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2023 is here. Another year, another new start, another new set of resolutions to give up on.

That has been my story over the past 20 plus years of my life since I grasped the concept of new year resolutions – commitment to fitness goals, saving goals, relationship goals, bible reading goals that endured a strong and committed head start, before falling victim to procrastination, discontinuity, and finally succumbing to a compromise of trying harder next year.

The main cause of failure? A lack of leadership – over myself.

While leadership is commonly defined and referred to positions of authority, control, and governance over an entity or group, it is seldom directed at the self where it is most important.

Leadership typically comprises of two parts – obedience and respect, and both are commonly misunderstood.

Obedience is simple to understand and it implies submission and following of orders. Common examples are in the military and in the workplace where there are hierarchies and levels to follow. The Bible expects us to obey our leaders:

Romans 13:1 – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Respect is much more abstract and involves emotions and feelings. A leader can demand obedience without commanding respect. That would, however, make an ineffective leader. That is why the qualifications of elders and deacons are so stringent, with conditions extending to their wives and children – because a mere appointment does not garner respect and leadership without respect is ineffective. Respect must be earned.

How then can respect be earned? Respected leadership contains several key attributes, for example commitment and focus, as well as several important concepts such as leading by example.

Without delving into an essay on leaders and leadership (since we will definitely disagree on the best kind of leaders and the type that we would like to be subservient to), we can agree that the best countries and best organizations in the world are governed by leaders that demonstrate some, if not all, of the above qualities.

For instance, Elon Musk, the owner of five prominent companies ranging from rockets to electric cars to social media, has (in)famously slept on his factories’ floors to save commute time, demonstrating focus and resolution to the cause.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s newly elected PM Anwar Ibrahim rejected the Mercedes S600 as his official car in a show of commitment to eradicating corruption and being prudent with public funds.

Jesus, when tested alone in the wilderness in Matthew 4:4, rejected feeding His hungry self even when He had the power to when He said

It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Respected leadership does not simply come because we are men or because we are in certain influential positions of decision making or authority. It comes because there is admiration and regard towards that position and the individual in it. It comes because the other members recognize the leader’s worth, commitment, focus, and vision.

For the leaders of the church, the respect to them comes from their dedication to the church and care over members, as well as commitment to serving in the kingdom of God.

For the leaders of the family, which is the responsibility of the men, respect comes from the family’s confidence in the man’s ability to provide, protect, and uphold the family.

It does not end there though.

For the individual, while we may not lead organizations, we are leaders of ourselves. We lead our minds, bodies and conduct, and we need to lead ourselves into better behaviour, higher commitment, and deeper focus. The Bible commands us to

  • be profitable (see e.g., one talent man parable in Matthew 25:14-30);

  • grow (see e.g., Jesus’ growth that is in tandem with favour in Luke 2:52); and

  • better ourselves through the renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2).

The focus on life after death is the primary point of the church and Christianity. But if we persist in personal convenience and comfort or maintenance of the status quo, and deliberately ignore bettering ourselves and the lives of those around us, we are not doing justice to the life God gave us.

2023 has just started. What will you lead yourself to this year?


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