What do people want from their leaders? Reflecting on my own experiences in leadership and viewing the current political climate in the West makes me conclude that what we really want are leaders who think the same way as us. The personality and character of a leader is less important than whether or not he or she agrees with me on certain issues. We want leaders who are an extension of our opinions, a proxy who will do the things that we would do if we were in charge. “My will be done,” we say.
Throughout the Bible it’s the men and women who seek to please God that are regarded as ideal leaders – sometimes this meant that they actually stood against the crowd, who wanted nothing more than puppets. King David is held up as the rock that all great kings are hewn from, yet once that crown sat upon his head we hear a lot about his mistakes – adultery, murder, pride, not being a good father, and yet he is venerated because he was ‘a man after God’s own heart’. Despite the sorrow that he brought upon himself and others, the Kingdom of Israel – the people under his care – are considered to have benefited from the reign of a man who tried, without always succeeding, to be a particular type of man rather than to achieve certain things.
I’ve read a lot of books, seen a few good leaders in action and made some first-rate mistakes of my own as a leader, and I can tell you that what you really need is someone with character. You want someone with integrity, who will do what is right rather than what you want; someone who is the same behind closed doors as they are in front of the cameras. That’s a good leader. Where are all the good leaders these days? Instead we have pale imitations, ratings chasers, chameleons who change their message as often as they change their underpants. We have criminals and snake oil salesmen, name callers and blame throwers, self-seekers and egotists. What’s bizarre is that these are the leaders we have chosen. In the City and in the Church, we get the leaders that we deserve.
There’s no point asking God for good leaders if we’re going to continue to choose to follow the ones that don’t have noble character.