7 Leadership Principles Guaranteed to Ruin Your Career but Save Your Soul

This week, I shared the story of a friend–a decent, hard-working, upstanding friend of faith–who’s asking the hard questions of vocation.

Why is integrating vocation and faith so difficult? 

How do you ‘maximize profit’ while staying true to the message of scripture? 

How can I give everything to The Company and feel good about the scraps of time I throw to my children, my wife? 

What about time for prayer, for spiritual connection and formation?

The Market, though, refuses to answer these questions (even the “Christian Market,” whatever that is (feel free to read between the lines)). Instead, it pulls a sleight of hand, shirks those questions in favor of others.

How can you be a better leader? 

How can you take your team to the next level?

How can you succeed, succeed, succeed and by that success, prove yourself as a worth [leader, worker, Christian, whatever].

“The sign of success,” they tell my friend, and you, and me, “is leading others with excellence.” They syncretize the message of The Market and The Message of faith until we feel guilty about our inability to leverage everything we have for the economic well-being of… what? The Kingdom?

Leadership principles are all the rage in the Christian faith and have been for several years. But is every follower in Jesus’ way called to be a leader? Is the sign of a successful follower success in the Market?

Let me be clear: your success as a follower of Christ has nothing to do with your ability to lead in the workplace. Your success as a follower of Jesus’s way has nothing to do with market performance, in fact. Instead, the leadership of a Christian is marked by being a good follower. And so, today, let’s look at the 7 Christian Leadership Principles Guaranteed to Ruin Your Career (But Save Your Soul).

1. Don’t Center Yourself. I’m sure Jesus had a good chuckle about the leaders of his day, the ones who imagined themselves as so critical to the plan of God. He shot the hard-chargers straight. “The last will be first and the first will be last,” he said to the people who imagined themselves central characters in society’s pageant.

2. Become A Child. Jesus didn’t take much stock of adults doing important adult things. Instead, he took stock of the children, of those with simple faith who wanted nothing more than to be near him for the sake of being near him. Maximize profit? Maximize leadership potential? Children don’t care about those things. Children want nothing more than a good story, perhaps a laugh or two.

3. Serve The Least. Serving the rich, those with means, the participants in The Market is all fine and good, but success in that service meant very little to Jesus. “When have you visited the prisoner?” he asked. “When have you given the thirsty a cold cup of water or done the unseen thing for the down and out?”

4. Sell Everything. Didn’t Jesus say this to the rich young man? Go ahead. Explain it away; I know I’ll try to.

5. Save Somewhere Else. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” he said, “not in your 401k.”

6. Kill Your Self-Interests For The Sake of Others. Take the fall, the consequences, the death for another. Sure, you’ll lose the whole world, but isn’t it worth it to gain your soul?

7. Believe the Irrational. Jesus told Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen me and still believe.” And what does it mean to believe but to put his words into action, to live them out in our families, our vocations, our social lives?

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I thought I’d written my last piece on vocation a week ago. Alas, sometimes fortune, fate, or the Spirit comes calling. Feel free to invite others along as we continue this exploration.  I know I’m not alone in my questions on this topic, and I’d love to hear how you and your people are processing your own questions.

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  • Dan Arnsperger

    So this isn’t convicting at all. Pretty sure I just crush all 7 of those all the time. Oh wait. Maybe the opposite. This is good stuff my friend.