am I contradicting the Bible? Maybe. I’m always open to the possibility that I don’t have my head on straight.
But think about this. A few chapters later in Matthew, we see the rich young ruler meeting Jesus. The guy is pretty confident he’s done all the right things. All the perfect things, like keeping the law and whatnot. But Jesus sees the imperfections in what looks like a perfect life from the outside. And because he is a loving leader, Jesus challenges the young man with direct honesty.
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
The man walks away in sorrow, and Jesus turns to his disciples and remarks, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (19:23-24).
The disciples are floored. Wait, this guy was rich and perfect! If he can’t get in heaven, who can? And a camel through the eye of a needle—seriously?!
They turn to Jesus and say, basically, “So you’re telling us that no one can be saved, right?”
Jesus answers them: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (19:26).
This is the key. We aren’t going to save ourselves. We can’t save ourselves. We can’t be perfect leaders, just like we can’t put the parts back together on an old Datsun pickup.
But can God? Now the story changes. Suddenly, we realize our own imperfections mean we should walk with humility. We know we are not as good as we want others to think we are, and so we become deeply thankful for grace. Yes, Jesus calls us to live lives of perfection—but Jesus also points out that’s not even possible! We need God to help and lead us. And with God leading us in and through our imperfections, we become far better suited to lead others.
Something to Think About:
Do you try to lead by being perfect?
Have you disappointed your team by failing to admit your failures?
Ask God to show you areas where you may be leading with a perfectionistic mindset.
I hope you’ve enjoyed thinking about how scripture informs your goals, friends, actions, and authenticity as a leader. Let me know how it goes for you—seriously! I’d enjoy hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading. Now keep leading.
Portions of this series were adapted from Roy’s book Salvaged: Leadership Lessons Pulled From the Junkyard, Copyright @ 2019, used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved.