Q: The idea of "leadership" seems to be getting a lot of hype these days. Whether I'm at church, in a bookstore or at work, it seems the assertion that "everybody should strive to be a leader" is always being pushed. What are your thoughts?
Jim: The greatest leader who ever lived, in my opinion, had some revolutionary things to say about leadership, including the idea that whoever wants to be truly great must become a servant. His words were as revolutionary 2,000 years ago as they are today, and they have some pretty radical implications for our contemporary concept of "leadership." In fact, a study of other great leaders, such as George Washington and Martin Luther King, could suggest that the reluctant leader is probably the best candidate for the job, and the person best suited to exercise authority is probably the one who wants it least.
Why is this? I'd suggest two reasons. The first is humility. The reluctant leader is a good leader because he acknowledges his own weakness and inadequacy. He looks to God for wisdom and surrounds himself with those who compensate for his deficiencies. The arrogant leader, on the other hand, easily falls prey to carelessness and invites disaster for his people.
The second reason is more subtle. A true leader understands the personal demands and self-sacrifice required of genuine leadership. He realizes that sleepless nights and lonely days -- not privilege and perks -- are part of the package of shepherding others.
The bottom line: Don't strive for or seek leadership for its own sake. Rather, look to serve wherever you may be, and if God should put you in a position of leadership, exercise it with an attitude of fear and trembling.
Q. Just about every marriage expert I've ever heard says that healthy communication is vital to a strong marriage. They make it sound so involved. Isn't talking just talking? What's the big deal?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Communication is the primary way that intimacy is achieved, and without intimacy it's impossible to have a healthy marriage. There are five basic levels of communication, and each one is important.
-- Level 1: Cliches. These are exchanges like "How are you doing?" This common courtesy can help maintain a positive interactive tone.
-- Level 2: Exchanging facts and information. This is absolutely necessary for the effective everyday function of family life.
-- Level 3: Sharing Opinions. Here is where we begin to discover what another person thinks and where conflict can occur. When we express our thoughts, we make ourselves more vulnerable.
-- Level 4: Sharing Feelings. Sharing feelings creates opportunities to be heard and understood, and offers a glimpse into our true identities. In a healthy marriage, feelings are respected and can be openly expressed based on an established foundation of trust and safety.
-- Level 5: Sharing Needs. This is the deepest level of communication, requiring the most vulnerability and trust. An example would be, "I need some encouragement. I've been beaten up at work today." When we reach this level, we feel secure, accepted and confident that our spouse will reassure, rather than reject, us.
Unfortunately, the fast pace of life can cause us to fall into the pattern of staying in the first two or three levels. If that's true for your marriage, commit to taking steps of growth in this area. Find a time and place that you both are available and typically open to deeper conversation. Admittedly, this may take some getting used to. But if you keep at it, you'll create an environment of refuge and comfort in your marriage, and deepen the trust and security in your relationship.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.