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The biggest difference between a real leader and a fake one

Dec. 4, 2017 | by Ryan Sanders

Call it biblical leadership or servant leadership. Whatever you call it, true leadership is about influence. And influence takes character. Writing about influence, Henry Blackaby says in Spiritual Leadership, "...some have resorted to developing the appearance of a leader rather than developing the character of a leader...they have image but no substance." He wrote this before Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Imagine that. 

So, what’s the big difference between a real leader and a fake?

They sacrifice themselves for others. 

Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” 

What's it mean to take up your cross? Taking up your cross is exactly what real leaders do—they understand total commitment. It means sacrificing all of your wants and needs.

What does “deny yourself” mean? It means to stop making yourself the center of your life and actions. I love how Simon Sinek writes about leaders in his book, Leaders Eat Last. Sinek points out that leaders are sacrificial in all things. 

The saying fits here, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Sinek writes:

• Leaders run headfirst into the unknown.

• Leaders rush toward danger.

• Leaders put their own interests aside to protect us all to pull us into the future

• Leaders will sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours

• And leaders would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.   

Henry Blackaby is much more kind than I am when he writes of leaders without character, calling them “Pseudo Leaders.” I’d call them fakes.

So, if we are following Jesus and sacrificing our own wants and needs, what are we left with?  

We are left being able to tell people confidently what 1 Corinthians 11:1 says: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Let it not be said of us, that we have image but no substance.

Photo source: istock


Ryan Sanders

Ryan Sanders is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey. Ryan is married to Tonia and they have two daughters and one son. He lives in Reston, Virginia, serves at McLean Bible Church in Washington, DC and is a diehard Redskins fan. 



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