You know, often the most inspiring and impactful things in life are also the most difficult and daunting. I’d certainly put leadership in that category.
I’ll never forget several years ago a pastor friend of mine telling me, “Pete, everyone loves you until you lead.”
Leadership is one of the greatest privileges given to any human being. I’m sure that many of us in leadership would agree that it is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life.
But in leadership you carry a weight and responsibility which can drive you to a very lonely place. And this is true whether it's leadership in a church, in the workplace, or even in your home.
The key to being a healthy leader, however, is to find ways to allow this loneliness to drive you to a greater dependence on God.
I'm reminded of this loneliness when I look at Jesus’ life. Luke 22:39-46 recounts how Jesus asks His disciples to pray with Him. It was such an intense time of temptation. The Bible tells us as He prayed, "His sweat was like drops of blood." After He finished, He walked back over to His disciples to find them asleep.
Can you imagine how defeating that would be?
In leadership you're often going to feel as if you're fighting a battle alone. You're going to ask...
Does anyone care?
Is anyone else as passionate as I am about this cause?
Will anyone else sacrifice?
Jesus lived in the reality that even when you do life in community, leadership can be lonely (and just hours later, even his closest follower would deny knowing Him).
Reflecting on this passage and these principles makes me realize a few things:
1) If it happened to Jesus, it will happen to you.
People will abandon you and yes, you will feel lonely. And let's be honest, because you and I are not Jesus and we have sins like pride and arrogance, we’re going to bring some of this upon ourselves. I certainly have. Just remember whenever you step into any kind of leadership role to make sure that you count the cost.
2) Extend grace whenever possible.
One of my favorite scenes in the Bible would happen a few weeks later in John 21, when Jesus and Peter (one of Jesus’ disciples who had betrayed Him) have a little chat on the beach. Jesus would take this opportunity to extend grace to Peter and re-communicate His belief in him. Jesus always chose to see people for who they could be rather than who they were in that very moment.
I certainly haven’t done this perfectly but whenever it’s possible, extend grace and forgiveness to those who have hurt you. Truth be known, a lot of leaders are leading out of a deep hurt that came along with the price of leadership. And unfortunately, the grudge that they carry poisons so much of the good they’re attempting to do.
3) Don't get bitter and withdraw.
I've had way too many leaders tell me they don't do "friends". Whhhhhhat? Listen, we've all been hurt. We've all been tempted to withdraw into our own little cocoon and never trust again. Don't fall into that trap. Jesus invested in a bunch of guys who He knew would abandon Him in His time of greatest need. Developing authentic relationships is risky business in the midst of leadership, but it's a risk you need to take.
So, long story short in leadership: expect to feel very alone in moments, come to grips with extending grace even if you feel it’s a one-way street, and wake up ready to love more each day. This will carry you through all seasons of leadership—the good, the bad and ugly.