Don’t demand an audience with the king
or push for a place among the great.
It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table
than to be sent away in public disgrace. (Proverbs 25:6-7)
Anybody can force their way to the “head of the table.” But being at the head of the table doesn’t guarantee you’ll have committed followers. Or that you’re a good leader. Positional leadership doesn’t get you an “audience with the king” (influence). It may get you a seat among the court, but having the ear of his audience takes time. And trust. And respect.
Building trust takes time and effort. When you earn the respect of those you’re called to lead (and don’t simply demand that they follow you), they’re willing to go the extra mile to help accomplish the vision. They’re willing to work hard for you. And they’re willing to give you grace when you fail.
I’ve seen this deficient form of leadership with younger leaders. By God’s grace, they’re given a leadership position. And then, instead of working to build trust among their team (which is made more difficult because, often, those they’re leading are more mature), they demand compliance. “Things are going to change around here. I’m the pastor/teacher/worship pastor/small group leader, etc. What you need to decide is whether or not you are on board. If you’re not on board with the changes, then you can leave.” In their zeal for change, they overlook wisdom. And they damage relationships in the process. They’re “sent away in public disgrace.”
I’ve seen this with older leaders, too. They’ve “pushed for a place among the great” and gotten it. They’ve forced their way into leadership, so when the direction they’re headed is questioned, they see it as a personal threat (instead of a suggestion for healthy growth) and become prickly and defensive. They don’t put up with new, fresh ideas. “Who are you to question my authority?” they say. “You just don’t really know what you’re talking about. When you’ve been around as long as I have…”
Followers who are demanded aren’t really followers. They’re workers. Hired hands. Slaves. And they end up frustrated, bitter, unmotivated, and underutilized.
Build relationships with those you lead. In time, you just might get an invitation to the head of the table.
Are you a leader prone to forcing your way to the table? Have you ever found yourself demanding that people follow you?