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He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables…”
Leadership is all about informational exchanges between leaders and their followers. Information must be released, and that same information must be received. Therefore, clear communication is essential to an efficiently functioning leadership module. Even the slightest bit of ambiguity can cause a misinterpretation of leadership’s end goals and can thus delay progress. The purpose of leadership is to mobilize people and resources towards a determined goal. Transformational leadership, however, is about cultivating future leaders who can carry on the mission for generations to come.
Transformational leaders look at their core group of followers and are able to discern the future leaders that lie within. This is what Jesus was doing when he called out the twelve disciples. There were those who followed Jesus because they were entertained by the numerous miracles that he performed. There were others who were only around Jesus because they wanted their needs met. Yet Jesus looked at the twelve, and others, and could envision co-laborers in the work of Kingdom expansion.
Jesus was known for speaking in parables and riddles. I can only imagine how confusing it was to try to follow his kingdom logic, only to completely miss his point. It is often frustrating when a language barrier exists. And yet, Mark 4:11 establishes that Jesus had two different types of communication for two different types of audiences. The group who followed him for entertainment and opportunity experienced a leader who spoke in seemingly disjointed riddles. The disciples—those who were committed to following him—experienced a leader who often spoke plainly to them, invested more of himself into them, and demanded more of them. This Jesus was clear and empowering because he was cultivating future leadership.
Recently, five African American students were alarmed to find racist comments on the dormitory message boards at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Preparatory School. The Air Force Academy is responsible for training some of our nation’s future military leaders. General Jay B. Silveria responded to such bigoted actions head on and decided to capitalize on a teachable moment. He called together the entire USAFA leadership, gathered all the cadets, and clearly articulated a vision of a community that was inclusive, affirming, and empowering to all of its cadets. He made clear that hatred and bigotry would not be tolerated or allowed in the community that he was cultivating. His intention in his address was not to berate the entire community, but to invest in the future leadership that he envisioned in that room. Through his speech, he gave them ownership in co-laboring with him to build a better way.
It is imperative that you, as a transformational leader, identify the future leaders and co-laborers in your arena. Since informational exchanges are so important, it is vital that you are clear and empowering with these individuals. Be honest about the weight of the task and the cost of the journey. Be candid about the times you fall short, and turn them into teachable moments for those that will lead after you.
Lord, as leaders, we can sometimes be so consumed with the mission that we don’t invest in the future leaders of this vision you’ve given us. Teach us how to lead like Jesus. Give us the ability to discern the future leaders and co-laborers that cross our path. We ask for your strength and patience to cultivate them and for the courage to be transparent with them, even in our shortcomings. Your vision in us is great and deserves longevity for generations to come. Thank you for fresh eyes and open hearts of compassion for those whom you’ve entrusted to us as leaders. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Leading Up
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