3 Temptations of Leadership, Part 1

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About 12 years ago, when my husband was in seminary, he read Henri Nouwen's book In the Name of Jesus for one of his classes. This book dramatically affected my husband, and he encouraged me to read it. So I did, and I've been thinking about it ever since.

This little book (one of Nouwen's many) presents a powerful summary of what it means to be servant leaders. Nouwen used the story of Jesus' temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11) as a framework to show how we as leaders are tempted - and how we must embrace Christ's attitude of humility and service to others.

Nouwen calls the first of Jesus' temptations "the temptation to be relevant." Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, to prove his power, independence, and self-sufficiency. To prove his practical relevance to the situation around him.

We face the same temptation. We all want to believe that we have the skills, talents, abilities, and winning personalities to build powerful initiatives, dynamic organizations, and effective teams on our own merits - because of who we are. But this isn't what Christlike leadership is all about. It's about God's work, God's grace, God's power. So what does it mean to embrace our gifts and yet reject our own relevance? And what does it mean to respond as Jesus did: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God"?

I have one more question. Because women often feel we have to prove ourselves, I wonder whether this temptation sometimes stops us from exercising our gifts. We don't have the title or the authority or our name on the door. No one points to what we've done and praises us for it. We're not good enough, strong enough, exciting enough, or attractive enough–so we let our gifts lie dormant. Do you think this desire for relevance is especially tempting for women?

March06, 2007 at 10:02 AM

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