Truly powerful leaders aren’t afraid to show weakness

“Power is the great aphrodisiac.”  Said former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I don’t know if this is what Kissinger had in mind, but I’ve seen power make men mad and make women weak in the knees.  What makes power so attractive?

Why people fight for power

Countries go to war over power.   Armies will rise up against their government and overpower them.   Brothers will kill each other out of lust for power.   Why?   What makes power so attractive? What makes men and women lust after power or after the powerful?  At it’s core, I think the lust for power is an attempt to control your own circumstances.  It’s the desire to be able to call the shots without anyone telling you what to do. Power, after all, is the ability to influence others- not the other way around.

I sometimes wonder if people want power for the ability to control others, or are they only looking for the ability to control their own life. In other words, do you want to just make a utopian life for yourself or do you want to make others yield to your will?   This very question demonstrates that temptation goes along with power.  Here’s what one of our country’s most powerful leaders once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Sources of real strength

The founders of our country recognized how dangerous power was when wielded by only one person. The founding fathers worked into the fabric of the United States a separation of powers. In Pres. John Adams words, “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”

So if you were trying to get power for yourself where would you go? What would you turn to?   This might surprise you…but the greatest demonstration of power is your ability to give power away.   It’s not the man who clings to authority who has real power- it’s the one who’s able to give his authority away to others. It’s not the woman who reaches the top of the corporate ladder, and has CEO written on the door-  it’s the woman who can share her power with others that has great strength.

How weakness can lead to even greater strength

There is something counterintuitive about leading with great power. Sometimes, the greatest demonstration of power is the ability to be humble. Sometimes the greatest act of strength, is to willingly show your weakness. No one did this better than Jesus!

He gave up the power that he had in heaven to take on the form of a man. He humbled himself by leaving the glory that he received in heaven, in order to be criticized and condemned as a man.   His greatest act of weakness – allowing himself to be murdered on a cross turned out to be his greatest act of strength.

Jesus is the ultimate “servant leader”.  In Matthew 23:11 Jesus turned the tables on greatness and power. Philippians 2:7-8 shows us how Jesus gave up the power and glory that he had in heaven to become a humble man.   Philippians 2:9-10 are the demonstration of how God honored Jesus’ humble leadership.  It’s a vivid example of how God would have his people express power.

Are you demonstrating powerful weakness today? Are you willing to share your faults and failures with people who look up to you? Are you following Jesus’s example?   Are you being like Jesus? Are you living out Matthew 18:4, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”?

Further reading

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