Friday, June 10, 2011

Leader of the Pack

Cesar Millan - The Dog Whisperer
By Albert Kang, Pastoral Advisor

Cesar Millan, the famous 'Dog Whisperer' has such great talent in spotting the behaviors of dogs - so much so that he is able to direct them and provide the leadership that dogs need. In his TV programs, Cesar keeps informing the dog owners to become 'leaders of the pack'. The reason is obvious, dogs like wolves live in packs. They respond to pack leadership. When a dog owner surrenders her pack leadership to her dog, then the animal will instinctively take control and become the leader of the pack. In the shows, Cesar is able to take control of the dogs and change their behaviors by positioning himself as the leader. 

One dog, heightened by its insecurity, has on many occasions, even bites its owner. The owner is a very nice person and even though she scolds her pet, she is very gentle. In just a few hours, Cesar takes control by becoming the dominant pack leader. The misbehaving canine backs down and submits completely. Cesar then teaches the owner to take charge and the dog submits willingly. It looks like a miracle but according to Cesar, the poor dog has been looking for leadership. When given that, it readily submit and be a part of the pack.

Human beings are not like dogs but we also look for leadership in organizations. Our decision to follow someone is more complicating than that of animals but the basic truth is that good leadership gives direction, hope, future and security to the group. 

For example, Moses was able to lead a whole group of very frightened people from the slavery of Egypt because he took hold of the responsibility that God gave him. His leadership provided direction and the people moved towards the Promised Land. It also provided hope because they moved away from slavery to freedom. The people continued in spite of so many challenges because they and their children clung onto a future. As a large united group, the Children of Israel had security and even became a threat to the other established surrounding nations.

Yes, Moses fumbled and became discouraged many times throughout his forty years of leadership. It was tough for Moses to be a leader because the Children of Israel were not really good and obedient followers. Later, we read about how this group of former slaves even dared to challenge the leadership of God Himself. Like most leaders, when trouble boiled, Moses wanted to give up. However, being a responsible leader, he bit the bullet and took charge. 

Today, modern leaders can echo after the motto popularized by Harry Truman and declare, "The buck stops here". This means that the leader takes full responsibility and does not 'pass the buck'. Pastors who take full responsibility over their flocks, not only have appreciative church members but dedicated ones too. 

People are more willing to win souls and do the works of the Lord when they are challenged by the clear vision and strong commitment of good leadership. Do not surrender your leadership if you are placed in the position of "leading the pack". If you do, then be ready for a take-over from a secondary leadership. 

One of the reasons why many churches suffer from church quarrels and splits is because the pastors are too 'nice and kind' to take charge. The truth has nothing to do with being nice or kind. It is just sheer weak irresponsible leadership. When a secondary leadership provides the vision and strategy for growth, it naturally undermines the primary pastoral leadership. Therefore, before this happens, pastors should learn how to take charge and be responsible leaders. Here are some ways you can be a responsible 'leader of the pack' and provide clear leadership direction to your church.

1. Be Responsible. When you take charge and be responsible, your leadership will change the attitude of the church. Your example will challenge the other leaders in your church to serve responsibly. Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, is a very good example of responsible leadership. Even though he is not yet a Christian, his responsible leadership style is worthy of our study and examination. 

In the 1960s, Singapore was going through much political upheavals but this man took charge. It was not a good time to be a leader. Singapore got kicked out of Malaysia and the British military that protected Singapore for many years was leaving for good. The Communists were confrontational and threatened to take over the young fledgling nation. There were racial, religious and labor strives. There were 153 major strikes between July 1961 and September 1962. The 1964 racial riot was among the worse. Indonesian saboteurs were planting bombs in Singapore. No, it was not a good time.

Without the peninsular of Malaysia as a good hinterland for natural resources, little industries, no military defense and a hostile political environment, Lee had to act. Added to all these, he had to lead a new country of different and often disharmonious races that were not used to being a nation. Most were loyal to their home countries and Singapore was only a platform for financial gains. With little education and not much of future prospects, Singaporeans were deemed to fail and become the debris of modern civilization. However, because, Lee was a strong and responsible leader, he and his dedicated team of young leaders turned the situations around and made Singapore to become one of the most prosperous and admired nations in the world. 

