Leadership

An Essay By Johanna // 8/1/2009

 

George Washington, a man of great integrity, and the United States’ first president, has been honored by the title “Father of his country”.  He is considered to be one of the greatest leaders of the United States.  What made him such a good leader?  Was it because of his ability and courage to make great military decisions?  Or his dedication to the cause of freedom?  It was both of these, combined with humbleness and a close walk with God. A good leader is someone who is willing to serve others and who reflects the glory he or she receives back to God.

Good leaders are servants, working where they’re needed most, even if the task is “beneath” their status.  It is not only the job that counts, but the attitude by which it is done.  Florence Nightingale, one of the first trained nurses, is an example of a servant leader.  In her time, nurses were usually people who chose nursing over a prison sentence.  Thus, they were not kind, trained, or lovers of hygiene.  However, Florence studied medicine from books, and finally, during the Crimean War, became a nurse for the injured men.  Taking thirty-eight other nurses with her, Florence traveled to Scutari, Turkey, where she dealt with much illness and infection.  Leading by example, she often persuaded her nurses to do dirty work, such as emptying bedpans, which they previously had refused to do.  It was not a pleasant job, and arrogant doctors often received praise for the work she and her nurses did.  Yet she persevered, because she knew that her work was vitally important for the men’s lives and the war effort.  After the war, she began the first school for nurses, and until her death at the age of ninety, she continued to work tirelessly to reform hospitals.  Servant leaders are indeed humble, letting go of their pride and letting others take the praise for what they did.  However, what happens when humility is not applied?  A leader may succeed for a while, but eventually, he will fall.  Benedict Arnold, a general during the American Revolution, betrayed the United States by giving its plans to the British.  His pride had been injured when he was not promoted for his brilliant strategy in the battle of Saratoga, thus he decided that he would go over to the British side in order to receive his proper respect.  However, although he did receive a promotion, the British did not completely trust him.  Since he betrayed his country, wouldn’t he just as quickly betray the British?  Benedict Arnold could truly have been a great leader if he had curbed his lust for power and recognition.

Another aspect important in leadership is walking closely with God.  Since God is the creator of the world and holds all wisdom, we can ask Him for guidance and He will help us.  We as humans are not infallible, and relying on God’s wisdom helps us as we make decisions. George Washington was one of our presidents who had a close walk with God.  There are many accounts of witnesses who saw or heard him fervently asking God for wisdom and for protection for his new country.  At Valley Forge, the winter campsite of the American Continental Army, the soldiers had to face terrible conditions such as biting wind, heavy snowstorms, and the freezing cold.  Often, there was not enough food or supplies for the men, and many had no shoes.  Though Washington could have spent the winter in his comfortable Vermont home, he chose to live with his men in these hard conditions.  Yet he was always compassionate towards his men, and he never lost his faith in God.  As John Maxwell aptly said, “A leader lives with people to know their problems.  A leader lives with God in order to solve them.”

Finally, leaders are courageous.  Courage does not only mean being valiant in battle, but also standing firm on your decision in the face of trouble.  Leaders cannot succumb to peer pressure or to threats.  They have to be willing and determined to do the right thing, whatever the cost.  The fathers of the reformation, such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wycliffe, were resolute in their belief that Christ was the head of the church, and that every man had the right to read the Bible.  In the Roman Catholic Church, you could not go straight to God, but to the priest, who would then confess your sins to God.  The Bible could not be read by anyone except the priests, because it was written in Latin.  You could supposedly get into heaven by supporting and giving money to the church.  Leaders of the reformation opposed these customs, and biblically showed how they could be changed for the better.  Many more of their beliefs went against the law of the Catholic Church, causing the Pope and priests to disapprove.  Because of the radical ideas of the reformists, countless Christians were tortured, or even martyred.  However, their faith was strong, and with God’s help, these brave men and women were able to prevail.

George Washington and Benedict Arnold were two different men, who lived at the same time, serving the cause of freedom.  Arnold's pride was his downfall, but Washington’s humility and dedication won the hearts of the American people.  In the future, when I must choose a leader to follow, there are three things that I will look for:  A sincere dedication and belief in his or her cause, a humble attitude, and a strong relationship with the Lord.