Last week I posted some material from Robert Clinton and his book, The Making of a Leader. ‘Ministry flows out of being” and one of the ways character is deepened is through facing difficult experiences. These (crucible-like) experiences force the leader to reflect seriously on life and ministry.
Three experiences that Clinton highlights are isolation, conflict and life crises.
- Isolation – seasons when a leader is separated from normal ministry involvement. At one end of the scale it could happen because of sickness or imprisonment, or it could be as a result of self-choice, deliberately engaged for renewal. Shelley Trebesch has developed this concept in a book called Isolation. She and Clinton reckon that 90 or 95% of leaders undergo a season of isolation.
It’s interesting to notice the significance of isolation in biblical stories. Joseph endured prison while waiting for the fulfilment of his childhood visions; Moses spent 40 years in the obscurity of Midianite exile; David had to go on the run while Saul remained on the throne; the Lord Jesus spent 40 days in the desert (he also isolated himself for prayer during his ministry years); Paul spent time in the Arabian desert. John produced the book of Revelation while exiled on Patmos.
- Conflict – ‘a common means for God to stimulate a leader in terms of the reflective and upward development maturity patterns.’ The most significant learning in conflict is the leader’s awareness of his/her own strengths and weakness of character.
- Crises – various situations can contribute to increased pressures on the leader, allowing the leader to learn dependence on God. Notice how Paul talks about his own experience in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 – heavy pressure led him to depend on God. ‘Life-crisis items … can be any kind of crisis that causes reflection on ultimate purpose and a deepening of one’s relationship with God, seeking that relationship as more important than any of life’s attainments.
Previous posts on Clinton’s work:
- The Making of a Leader (book summary)
- Leaders and leadership
- Leadership development theory
- Reflective evaluation
I’ll post on a couple more themes later this week.