Paul's Timeless Leadership Principles

by Capt. Vincent R. Lindenme

A cadet approached me, needing to talk. This second-class cadet was at the mid-point of his cadet career. He was failing thermodynamics and unable to be very concerned about it. As a prior-service Army ranger, he felt he ought to be with his old unit, which had been alerted for possible hazardous duty. “Thermodynamics…doesn’t seem important right now,” he shared. I was far from sure I could help him see through his haze of uncertainty. But ready or not, it was my turn to talk: “Cadet, your mission is to prepare yourself for whatever our country’s future missions may be.” The words had hardly left my mouth when it occurred to me that Christians, in and out of the military, are all preparing every day for an uncertain future. Preparation may lack the glory of serving in the front lines, but it is just as critical. In this struggle, the Word of God offers timeless divine leadership principles in order to help us grasp what “preparation” entails. In seeking scriptural guidance, I thought of the Apostle Paul calling others to prepare for an uncertain future at the church at Colosse, where Gnostic heresy threatened Christianity. Those believers had lost direction because the false teachings threatened their understanding of who Christ was. They began thinking that if Christ was only a “connecting element” between God and the world, then other deities were also worthy of worship. Paul advised the Colossians—who had been given “fullness” in Christ (Col. 2:9)!—to get back to the fundamentals, such as fellowship, accountability, truth, and prayer, focused on Christ Jesus—or forever be lost as a religion in a new emerging world. Paul’s charge to believers of 61 AD remains applicable to believers today. We must use His leadership principles to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future. Principle 1 Authentic leaders quiet themselves and pray. This yields gifts of endurance, patience, joy, and a spirit of thankfulness (cf. Col. 1:9-12). Paul charges Christian leaders to be role models. Knowing that God’s will “will be done,” the Christian officer must prayerfully step out in faith and serve God with confidence and joy, resulting in a spirit of thankfulness. Prayer gives us confidence in Christ to be vulnerable for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Through prayer, leaders will be led to ensure that family and faith are not sacrificed to career. Prayer allows patient leaders to risk themselves for the sake of leading subordinates. Paul states that those who are living a Christ-centered life will “bear fruit.” Any success for the Kingdom of God, no matter how small, gives us an attitude of joy and thankfulness. Principle 2 Paul’s second timeless principle talks about remaining true to the fundamentals—in this case, Jesus Christ our Lord. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). Senior officers give their top priorities—fundamental military disciplines—in an operations order. There are likewise, fundamental disciplines for Christians: fellowship, accountability, truth, and prayer. Successful leaders remain true to the fundamentals; they maintain their wellness, spiritual fitness, and accountability in order to remain encouraged. Principle 3 Genuine leaders know themselves and are able to work with others (cf. Col. 3:15). One of the main themes of Colossians teaches that a right relationship to the exalted Christ manifests itself not in a spurious otherworldliness but through the real human relationships and structures of life in this world. It takes meditation and prayer to know oneself. Leaders who know themselves are genuine, confident leaders who easily work well with others. Sun Tzu, a Chinese general around 500 BC and author of The Art of War, explained, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Knowing ourselves allows a spirit of peace to transcend our daily existence and actions. With the power of the Holy Spirit, a Christian officer’s peace should be a greater component that allows us to work with anyone. Principle 4 Servant leaders work for their true employer. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working far the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). If confident and competent junior officers pursue the Christian disciplines and bear fruit, then their true Boss is glorified. Unfortunately, our desire to be Spirit-led Christians as parents, officers, or spouses can be clouded easily by the operational tempo of the unit that we serve. Through accountability, we have a way to be reminded that family and faith can be a priority in a successful professional’s lifestyle. There are bound to be other Christian officers at the same installation or organization, who desire exactly what you do—accountability in pursuit of Christ’s call. Be encouraged, and know that you will “receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” when you work “for the Lord” and “not for men.” The young second-classman remains a cadet at the Academy. Currently, he is proficient in thermodynamics and continues to prepare for the uncertain future. And I am encouraged because I can clearly see the practical application of Christian principles enriching the character development of the future leaders of our armed forces and our nation. Capt. Lindenmeyer is the tactical officer for Cadet Company A-4 at the U.S. Military Academy. He has been an active member of OCF (Officers’ Christian Fellowship) since 1996. His wife is a chaplain who serves as Protestant pastoral coordinator for the Academy. This article first appeared in the June, 2002, issue of Command Magazine, published by Officers’ Christian Fellowship of the U.S.A., Englewood, Colorado.