“Why should anyone listen to me?”
I can’t tell you how many times those words have hissed in the recesses my mind, unsettling my confidence, and making me question my ability to lead.
Throughout my life I have been a leader in a variety of arenas. I have led bible studies, missions trips, departments, projects, and a family. For years, I’ve also been telling people what to think and do through preaching, teaching, and writing—leadership of thought. But in almost every leadership capacity in which I’ve found myself, at one time or another I have struggled with the question, “why should anyone listen to me?”
Which is really this question: “What right do I have to lead?”
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Constantly questioning my right to lead, however, results in bad leadership. Orders are not delivered with confidence, people sense uncertainty, and they are hesitant to follow. Ironically, when you question your own leadership, you are actually acting as a poor leader and thereby confirming your original suspicion that you have no right to lead. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If those of us who have been placed in leadership positions are to lead well, we must lead with confidence. And to lead with confidence we need first be assured that we indeed do have the right to lead. So, how can we secure such assurance?
Thankfully, no matter if you are leading a church, a business, a family, or a team, God has given Christian leaders the instructions they need not just to lead well but to lead with confidence. And this confidence comes not from looking to our own competence, intelligence, or skill to justify our position, but by recognizing that the right to lead comes from God.
God Grants the Right to Lead
Romans 13 is the chapter which famously instructs believers in how they are to regard secular governments.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.(Romans 13:1–2)
It is God Who sovereignly ordains governments and rulers. All authority is ultimately derived authority “instituted by God.” We, then, who are subject to governing authorities should not resist them. And not only should we not resist them, we should give them their due. This is why Jesus instructed his disciples with regard to taxes to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17).
Note, however, that though these instructions in Romans 13 are specifically given in regard to governing authorities, the principle truth behind them has broader application. They rest upon the truth that God has sovereign authority in appointing human leaders. It is for this reason that we who are subject to any leadership are to respect the right to lead of those under whose charge we have been placed.
This is the same principle behind what Peter writes of other leader/follower relationships, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust“ (1 Peter 2:18). Because in submitting to earthly leaders we are respecting God’s right to appoint leaders as He sees fit and acknowledging that all authority is derived authority. God grants the right to lead.
Not a Matter of Self-Confidence
Often we consider these principles from the standpoint of those who are subject to rulers and leaders, but have you considered the implications fro the standpoint of someone who has themself been charged to lead? If God sovereignly appoints leaders, and you are in leadership, then it is God who has placed you there.
Grasping this truth doesn’t just answer the question, “What right do I have to lead?” It obliterates it.
What right do you have to lead? Well if you are in a position of leadership, the answer is simple, your right to lead comes from God for He has sovereignly placed you there. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lead with humility and an understanding that you must always be growing as a leader, but it does mean you need to stop second-guessing the fact that you have any right to lead at all.
If God appoints all leaders, consider the implications for you as a leader. It means if you are in a leadership position, you have been appointed to it by God. You do not need to depend on mustering up self-confidence to justify your position and authority, it’s not a matter of self-confidence at all.
This recognition should give you the confidence you need to exercise authority with assertiveness. But it also helps the prideful leader who has never questioned his right to lead because he has always believed that he has that right on the basis of his own merit. He was smart enough and competent enough, he deserves to lead.
Recognizing that our right to lead comes from God should give us a humble confidence not a prideful arrogance. It is God Who has granted you your position and authority, and it is He Who, just as easily, can take it away. Every Christian leader must recognize that though you lead now your authority is derived from God, and you too are “a man under authority” (Luke 7:8).
The Christian leader understands his authority as a stewardship entrusted to him from God to be used for God’s glory. Your right to lead comes from God. Therefore, the Christian leader is neither brazen nor cowardly, he understands his place and dispatches his leadership with a humble confidence. And what a joy it is for those who serve under such leaders.