Leadership Lessons from James, Part II
In our last article of this two-part blog series, we looked at leadership through the eyes of James. We saw that leaders do not quit; they ask God for creative ideas; and they guard their hearts. In this continued look at James, we will see that leaders are role models in their treatment of others and in their manner of living. Leaders not only persevere with innovations and integrity but guide others on the path they will follow. This type of leadership by example is found at every level of an organization.
1. LEADERS TREAT OTHERS AS EQUALS – JAMES 2:1, 9
Favoritism and discrimination have no place in the life of a Christian leader. James specifically points out that these attitudes come from “evil thoughts”. He clearly explains that to “show partiality” is to commit sin. Regardless of who someone is as well as his or her position in society, each individual has been made in the image of God.
In our society, we often hear of equality in regards to ethnicity and gender, but James also encourages us to treat people from all economic spheres as equals. The first step is to recognize the temptation to treat the wealthy and the influencers better than those who, on the surface, may have a lesser status. We combat this temptation by recognizing the God-given value of each person. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a good rule to live by. This principle applies not only to Christian leaders but to organizational and corporate leaders as well. Make a conscious decision to treat everyone the same, regardless of who they are. Make this a core value of your life.
2. LEADERS RECOGNIZE THEIR RESPONSIBILITY – JAMES 3:1
Leaders have a number of responsibilities. Two are found in the first part of James, chapter three: First, leaders have a responsibility to be accountable. Because of their position, leaders must hold themselves to a higher standard. James cautioned that those “who teach will be judged more strictly”. Likewise, Jesus explained, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). One way to live according to what God has given you is to develop systems (or relationships) of accountability. Men and women in leadership need others who will tell them the truth in love. Imagine how different the business environment would be today if the lending institutions responsible for the housing crash (and others) had put in place true, workable systems of accountability. This one thing could have saved thousands of families from the heartache and loss of their homes.
Second, leaders have a responsibility to exercise self-control. This trait is so important that the Apostle Paul lists it as one of the fruits of the Spirit. Remember, someone is always watching, even in the small things. Most failures come as a result of a slow leak instead of a blowout. Before fallen leaders cross the line in big things, they cross it in small things. By exercising self-control leaders model righteous living and safeguard against lapses in judgment.
3. LEADERS MODEL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING – JAMES 3:13-18
Effective leaders have learned to model wisdom and understanding. James indicates this is done through a person’s deeds, through a lack of envy and selfish ambition, through honoring the truth, and through promoting peace. First, wisdom and understanding are proven through faith displayed in deeds.
Secondly, we must realize that envy and selfish ambition reveal a lack of wisdom. James explains decisions resulting from these heart attitudes are “earthly, unspiritual, [and] of the devil”. Instead, heaven’s wisdom is peaceful and pure, resulting in a harvest of righteousness.
This leads to the third point that wisdom and understanding are modeled by honoring the truth. This applies to the truth of the Word of God and the truth that one speaks. Never honor a lie, even if it benefits the business or organization. If you do, the next time you may find the tables turned.
Finally, we model wisdom and understanding through the promotion of peace. The workplace can be a place of conflict. A “peacemaker” not only models wisdom and understanding but is of benefit to the organization as well.
4. LEADERS UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER – JAMES 4:2-4: 5:13-19
What is your reaction when trouble comes your way? Do you have a tendency to panic, give up or overreact? James clearly states that you should pray. It is impossible to communicate the importance of prayer in one short paragraph. Great leaders understand that some things are out of their control, and they must turn to the One Who does have everything under His control. Prayer should be the first thing a leader does instead of turn to it as a last resort. In fact, a leader should make prayer a regular part of their life that way he or she is prepared for the challenges that come.
Jesus has called us to be servant leaders, irrespective of the context of our leadership. Every church or corporate leader should guard their hearts against a “lording (it) over them” attitude. Instead, they should have a heart to serve the ones they are leading. Maybe the best way to express this point is “never fall prey to” the intoxication of success.
5. LEADERS ARE MINDFUL OF THEIR WORDS – James 1:19, 26; 3:1-12
James teaches that one of the great challenges of life is controlling the tongue. A leader who truly understands the power of the tongue has taken a big step towards being an effective leader, as long as it is used in the proper way. Take note of what James teaches us:
First, be quick to listen. It is amazing what one discovers when he or she truly listens to others. Practice listening to those who look to you for leadership or guidance. There are times when “out of the mouth of babes” comes great wisdom. Take time to listen to others whether you are officially or unofficially their leader.
Secondly, be slow to speak. I am not talking here about casting vision or giving instructions in a structured sense. What I do mean is carelessly offering personal advice because we think we should be someone who has all the answers. (Remember the pitfalls of leadership? This is another one.) As I have already mentioned, a leader is a person of influence. And the person you are talking to might actually take your advice. Seek the Giver of all wisdom before casually giving an answer.
Thirdly, remember the power of your words. You can speak to peers and followers in a way that builds them up or tears them down. The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is totally false. Many today still carry wounds inflicted by the words of the authority figures in their life. Remember: Speak the life-giving words of Jesus to your followers. Take time to encourage and build others up as well as offering helpful, loving correction.
This concludes our two-part blog series on Leadership Lessons from James. We hope you have enjoyed it. Our prayer is that you will begin to acknowledge in a deeper way your own level of influence. Again, we believe the idea of leadership is not relegated to a title or position someone holds but that everyone is a leader in some capacity. And, we want you to feel empowered as you exemplify these traits to the people in your “sphere of influence” who are looking to you in this way.
Action Point: The health of an organization depends on leaders exemplifying godly principles in relation to one another and in righteous living. What are some ways you can implement the exemplification of godly principles in relation to others and in righteous living?
—Dr. Tom JonesP.S. We’ve come to the end of this two-part article series, but there is so much more to learn! God has a wealth of riches for everyone who hungers. As I mentioned in the previous article, we have developed two conference-based schools of healing and impartation which pack a lot of teaching, activation, impartation, and more into one conference. I’ll be speaking at one coming up in Raleigh, North Carolina in February. It’s our freshly-rebranded event, Kingdom Foundations, and I believe it will be a powerful event.
If what I’ve written in this article has touched you, perhaps God would further increase your leadership ability through this upcoming conference. Click here to read about Kingdom Foundations, Raleigh, NC >>→