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The Essence of True Leadership: Disciplization


by Richard Price.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, King James Version).

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, King James Version).

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2, King James Version).


Today I am starting a new series on leadership. In my discussion I purposefully make the distinction between leadership and true leadership. This is because over time, due to its adaptation to modern influences, the word leadership has taken on an elastic identity, and in many circles of influence, been redefined. Therefore, it is my objective to help us reclaim the true meaning of leadership as many of our forefathers understood it.


In many arenas the word leadership has been reduced to simply, leading others towards a common goal. However, true leadership encompasses more than just reaching an agreed upon goal; it also involves meaningful purpose and speaks to legacy. Accordingly, the essence of true leadership is found in our three theme verses listed above. This essence embodies the instructions of Jesus Christ (follow me and I will make you fishers of men), embraces the pattern of Paul (follow me as I follow Christ), and is exemplified in the life of Timothy (the things you have heard of me, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also). For simplicity, we can safely say that this essence is satisfied in one word, namely discipleship. Therefore, the premise upon which all our discussions about leadership will revolve is found in this central concept called discipleship. In addition, throughout our discussions you will see how our theme scriptures support our definition of true leadership.


To lay a foundation for what true leadership is, I will review what leadership has become today and from there spring into what constitutes true leadership. Therefore, over the next few weeks (we will see how long this journey takes us) I will discuss the concept of leadership including leaders and followers, and how these constructs relate to us and one another. I welcome you to join me as we explore The Essence of TRUE LEADERSHIP.


John C. Maxwell, several times a New York Times bestselling author, often states in his lectures and books that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” While true, this supposition is not new; it is a modern-day rendition of a three-thousand-year-old principle taught by Solomon who most likely learned it from his father, King David. In Proverbs 29: 2-4 Solomon tells us that when the righteous rule, the people live happily, but when the leader is wicked the people groan, and that when a leader is honest he makes the nation strong, but a dishonest leader brings the nation to ruin. History has several times confirmed this truth and continues to underscore our understanding that leadership has a significant impact on a nation.


Because of this impact, in the last few decades much attention has been given to the subject of leadership. Many books have been written, conferences held, training programs developed, workshops attended, college courses taught, e-sites established, etc., etc., all addressing the same issue—leadership. For years psychologists have worked to analyze types of behavior and personality tendencies in order to develop behavior taxonomy for effective leadership. In addition, many talk about it, few actually model it, and there are probably as many opinions about what leadership is as there are voices speculating about it. Some call it influence while others say it’s the essence of relationships. I have even read comments from leading personalities stating that “we really know very little about leadership.” With so much attention, you would think that someone unraveled the mysteries of a newly discovered paradigm guaranteeing nirvana to all who embrace it. Frankly, it seems a bit too much hoopla if you ask me.


Nonetheless, I suppose some of this attention is warranted given the rampant ethical dilemmas frequently surfacing among leaders at all levels in recent years, especially when moral issues are conveniently swept under the carpet and left unresolved. Accordingly, I suggest that if the construct of leadership has become ambiguous, it is because many have forsaken the fundamental core values that constitute a great leader. The fact is, many leaders have lost their sense of moral values and no longer adhere to a values-based leadership approach. This insight is shared by many including Dr. Os Guinness, an internationally renowned speaker and cultural critic who said, “In large parts of American life character in leadership has been replaced by image, truth by power and plausibility, and confession and moral changes by spin control and image makeovers.”1 As a result of this shift in leadership character, the rock (a combination of faith, character, and virtue) upon which traditional leadership was founded has crumbled in the twentieth century. Today, in the context of such an unhealthy moral climate where ethical values among prominent leaders have been replaced by political convenience, leadership is being redefined. From this perspective, it is no mystery why the term leadership has become so ambiguous to where it elicits comments from so-called intelligent people such as “we really know very little about leadership.” I want to say that this is an absurd statement, but maybe not given the metamorphosis that leadership has undergone in the last few decades. In spite of all this, I suggest that when we reintroduce the fundamental core values back into leadership the murky waters become clear again, ending the need for superfluous hoopla among those searching for true leadership.


Today, because leaders on many levels have forsaken ethical values for political convenience, the true meaning of leadership has been diluted and its understanding has been lost in many circles of influence. However, together we rediscover the meaning of leadership by uniting this concept with its forsaken core values and expanding its definition to one that aligns with our theme verses—essentially, a pattern of disciplization.


1. Guinness, Os, (Ed.) (1999). Character counts: Leadership qualities in Washington, Wilberforce, Lincoln, and Solzhenitsyn (p. 9). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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