The Blog

Walking in the Shadow

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I recently had a conversation with a talented young leader considering a career change. As he shared nuggets of advice he’d received from his mentors, I listened intently, affirming most of what he’d been told. But then, he shared one particular piece of advice that really struck me. It came in the form of a precautionary question, and went something like; “…are you sure you’ll be okay walking in the shadow of your new boss?” At first, I thought this was a good question for him to consider. After all, this young leader was a shooting star destined to make a huge mark in society. With his talent, the last thing he needed was to be overshadowed or trapped serving some other leader’s needs. It was obvious, he was born to lead, not follow…right?

The truth is, the more I thought about this question the more it bothered me. Not because it was a bad question, but because the way this question was asked points to a dangerous trend in how our culture is conditioning our young leaders to think about the concept of walking in the shadow of another. It seems we’ve led them to believe that the more talent they have, the faster they should be at the top telling others what to do. We’ve also led them to believe that they are destined to impact the world, rather than simply change themselves and impact those closest to them. In short, we’ve conditioned them to believe that walking in the shadow of another is quite frankly, beneath them.

So why is this cause for concern? Well, for starters, it runs in direct contrast with the model Jesus, history's greatest leader, provided for us. In essence, Jesus spent the first thirty years of his life in basic obscurity, serving in his trade as a carpenter, while listening, learning and growing in wisdom. When He did finally begin to formally lead, he sought to pour most of his energies into just twelve individuals, and actually avoided most opportunities to expand his influence to the masses. In leading, He focused on two main things -- following the purpose of His Father and equipping those He led to do the same.

Through Jesus' example, we see that true leadership is more about serving others than it is about getting to the top. He also showed us that leadership is more about being transformed within our own hearts, for God's purposes, than it is about trying to change others, or the masses for that matter. Ultimately, He showed us how dying to self while loving others, serving others, and walking humbly – all common elements of walking in the shadow - are actually the heart and soul of our call in leadership…not something to be feared or avoided.

My challenge to you is this; whether you’re a young aspiring leader, or you're advising one, when you consider the question of your own willingness to walk in the shadow of another, consider the model of Jesus. In doing so, I’m confident you’ll see your "shadow time" as more of an opportunity essential to your overall development as a leader and central to your call to LEAD..for God's Sake!

Update on the journey...

  • Events in Cleveland, Wheaton, and Akron provided great opportunities to speak into the lives of hundreds of business and political leaders in these communities
  • ESPN the Magazine article on Urban Meyer caused a great spike in the movement of the message
  • LFGS has remained a top 100 Amazon Best Seller in the categories of Leadership and Teams
  • Lead…for God's Sake Workshop coming to Akron and Cleveland on October 25th and 26th (for information email us at info@leadforgodsake.com)

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