2. Be Innovative. People look for innovative leadership in a changing environment. Once again, Lee stepped forth as a brilliant innovative strategist of change. He was able to size up the situations in Singapore accurately and came up with practical solutions. He refused to allow Singapore to be a victim of her circumstances. Lee took the bribery culture at its horns and radically transformed it into a culture of honesty. In spite of its unpopularity, National Service was introduced. Young men were trained as soldiers for two or more years after they reached 18 years of age. Thanks to that, today, Singapore has one of the strongest defence forces in Asia. She can raise half a million soldiers if the need arises. Large swamps were filled and transformed to become industrial hubs. Explosive growth in population is curbed by harsh laws. Families are moved to high rise government-subsidized apartments. Drastic measures were needed during those drastic time.

To bring your church into the next level of growth, you have to be courageous enough to challenge the status quo and be innovative.  You may need to change the way you use to do things. Watch and learn from other forward-looking church leaders. They have gone through much hard knocks to get their church moving and going. You do not need to experience all those adverse experiences if you were to study carefully how innovations are being introduced into churches that used to be mired in traditions and ineffectiveness. Anyway, it is proven that forward-looking leaders do attract other quality people. 

3. Be Positive - King David was able to attract his mighty men because he was a leader who was exceptionally positive about his vision from the Lord. Since the time of his anointing by Prophet Samuel, David had challenged the status quo. Not any fault of his own, David had to become a fugitive. However, the wilderness did not rob David of his vision. He reinvented himself and his team of followers. For about 15 years, David was hunted down like a wild animal. King Saul made sure that David would have no chance of taking his throne. 

Rejected by the king, David knew that he was not rejected by God. In spite of great difficulties in taking care of 600 families in the wilderness, David did not give up. He was positive because he knew that he had a God who would help him overcome all hardships. He took responsibility to provide strong leadership. When his followers had doubt about God and their future, they just needed to look at their leader To survive, David had to be creative and used multiple means to get supports and rations for the thousands under his care. Prosperous people like Nabal, not only did not support these refugees but were hostile. Thankfully Abagail provided the support that David and his men needed.

This is the typical experience of responsible leaders - many may not give you instant support but this will come in time. Being positive and innovative means looking beyond the methods and approaches of the past. Learn to try new things and be brave enough to challenge the church to move forward. Take charge and say, "This is what we are going to do to achieve this or that!" In spite of the tough situations, your strong leadership will provide the positive motivation that your church needs in order to grow.

4. Be Consistent. Nothing makes the members more irritated than the inconsistent approaches of the pastor. For example, the pastor preaches much about evangelism and winning souls but provides no leadership, strategy and infrastructure to do so. Thus, the pastor is known for being a 'NATO' which stands for 'No Action, Talk Only'. When a vision is supported by related trainings, programs, and finances, the people will soon be challenged to respond. Such a definite action is endemic and will motivate every department and member. Evangelism and soul-winning will soon become the core values adopted to be part of the church's culture.

Leader of the Pack. Today, many church members are not so sure about the leadership provided by their church leaders. Indecisiveness and fear of being perceived as proud, many pastors back down as being the 'leader of the pack'. Any organizations that do not have responsible leadership will stagnate and then slide down the drain. As a responsible leader and pastor, you need to provide the framework for confidence to be restored. 

Work on these four aspects of your leadership - responsible in leading, Innovative in creating, positive in motivating and consistent in supporting - and you will see affirmative changes in the attitudes of those who are serving with you. Over the years, quite a number of pastors have discovered and applied these four aspects of leadership approach. They have gone on to motivate thousands to become more dedicated to the Lord, win souls and multiply the disciples in the kingdom of God. 

Finally, even though you may not be looking to pastor a mega-church but the least you can do is to have the willingness and desire to be responsible for a healthy growing church.

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