The leadership development industry in America is booming. Billions of dollars every year are spent on books, boot camps, conferences, seminars, webinars , webcasts and simulcasts. Billions of hours are invested in expanding the leadership skills of business men, ministers, teachers, law enforcement officials, government employees, moms, dads, students, if you breathe you are getting your leadership developed. With all of that time, investment and effort doesn’t it seem that we should be seeing an incredible impact on our society at large? Shouldn’t better leaders produce better direction, in turn producing better solutions to the problems we face? And yet, it seems the exponential growth of leadership training over the last 30-40 years; from Napoleon Hill, to Zig Ziglar to Tony Robbins to John Maxwell, has done very little to truly impact our society in any significant way? Poverty levels are the same, unemployment is relatively flat, divorce is up, crime is up, teen pregnancy is up, education scores are down. It spite of the explosion in leadership development we have enjoyed over the last 30 years we have just slipped into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And the church seems even worse. Although there has been a stunning increase in leadership seminars and conferences for church leaders since the 80’s the church’s influence, impact and outreach has declined significantly.
Why? Why, after investing so much in leadership development have we seen so little impact on our society? Why, after all the hours has the plight of our people not improved? Why after pastors have spent millions of the churches dollars to be “better leaders” has the church wandered into near irrelevance? Although on the surface the answer to these questions may seem pretty complex, I contend the answer is simple: Not all leadership is created equal. Now I realize that statement is fairly obvious. Everyone knows there is a difference between being the leader of a high school chess team and the leader of the free world, that there is a difference between being the leader of a garage band and being the leader of General Motors, but the inequity in leadership I am primarily addressing here is the inequity of purpose not position. I believe that the reason we are not seeing the impact of leadership development in our society and churches is because we are not seeing a leadership training rooted in the principles that motivated true leaders throughout time. Leaders that altered the course of history, that led movements that changed their societies, true leaders who understood the responsibility of, and purpose for, their positions of influence.
History has taught us that True Leaders, world changing leaders, have abandoned a central motivation of self promotion for the propagation of deep seeded governing principles. That a True Leader’s principles are founded in an idealism that is bigger than themselves and is rooted in a desire to promote a conviction that will lead to the betterment of mankind. They realize the advancement of these principles is undertaken, often times, at great personal expense. True leaders do not put at the center of their motivation success and personal advancement, but see it as an unintended and many times unfortunate byproduct of their true calling. True Leaders often view personal success suspiciously, as an imposter that can betray their life’s calling. Men like Martin Luther, who never intended to become an icon of the reformation, even shunning the idea of “lutheranism” not wanting to be the focal point of the movement he advanced, but wanting to shift the focus toward the ideas and ideals to which he was committed. When we look at a man like St. Francis of Assisi whose very governing principle was one of selflessness and humility. He sought to throw off the mantel of worldly values that judge a man’s life - the measuring sticks of a popular following, personal wealth, a sum of power and level of prestige. He simply wanted to be judged by his commitment to self-denial and by that unwavering commitment, he changed the face and focus of his world. The lives and deaths of John Wycliffe and Jon Hus, men who’s martyrdom fueled a world reformation. It is in these types of leaders we find True Leadership.