When we choose to follow someone, many times it is only because he or she is the boss. The one in charge has an office above ours, and it is our job to do what that person says. However, most good leaders are recognized not just because people follow them, but because people want
to follow them. Yet, what is the difference between someone we must follow and someone we wish to follow? Often it is character.
Character is more than personality. It is who a person is and what he or she has been built up to be (Romans 5:3-4
). In some cases, a person may have learned how to be a leader through holding an office, learning through endurance who he or she is. It seems the office is not the only thing that designates someone as a true leader.
Paul is a great example of this. Long before he was proclaimed as one of God's chosen instruments (Acts 9:15
), he was a leader of the Jews. He was highly educated and respected. Known as Saul, he stood by while Christians were persecuted (Acts 7:58
), and he led arrests of those who believed in the Lord (Acts 9:1-2
). It was by his office that he led.
On the road to Damascus, he changed. God's words rang in his ears: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4
). Saul became transformed by Christ (Romans 12:2
). He no longer was known as Saul; he became Paul. He did not continue to lead in an earthly way, solely through his office, but in a loving way, through his character.
Instead of behaving as the deceitful Pharisees around him, Paul exuded authenticity. He did not wish to please others so he could boast in himself and his own reputation as many other leaders do. Instead of being greedy and self-serving, Paul only wished to boast in God and focus on who He is (2 Corinthians 10:17-18
). Paul strived to live, as any Christian should, by example (2 Thessalonians 3:7
). He took his vocation even further. He not only walked the walk, but he ran the race (2 Timothy 4:7
In his change of character, Paul also became approachable. He did not hide in the temple or behind the law as did the other religious men did. Paul stayed out in the open proclaiming the gospel. He lived in the community among those to whom he preached. Not only that, Paul encouraged questions and hoped to help others know God.
Instead of living to be served, Paul lived to serve. Learning to become humble, he put others above himself. This was not through some sort of understanding of his duty, but it was through the affection he had for others (1 Thessalonians 2:8
). Paul served out of love, "like a nursing mother taking care of her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7
) and encouraged others (1 Thessalonians 2:12
In learning to lead as Paul led, we can understand that no matter what type of leadership our office may hold, our character is what should shine through. Whether you are a teacher, minister, politician or shepherd, your authenticity, approachability, humility and genuine love for others is what truly leads others to you. Perhaps it is because these other characteristics, given by God to you, are also truly what will lead you.