Leadership: our job is to awaken possibility in other people

So when Aaron and the people of Israel saw the radiance of Moses’ face, they were afraid to come near him… Then he would give the people whatever instructions the Lord had given him, and the people of Israel would see the radiant glow of his face. So he would put the veil over his face until he returned to speak with the Lord. – Exodus 34:30-35

IMG_2575Go figure, one of my “most read” recent posts was last week’s commentary on leadership. Not my usual purview but the topic keeps coming up. Interestingly, and not by design, my thoughts this morning are turning that way too.

Again, rather than focusing on politicians, preachers, managers, and CEO’s I’m talking about the kind of leadership we are all called to as people of faith.

We talked about this during my mid-week men’s group: “The very fact that we claim to follow Jesus opens a leadership equation. People know us, they work with us, they respect us, they watch us. We are ‘influencers’ not via a 1,000-plus Twitter following but by association with Jesus.”

Author Dallas Willard wrote about the prayer, “May your kingdom come…” It has been more than a decade since I read Willard and this will be a poor paraphrase, but what he said, essentially, was this: In the Lord’s Prayer we invite God’s kingdom to occupy and shape our personal realm of influence, our kingdoms. For some people this is literally only the parameters of their own soul. Others have a more extensive “kingdom” – their family, maybe a work group, trusted friends, possibly a classroom, a youth group, an entire church?

Our “kingdom” is our potential for influence. There we are leaders, and leadership is an amazing opportunity.

Okay, that is all very interesting. But what is behind today’s post? Well I’m glad you asked; there are two things.

  1. First, an interview I heard on a recent edition of the TED Radio Hour
  2. Then a quote from a letter written by C.S. Lewis back in the 1950’s, encouraging a struggling author.

Our Job is to Awaken Possibility in Other People:

IMG_6604The NPR interview (and, BTW, I highly recommend the podcast) was with Benjamin Zander, musical director for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic  Youth Orchestra. The episode focused on the subject “How Art Changes Us” and Zander was talking about his definition of success.

“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound…. he depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful… My job is to awaken possibility in other people. You know how you find out? You look at their eyes; if their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. If the eyes are not shiny you get to ask a question, and this is the question: ‘Who am I being that my players eyes are not shining?’ I have a definition of success – it’s not about wealth and fame and power – it’s about how many shining eyes I have around me…” – Zander on NPR

This is the key question of leadership: “How many shining eyes do I have around me?”

6895620754_94a5436c74_oThe C.S. Lewis quote is from a letter to Joy Davidman, before they met. She was having difficulty with a manuscript. “I’m sorry you are having trouble with your new work…” Lewis writes. “Do remember that what does not deeply concern you will not interest your reader” (quoted in the 2018 book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis).

There is no way people around us are going to have shining eyes unless – first – we own a quality of passion, conviction, enthusiasm, and commitment that is both authentic and irrepressible.

When Moses came down from the mountain having been in the presence of God his face shone. It was literally too much for the people. “Moses, dude, put a paper bag over your head, please! You are too shiny!”


1-DSC_0741Leadership is a function of our own enthusiastic commitment.

“I do not accept this teaching,” one confirmed atheist said on his way into church, “but the preacher today believes with such passion and authentic joy that I am compelled to listen!”

Leadership is, first and foremost, about awakening possibility in other people. This is why I write, this is why I accept just about every invitation to speak, this is why I not only follow Jesus but I will invite you to be a disciple too.

This is why my eyes are shining – DEREK


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