Leading Blind: Why Leaders Must Be Servants

workers

Consider the following a purely hypothetical scenario, gleaned from actual experiences but not necessarily one single event, job or situation.

As one of the lower-level workers in your organization whose responsibility it is to actually carry out the grand schemes of the corporate folks who live in some faraway palace of the supposed business elite—a New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco—you receive your marching orders and get to work.

By the time you’ve received “the plan,” which has been crafted by the brain trust in some high rise in one of the world’s greatest cities, a few things become clear. First, the people who made “the plan” have absolutely no clue how it would actually be implemented. It sounded good on paper, advertisers and sponsors were sold on it, but no one is really sure how to execute “the plan.” No one stops to ask, do we have the resources to pull that off?

After “the plan” has been sold—and just days before it’s to be rolled out to the public—the brain trust comes to you for the execution phase. You start asking questions about what their plans are, which makes the brain trust uneasy.

“Well, you know, I guess that’s something we never really thought about.”

That’s right, they came up with “the plan,” sold it and now, as a complete afterthought, decided it was time for implementation. But it’s at this point they realize something you could have told them in the beginning: this isn’t going to work. Of course they don’t know that because they don’t even know who works for them, what those people do, or what kind of process is involved in executing such ideas. All they know is how much money they’d like to make off this project.

What does this example—a variation of which many of us have experienced—teach us about wise leadership? First, it’s an example of what wise leadership is not. It reminds us that wise leaders must take account of their resources, and the most important resource any employer has is his people. If you don’t have a firm grasp on the capabilities and talents of those who work for you, there’s a good chance you’re not managing them properly.

The first responsibility of a leader is to care for his laborers; he is their servant, above all. He’s to make sure they are paid adequately, treated fairly and employed according to their skills. But in examples like the one above, what’s obvious is that kind of leader never considers how his actions affect his workers. Do the projects I hand down consistently overburden, overwork and overtax my workers? Do I pay them according to the level of work I consistently ask them to do? Are they rewarded for constantly completing such projects with a high level of success?

Unfortunately, many employers aren’t good leaders because they see their workers as easily replaceable cogs in the wheel. They overwork and underpay, knowing there will always be someone desperate enough to replace them. They don’t respect their workers as human beings made in God’s image because they don’t respect God. As a result, their repayment will come swiftly and fiercely from God. As James said,

“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (5:4).

Business leaders are accountable to God, who requires employers to provide fair wages, reasonable working conditions (Sabbath rest included) and impartial opportunity based on the quality of an employee’s work. To treat them otherwise—skimping on pay to maximize profits, overworking and denying fair compensation for faithful service—is to trample the authority of God.

In the end, that kind of business won’t last. Selfish leaders typically destroy their companies, though not always right away. Even if they endure for a time with a measure of “success,” they will be held accountable by God for their injustice.

So one man has and another has not
How can you love what it is you have got
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store
There will come a time I will look in your eye
You will pray to the God that you’ve always denied (Mumford & Sons).

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