By Rob Jacobs
The soul of a leader is the soil from which their leadership will bear fruit and grow. A leader must tend to the soil of their soul.
If a leader was to ponder all the ways in which he or she might evaluate how well they were tending to the soil of their souls, they could hardly do better than to look to the Fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5.
As I have thought through what it means to be a fruitful leader and leader who tends to the soil of the soul, I considered what it would mean to be a “peaceful” leader, to be a leader who bore the fruit of peace in their leadership.
Certainly, it must be more than getting along with others, avoiding quarrels and arguments. There must be deeper levels of peace in the that would grow out a well-nourished soil of a leader’s soul.
Then I encountered a roadmap of sorts, found in these words from Thomas a Kempis written nearly 600 years ago.
“There are four things you must do. First, strive to do another’s will rather than you own. Second, choose always to have less than more. Third, seek the lower places in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important. Fourth, always and in everything desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you. The person who tries this will be treading the frontiers of peace and rest.”
Strive to Do the Will of Others
Striving is not the mere accepting of another’s will, it is the active seeking and endeavoring to do the will of another. The will of the other becomes the aim and the effort of the “peaceful” leader. How incredibly counter-culture is that to the world of leadership so familiar to most of our experiences. Leaders, we are taught, are those who self-actualize their power and influence to their desired ends and outcomes. In other words, leaders are taught to embrace the “My will be done” mentality.
The fruit of “peace” is not possible when the soil we attempt to grow it from is self-centered, self-seeking, and self-obsessed.
Choose Less Than More
Certainly, we should not seek less love, less joy, less peace, etc. But the loss of peace is so frequently found in choosing the path of “more.” Many leaders fall into the trap of pursuing more power, prestige, and fame. For many leaders, the more they have, the more they are. But peaceful leadership is not found on that path. The road to peaceful leadership is the path of less.
The path to peaceful leadership requires the leader to believe, as John the Baptist cautioned, that “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Seek the Lower Places
To seek the lower places is to choose the towel over the throne. Peaceful leadership comes in the form of a servant, not a tyrant. Peaceful leadership is found in seeking a cross, not a crown. A weak leader seeks advancement so that they might be master of a kingdom. A servant leader seeks to serve the Master and advance His Kingdom.
As I have said time and time again, if serving is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you.
Desire God’s Will Be Fulfilled
Leaders must begin with a simple question. “Whose will is fulfilled in my leadership?” Thomas a Kempis reminds us that it is not our will that is to be fulfilled. It is another’s will we seek to fulfill. A quarrelsome leader uses their position for privilege. A peaceful leader sees their position as a privilege.
The price of peaceful leadership–the true cost of peaceful leadership–is your self-interest.
Rob Jacobs is the Pastor of Spiritual Maturity for Saddleback Church. He is responsible for leading and overseeing discipleship processes and programs, leadership development, and leadership development programs.