|ne of my passions in life (in addition to my pastorate) is coming alongside leaders and helping them grow in their effectiveness. As a developing leader myself, I’ve discovered that I grow most when I help others to grow. In this role I engage leaders from various leadership contexts, both secular and religious. And the pivotal thing I’ve discovered is that insecurity can and will undermine a leader’s effectiveness quicker than anything else. It brings out the worst in a leader.
Insecurity, in my humble opinion, is one of the great ills of this present culture, especially when found in leaders.
Insecurity can be such a subtle thing; so much so, that insecure leaders fail to detect it until it’s too late—often after their leadership has crashed and burned.
The tragic saga of Saul, the first king of Israel, is a textbook example of this. He became threatened by David, a young, Spirit-filled leader. The word on the street about David was powerful: “The Lord is with Him.” And it was this single reality that unnerved Saul to such a degree that he sought to destroy David by any means necessary.
The event that brought everything to the fore was the simple lyrics of a song performed in a praise procession by women in Israel after their army had won a major battle against their archenemy, the dreaded Philistines. The commander in that battle was David, the young leader. Meaning no disrespect to Saul, the women sang, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” The Scripture unpacks Saul’s sad response, exposing a leader drowning in the mire of insecurity:
“Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?’ So Saul eyed David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 18:8, 9, NKJV).*
As opposed to Saul genuinely celebrating victory for the cause of God and the people of God, he reduced the nation’s victory to a personal defeat; it was all about him. This is the exact reason leaders always have to assess why they do what they do.
Some actions a leader takes appear on the surface to be for the good of the cause. But when placed under the microscope of scrutiny, it has more to do with that leader’s personal glory. And there are risks they do not take for the “cause,” because ensuring personal reputation is their highest priority. It boils down to insecurity.
People such as David, Joseph, Elijah, Nehemiah, and Paul are sterling examples of leaders who were secure in who they were, because they were secure in whom they served. The one thing they all were sure of: the Lord was with them.
It really doesn’t matter in what context we lead (corporate, health care, academic, governmental, military, or church); if we are sure that God is with us, then we are blessed with the ability to lead and serve with freedom and without fear. We are able to lead with character and integrity. We are able to celebrate the successes of others. We are able to make room for “next generation” leaders who demonstrate leadership abilities—refusing to block them in. These are the types of leaders needed now, more than ever.
There were times when both Joseph and David were at a loss, especially when they faced people and circumstances that seemed to go against everything they assumed God was up to in unveiling the plan He had for their lives. But what kept them going was the blessed assurance buried deep within their hearts—the Lord was with them.
And what keeps us going is that same assurance—God is with us!
*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copy-right © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Fredrick A. Russell is senior pastor of the Miracle Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.