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Concerning leadership, the late Harper Lee‘s iconic and magnificent character, Atticus Finch, said this:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

I was sitting across the table from one of my City Commissioners when he reminded me of this timeless quote.

Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird Photo credit: markhillary via Foter.com / CC BY

Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Photo credit: markhillary via Foter.com / CC BY

I had spoken with him a while ago for the first time, when he was just starting his term as a Commissioner.  He was bright, hopeful, and optimistic at that meeting.

You ever seen the before and after pictures of Barak Obama’s presidency?  No?  Google it.

My next meeting with him was similar to that contrast.  He was now a seasoned politician who had faced adversity, and had taken his stand on many issues.  He looked at me as a man who was frustrated and disillusioned.  My friend had become very familiar with the challenges of leadership.

But you know what he said to me?

He said, “There are so many times when you know it’s going to be a 4-1 vote.  And I know that everyone wants me to throw in the towel, because I’m the only one on the losing side.  And yeah, it would be easier if I did.  In fact, it would be beneficial for me politically to do so.  But that would make me a quitter, and that’s the one thing I can never be.

A loser?  Maybe.  Mocked by my colleagues?  Almost definitely.  But a quitter?  Never.”

#Leadership is always a much more rigorous battle than we could have imagined. Click To Tweet

The Challenge for Leadership

Most people get into leadership because they have a vision that they simply cannot put aside.  Whether it’s in government, business, church, family or anything, leaders know what they have to accomplish.

For my friend, the politician, he fights for the good of our city.  He writes bills, defends them, politics for them, presents them to the community, and votes on them.

His vision for the community is that we take care of those who are needy, and that we do it without ruining the budget.  Among the causes for which he’s labored are for food pantries, homeless shelters, low-income families, and the like.

For him, he couldn’t put the challenge aside.

For us, as Christians, we must understand how God has made us and recognize that if we deny our own challenge to leadership, we deny ourselves – our very purpose.

The Battle for Leadership

Photo credit: Banalities via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Banalities via Foter.com / CC BY

But when any one of us enter into leadership, it is always a much more rigorous and difficult battle than we could have imagined.

The work itself is not usually the hard part.  If we’ve given ourselves to a cause, it’s easy to be motivated to work for it.

The hard part is when everyone around you seems to be against you.

When it is no longer clear what the right thing to do is.

When it seems like failure is inevitable.

When evil things are being said about you; you only occasionally hear about it; and almost never have the opportunity to defend yourself.

When the cost is high.

The Apostle Paul literally faced death to lead the church in perseverance for the gospel.

The Victory in Leadership

civic leader leadership man thinkingFor those seasoned in leadership, you understand that even the victory itself is never what you think it will be.

Maybe you’ll accomplish your goal, maybe you won’t.

But one of the greatest things I’ve been taught is that the you obtain the victory when you have stood your ground and fought, despite your chances of winning.

Back to my quote from the beginning of the article, that good man from To Kill a Mockingbird said, “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.

To gain victory in leadership, you have to overcome all the hurtful criticism, the paralyzing self-doubt, the dire consequences, and the quiet loneliness.

This alone is the cost and the victory all at once:  Never to give up, and see it through, despite all successes and failures.

This alone is the cost and the victory all at once: Never to give up. #Leadership Click To Tweet

But Paul also said:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14

For us as Christians, our prize for persevering is a reward from Jesus Himself – Him looking into our eyes and saying the most important words we could ever hear:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Come share your Master’s happiness”.

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