I hate leadership. The impact it can have is devastating. I’ve seen the way it corrupts people. I hate what it does in me; the way it draws me away from Jesus, and everything becomes about me and feeding my ego. It is costly and painful. I have to deal with people manipulating me or being aggressive. I can’t avoid disappointment and betrayal. I get frustrated with the constant demands, I become drained and the day-to-day tasks feel meaningless. It brings out my insecurities and makes me feel small. Leadership places me in isolation.
I love leadership. The impact it can have is transformative. I’ve seen the way it brings the best out of people. I love what it does in me; it throws me back into dependence on Jesus and I get to serve him and his kingdom. It is fulfilling and enriching; I get to see people released into their God-given potential and watch them at their best. I get inspired by the opportunities, I feel energised because what I do has purpose and meaning. It brings out my strengths and reminds me I have a place in his plan. Leadership sets me within a team.
I used to idealise and idolise leadership — I didn’t foresee how excruciatingly painful it would be. There are moments when all I want to do is run away and give up. Equally, there are other times when there is nothing else on the planet I’d rather do.
As I have battled this love/hate relationship with leadership, I’ve come to realise it isn’t to be loved or hated. I have to remember I’m not doing this because I like leadership, I’m doing it because I love Jesus.
2,000 years ago Jesus said “follow me” to a very ordinary bunch of men. They left behind their ordinary, easy and comfortable lives to follow someone extraordinary and challenging, who disturbed their status quo. When they set off after him, as the chosen ones, they were probably wide eyed and naïve like me; enjoying and relishing the status of disciple or, as we say now, being a leader. No one could have foretold what would unfold: moments of deepest darkness and agony but also blazing glory.
There is a moment in John 6 when many of the followers of Jesus give up and leave because he is too challenging. Jesus turns to the 12 and asks, “Do you also want to leave?” and Peter replies “Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life”.
If we do what we do because we love leadership, chances are we will leave when the going gets tough. Quite frankly, leadership isn’t worth the cost. But Jesus is.
Anna Mason is training for ordination at St Mellitus doing a placement at HTB in the Leadership College London department. Anna has been involved in kids, youth and student work fulltime for eight years. She continues to work with young people through Onelife, a young leaders’ organisation, and she also helps oversee the New Wine youth venues for Week 2 of the National Gatherings.
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