Quality and depth of leadership takes time. Many leaders mistake short term successes for long term effectiveness. They are so concerned about their success in the moment and in proving their leadership ability that they don’t think long term toward becoming a leader of deep influence.
This is a principle young leaders need to understand: God wants to bless your leadership. But He wants you to press into Him and into those practices that will make your leadership successful and deep over the long run. The most important thing young leaders can do is to pursue the heart connection with God, building into their lives the reservoir of faith, health, grace, and skill that will carry them for the long term.
Where did the depth of Moses leadership come from? As a young leader he was impetuous and careless and ended up having to flee Egypt even though he had been raised in the royal household. God gave Moses forty years to develop his leadership heart and soul before He drafted him for one on of the decisive moments in Israelite history!
Here is something else to note. Moses looked like a leadership failure early on. Many of us do as well. But not to God. God used that failure to build into Moses a dependence on Him rather than on his own wisdom. It took time but a shallow leader became one of the greatest, deepest, wisest leaders in the history of God’s people.
Where did David’s depth come from? It came from the time he had as a shepherd as a young boy out with the sheep – where he was developing his relationship with God. Then it came through the pain of being anointed king, serving Saul well but becoming the object of Saul’s wrath, having to live like a pariah, constantly on the run, having to rely on the only help he had – God. David’s depth was forged in pain!
Or consider Joseph who was sold into slavery at about 17 and spent ten years in God’s waiting room (most of it in prison) before he emerged ready for God’s leadership assignment at about age 27. And not because he didn’t love and trust God. In fact, it was his followership of God that gave him a position of huge responsibility in Potiphar’s household, and then in the prison where he found himself after being framed. Clearly, however, God was using the prison years to build into Joseph’s leadership exactly what would be needed for his real assignment – a depth that could not be forged in any other way than through hard times.
God is more concerned about the depth of our heart and resulting leadership than the outward success of our leadership and depth takes time. Early in my leadership career I faced what I considered a great failure. God did not! He used that episode to humble me, teach me reliance on Him, press into his grace and that “failure” has informed the last twenty five years of my leadership. Depth does not usually come from success but from failure and pain! It is in the tough times that we are forced, like Moses and David to go deep with God. What looks like failure to us is often just part of God’s plan to develop us as leaders.
My own conviction is that when we neglect building depth into our lives in an intentional way, God will provide us with the opportunity by giving us Moses or Joseph wilderness experiences to encourage us to force into Him. He knows that our long term ministry effectiveness is dependent on it so it is one of his strategies for our leadership development.
As I reflect on my leadership career I can attest that the greatest lessons and growth have come from periods of the greatest pain. I believe there is no other way to develop a leadership of deep influence. That quality of leadership does not come from easy success but hard success along with plenty of tough failure. And remember, early failure does not mean long term failure. Often it is the early failures that actually make it possible for us to be successful in the long run – if we use that failure to develop depth.
Take a moment and reflect on the times in your leadership where you have faced the most difficult moments and how God used those moments to make you a better, deeper leader.