The leadership challenge is that situation or point that we get to in life that poses the ultimate trial so that our leadership and character can prove itself. If we were to be weighed on the scales as it were, we should never be found wanting. The consequences for leadership that is found wanting are dire and yet the rewards for leadership that understands the challenge at hand, are great.
Whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, as leaders or emerging leaders we are constantly under scrutiny and challenge. The kind of results we post after any situation of assessment, shows the world what kind of rock we are hewn from. If there is any semblance of the need to give an excuse in any aspect of our character, conduct or ability, then we are not yet ready for the leadership challenge.
As a leader, King Belshazzar in the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel fell short of God’s expectations and he suffered irreversibly. While banqueting with his nobles one night, he took out the gold and silver wine goblets that his father has stolen from the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem to use at his party. His own father King Nebuchadnezzar, had restrained himself from carrying out this very act. Before he knew it, a human hand had written on the wall that he, King Belshazzar was weighed on the scales and was found wanting. As a result his kingdom was to be given away to the Persians and the Medes. This wasn’t some future prophesy. It actually happened that same night of the party. The king was killed and his kingdom given away.
King Solomon on the other hand understood clearly that the task before him was great. That even though God was on his side, in his view, the challenge to lead God’s people was such an enormous responsibility. So, when God said to Solomon as the leader to ask for whatever he wanted, Solomon simply asked for wisdom and knowledge. He assessed the challenge before him and asked aright. He asked God, ‘for who is able to govern this great people of yours’? He was able to align his request to the need of the moment because he understood the challenge before him. So God gave him all the wisdom and knowledge he needed to govern the people, plus wealth and honour as no king before or after him. His leadership was legendary, spreading far and wide, even to Africa.
Thus the mantle of leadership can never be taken lightly. Woe to the generations and nations whose leaders have not understood the weight of their responsibility and who trample underfoot the people they lead.
Leaders are called upon to prove their worth in order to break through to prominence or greatness. It is crucial for look and weigh properly what lies ahead and what it is going to take to do a stellar job. Anything less will not stack up on the scales. After the leaders have counted the cost, they must prepare adequately, like King Solomon. Most importantly they must understand why they have the leadership mantle.
If the sacrifice to arrive early or just on time is too much, then it is clear there is no readiness to lay down life for the sake of others. If we fail the smaller test of integrity in private, how can the temptation to shun bribes and to use public office for personal gain be overcome? The challenge would prove too much to surmount. Compared to the gladiators we would still be at the starting line after the race is over!
But once the challenge and the needs of the people are understood well, they provide that much-needed inspiration that intrinsically motivates and fires up the leaders to want to change the course of events and make a positive contribution to their communities and to the world. This intrinsic motivation is the one that fuels and sustains the belief, the hope, the dream or the vision.
There is no uniform test for leaders because it is not a one-size-fits all situation. Different contexts provide different leadership challenges that are unique to each individual. It will depend on the area that needs to be developed and pruned.
What is our leadership challenge? Have we assessed the situation correctly and do we understand it? Have we asked for or mobilized the right resources to meet this particular challenge? This is critically important to set the purpose and vision powerfully.
If the vision is not inspiring enough to get us out of bed at 4 am or thereabouts every day, then it won’t motivate anyone else. Either we have no challenges or have not understood things properly. In such a situation our followers or the community around will begin to see or sense some gaps in the leadership and they will have no direction or role model. This is what creates leadership vacuums. We are in the leadership space but are not up to the challenge.
In sum, the critical need is to go back to the drawing board and re-think the purpose first and then count the cost. Otherwise the writing that eliminated a leader like King Belshazzar will show up on the wall soon enough, “MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN”, Daniel 5 verses 25 to 28.