There are two kinds of leaders: those who give strength to others, and those who keep strength for themselves.
Because power is strength.
At the extremes are tyrants and stewards. The former use their strength to consolidate greater and greater power. Their strength is self-serving, self-pleasuring, strength. The latter uses their strength to faithfully execute their responsibilities. Their strength is administered to ensure the wellbeing of others.
Power comes in many forms. Social power. Economic power. Religious power. Intellectual power. Relational power. Cultural power. The power of influence. The power of an idea. Etc.
We know Herod was a tyrant, but if we’re honest we tend to live quite tyrannically ourselves. From our youth onwards we find it very difficult to share power.
Pretty girls wield power in high school. When a new pretty girl moves into town, the existing pretty girls invariably turn on the new girl. Because she’s a threat.
Athletes wield power. When a new recruit walks onto the team, the person playing their position on the starting roster invariably treats the newcomer with hostility and scorn.
Business people wield power. When a young upstart begins suggesting changes to the established order they are either ignored or spurned.
We don’t like to share, especially not power.
But the more we keep power for ourselves, the more it atrophies. The number and scope of our concerns dwindle, until the only thing about which we’re concerned is keeping our own power. The girls want to be the prettiest. The starting athletes would rather play than win. The manager would rather retain control than improve profits.
Ironically, the more we share power the more power there is to go around. Were the girls to welcome the newcomer, they would add kindness and warmth to their beauty. Were the athletes to compete and share tips, both players would benefit from healthy camaraderie and so would the team. Were the manager to allow the upstart some (limited) freedom to try and implement new ideas, that manager would earn the relational authority to coach the upstart and the company would benefit from any improvements along the way.
If these examples seem abstract, please allow me to clarify: I dated the new girl, I was the new athlete, and I work as the manager. In all cases, everyone is happier and the school/team/organization is more successful when power is shared and strength is given to others.
The more anyone wins, the more we all benefit when power is shared.
The more power we have, the more power we have to share.
Because—in the mutual words of both Jesus Christ and Spiderman—with great power comes great responsibility.
Though I’m pretty sure JC said it first.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com