Who Will Lead You?

I’m glad to announce that John Stott Ministries, which I serve as a board member, has hired a new president. I was part of the search team, and I was very pleased with the process that we went through. In the end I was happiest of all about our choice, Ben Homan. Read more here.

Ben has been president of Food for the Hungry, a humanitarian organization. He grasps what John Stott Ministries is about and believes in it deeply. Plus, he’s somebody who is motivated by helping things grow. (JSM is considerably smaller than Food for the Hungry.)

Although I’m happy, the process of choosing a leader frightens me. In almost any organization the choice has vast and unpredictable implications. Leaders set the direction, for good or evil. No matter how careful you are in the search process you don’t know exactly what you are getting until he or she begins to work. You don’t get all the information you would like about the past. References don’t always tell the whole truth, and you don’t know what questions to ask. More significantly, you don’t know how the new leader will respond to his or her new situation. Sometimes authority affects people in ways you would never have guessed—creating caution where boldness is needed, or uncovering sensitivity to criticism (leaders always suffer criticism, more than the rest of us ever understand). The match between skills and new challenges is hard to predict, too, because every situation is different.

I’ve been involved in several searches where after a painstakingly study we hired someone and then discovered almost immediately that there were character or leadership issues we had completely missed. In all those cases, the person worked out extremely well—but nevertheless I remember thinking, “How did we miss that?”

It’s a bit like getting married—you never really know what you’re getting into. As my mother would often tell me, you need to pray long and hard before making such decisions.

It’s like that in other contexts. Who do you want to lead you? Right now there’s a portion of America reacting to Barack Obama like they just woke up with a man they didn’t know all that well when they said “I do.”

I think of it in spiritual contexts, too. I see people making blithe choices about what or who will set the agenda of their lives. They’re sure that they know what they want, but their thinking often seems shallow to me. Those choices, like choices of presidents and spouses, have deep and surprising effects on our lives over time. It’s a frightening matter to decide: who will lead you?

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2 Responses to “Who Will Lead You?”

  1. Gary Moline Says:

    Well stated, Tim! You must be doing something right in that the choices eventually “worked out extremely will.” Can’t say I’ve always had such good fortunate. Wonder how much of a role those intangibles and “gut-feelings” play in the final analysis? Never did like those checklists although they look nice – facts don’t always equate to good character traits under stress. Access to personal history on the web has truly changed the search process, too.

  2. Jun Gonzaga Says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments re. choosing a leader. You’re right in pointing out that there’s so much that we don’t know, and we’re also very limited in our understanding. How much more when we’re voting for the leader of our nation!!! Here in the Philippines we’ve not yet been able to raise even a little of the nuances you wrote about in choosing a leader. “Name recall”, “media image”, “‘connect’ with people” (an idiom which I cannot even explain), and “timing” (when it is your time, it is your time!?) are the factors that count. How I wish that as a people we can really think through (and pray through) our choice of a leader. My only confidence is that whoever we voted for, the Lord is sovereign. He will see us through. I’ve been sharing your blog to my friends telling them that it is a good example of wise Christian thinking. Again, thank you.

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