Social media is littered with stories of the fall of leaders. It’s estimated that almost half of all people who rise to positions of leadership will then fail, and there seems to be an insatiable appetite to watch as those people crumble. Eyes are peeled for even the smallest of indiscretions these days – financial fumbles, careless treatment of staff or volunteers, customer service blunders, and even missteps of ideology or philosophy or personality seem to be common themes on news feeds and websites. And even if the news is not made known to the masses, the fall of leaders still impacts those who witness the wake of dangerous decisions as resources run dry, bad hires destroy the morale of good employees, and those most loyal to a business or a cause or a ministry become disillusioned and walk away.
We can blame it on a culture where celebrity is king and admiration becomes easily-dashed idolatry. We can blame it on the pressure of a society that pushes against truth if it limits liberty. We can say that leaders these days simply haven’t been educated well or trained properly. But if there’s truly nothing new under the sun, then culture and society have been working hard against those in leadership since mankind was given an opportunity to lead. And that means our next leaders in business and ministry and philanthropy – you – will face the same critical assessment of everything you do and don’t do.
So, can anything be done to rise above it all?
Most certainly, there are important things for you as a leader to remember. Finding mentors and accountability partners helps keep things on track, treating others as you would like to be treated is a tried-and-true rule, and owning your successes and your mistakes – and being graceful and nimble in your response to them – is essential. And OutsmartYourBrain.com offers a great checklist on self-care for leaders, filled with questions about finances, relationships, mental and physical health, and even your work environment.
But is there something more you can do as a leader?
There’s a treasure of great leadership wisdom found in Proverbs 31. Rarely is the chapter read in its entirety; most often, the last 21 verses are shared on Mother’s Day or at weddings when we want to honor wives, moms, grandmothers. But read from beginning to end, the words take on new depth for leaders.
Proverbs 31 starts with a warning to us—to not give away our leadership strength to those things that kill kingdoms. We’re encouraged to take a breath, lead and love well, give our voice to those who have none, and to serve with palms up and knees bent as God’s life is incarnated in ours.
And then, we’re given a picture of what that “leading and loving well” life looks like.
We don’t know the leader’s name, but this we do know about her: she is trusted because her life is trustworthy. She’s strong and industrious, always looking for ways to care for others—especially those who serve. She has no need to fight to be right because she does right daily. She looks at everything around her as an opportunity to care more wholly, and she is unafraid to dig in deep. She’s wise in her financial decisions, responding with forethought in seasons of plenty to prepare for seasons of want, because she knows there will be both. She doesn’t create chaos, and those she leads lack no good thing even in times of devastation. Her leadership lifts those around her and gives them places of honor. She invests time in people, and finds joy when they benefit from that investment. She is unafraid of an uncertain future because she knows wisdom and kindness will greet her there – and they have not failed her yet.
And it’s that same wisdom and kindness she shares with others. She knows that kindness attacks evil at its core, and she sets up guards around her words to ensure they are used for good. Again, she is trusted because she is trustworthy with the days that have been given her.
She sounds like an amazing, wise and tireless leader, right? Well, planted like seeds within the Scripture are two beautiful reminders for you and me.
She rises before dawn to organize the day…
She makes her own bedspreads…(NLT). Another translation says, “She makes coverings for herself. (NLV)
The Proverbs 31 woman is a leader – a leader who understands the value in beginning and ending her day wrapped in personal time with God. She knows she is counted on by family, friends, employees, and the community, so she starts her day by preparing for her day, making sure it is placed on the right track by tending to the nourishment of her body, soul, and spirit. She ends it by retreating to a quiet place—a sanctuary so valuable to her well-being that she has honored it by giving it the best she has.
The Proverbs 31 leader seems to remember the words of Genesis 2 – that when God breathes His breath in us, we become living souls. She knows that without God’s breath, she will become disoriented, confused, clumsy. She will suffocate and fall – and become the next titillating trend in someone’s feed.
I have a feeling that, if you were to ask the Proverbs 31 leader why she believes in beginning and ending her day with God, she would offer up four practical reasons.
- You can’t listen well to others if you aren’t spending time listening to God.
- You can’t encourage others to live a God-breathed life if you aren’t demonstrating what it looks like.
- You can’t pour into the lives of others if you yourself are empty.
- You risk becoming a dangerous decision-maker when the choices made for others are clouded by your own soul crying for help.
So, what does it look like for you to begin and end your day with God? How might you start your day by preparing for it? And what “best” might you offer at the end of each day?