Welcome to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you have about practical issues that you face.
As always, you may submit questions for future “Ask Beau” posts by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by leaving a comment on this post.
Leadership material abounds. Seriously. You can find tons of books on leadership from all sorts of perspectives. And given that you, by virtue of your maleness, are designated as a leader by God (whether you like it or not), you might want to think through this topic at some length.
One issue of leadership that comes up a lot has to do with the relationship that a leader should have to those he leads. Today I’d like to zero in on the issue of vulnerability, or transparency, if you like. Some people think that a leader should never let people see him sweat. Others think he should bare his soul at all times. What might the Bible have to say about this?
On the one hand, the Bible tells us that a critical aspect of leadership is sacrificial service (Matthew 20:20–28; Ephesians 5:25–33). If a leader is consistently vulnerable for the purpose of receiving emotional support, I suggest that the nature of service tells us that he’s got the equation flip-flopped. Though leaders may at times greatly benefit from the support of those they lead, leaders should have a giving orientation rather than a receiving orientation in all realms, including the emotional and spiritual.
Beyond this, we should note that the qualities of leaders are caught, not just taught, and that a leader should not expect his followers to exhibit knowledge or virtues that he himself does not possess (Luke 6:40; John 3:10; 1 Corinthians 11:1). It is impossible for someone to lead his followers to be confident in Christ when the leader is not confident in Christ, and some vulnerability or transparency is really driven by a lack of faith that diverts proper reliance on God and places it in people.
Nonetheless, there are ample biblical examples of leaders showing vulnerability or transparency. Jesus told his inner circle of disciples that his soul was “sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). Paul boasted about his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:30). David’s dancing before the ark of God was a form of vulnerability or transparency—which earned him the contempt of his wife (1 Chronicles 15:29). The incarnation itself was a form of transparency (John 1:14–18).
Furthermore, there is a degree of vulnerability in any relationship—certainly in any friendship—and without this vulnerability a leader’s interactions with his followers lack vitality (I think John 15:15 is relevant here). Societies differ in their approach to the so-called power distance in leadership, but when a leader plays all his cards so tightly to the vest that his followers can’t see any of his cards, it is tough for his followers to know him and to embody that which they are not seeing.
Perhaps the best way to summarize is to say that vulnerability and transparency in leadership are appropriate and necessary at times, but we must look ultimately to the One we follow rather than the ones we lead for our support.
What are your thoughts on vulnerability in leadership?