Public Square

How to Become a Leader at Work and Beyond

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What does it mean to be a leader? How do we make an impact in our workplace? What does it take to change the world?

This week, the world has been mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, who, despite his controversial past, was a great leader.

What sets great leaders like Mandela apart from other talented and ambitious people who—try as they might—just can’t seem to pull effective leadership off?

Simon Sinek at the Huffington Post says that the answer lies in service and sacrifice. A leader has to want something so much that he or she is willing to give up personal ambition or short-term security for a long-term goal.

Leadership is a service. And service comes with sacrifice. The sacrifices one person is willing to make for the good of others can take many forms. The giving of one’s time and energy is certainly a sacrifice. Unlike money, time and energy are nonredeemable. Once we spend it, there is no getting it back.

But leadership also requires prudence. After all, we only have a limited amount to give. If we sacrifice for causes and ideas that don’t really matter, we will find that we have nothing left to give when it really does matter. Moreover, we need courage to do the right thing in the face of uncertainty.

This wisdom and courage might fly in the face of ordinary human ambition and intuition. According to Sinek:

In a command and control structure, authority is hoarded at the top. This may be good for the short term and it may be good for the few people in key positions, but ultimately the organization will suffer in time…In contrast, a leader that distributes their authority empowers their people to take responsibility to advance the group’s interests.

And this brings to mind the ultimate leader who,

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:6-9).

As we celebrate the incarnation this Christmas season, it may be helpful for us to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice, wisdom, and courage as a leader. How can we imitate his example through our unique contributions to our families, churches, workplaces, and beyond?

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