The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Once a year, we honor the life and leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.
His words in the above quote reminded me of the significance and sacrifice of leadership. History is the greatest tell of authentic leadership.
Leadership is not a life of comfort and convenience. It’s marked by trial and fraught with peril, defined by our challenges and controversies.
But let’s make this practical and look at the subtle challenges that can affect a leader’s life?
3 Challenges That Happen in a Moment
1. Resist Entitlement
I spend a lot of time on airplanes. I love working with incredible organizations across the country, but that inevitably means hours and hours in airports.
All these logged miles provide “status” on most airlines. I thoroughly enjoy the perks of better seats and early boarding, but I’ve noticed something interesting. My peers with privileges also seem to be the most unhappy and entitled passengers. It’s a competitive arena where you push and elbow your way to be first among the firsts.
2. Resist Disrespect
From a leadership perspective, I can’t help wonder what “status” is producing in me–in us? I see an ever-increasing loss of respect for one another. The irritability and sometimes outright anger that emerges over sometimes trivial things. It worries me both in others and when I see it in myself.
3. Resist Today’s Negative Culture
Perhaps the stressors of flying, especially for those who travel often, breeds a disproportionate amount of the ugly I see in our culture. But I guess I fear that it’s a symptom of what is permeating this day and time. I see it in the news. I see it in our neighbors. I see it in our leaders–fear, anger, distrust, suspicion, competition, selfishness, and greed.
Today’s Leadership Will Shape Tomorrow’s History
I believe great leaders could change a declining course.
Every significant moment in history had leaders who were committed to another way.
Leaders who acted counter-culturally like Martin Luther King Jr. who selflessly did what was right rather than what was acceptable or comfortable.
Too many leaders are leading with a short-term, self-focused perspective.
I want to lead with less attention to my comfort and more commitment to the good of those around me.
Imperfect Love is Still Love
Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, articulates a perspective appropriate for leaders.
Every day I put love on the line. There is nothing I am less good at than love. I am far better in competition than in love. I am far better at responding to my instincts and ambitions to get ahead and make my mark than I am at figuring out how to love another. I am schooled and trained in acquisitive skills, in getting my own way. And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily – open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.
That last line wrecks me – daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.
Leaders, I believe a declining culture could shift if we would go first in choosing to lead with love, even when it feels like imperfect love.
Leadership – extraordinary leadership – is not an easy road, but where would we be without the great leaders who had gone before us and accepted this responsibility?
Our Leadership Legacy is Still Being Written
May we remember that our legacy of leadership is still being written.
It won’t be accomplished in one moment, but it will be the collection of moments, in those everyday challenges and controversies that we face.
May our character and conduct today foreshadow the legacy we wish to endure.
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
** Culture Matters **
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Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.