Sadly, most leaders think – to be effective, they must appear to be invincible – not vulnerable. The last place most people choose to be is on the hot-seat. Open-mic segments in any meeting are nerve-racking. The handlers of politicians try to screen the questions or discreetly control the mic. Business leaders, striving for a transparent workplace, convene their bull-pit sessions. But employees rarely ask the tough questions, fearing the boss will black-list them for making them squirm on the hot-seat. Elected officials are often afraid to ask their own leader the tough questions, fearing some form of retaliation or vindictiveness.

Samuel had led the people of God for years. It hadn’t always been easy and the people he was leading were not always happy-campers. They had some performance issues and a tendency to stray. But still, Samuel, year after year, provided leadership as directed by the Lord. Now his hair is gray, and the wrinkles are surfacing. He stands before the people to make his address.

Would he make himself vulnerable by convening an open-mic session? (What kind of leader are you in the local church or in business?) Will Samuel take the hot seat? Will he step into the bull-pit and allow his people to throw up the dirt they have on him? Will he allow them to challenge the choices and decisions he has made?

Samuel chooses to make himself vulnerable – even suggesting the type of questions or challenges to his leadership he is willing to entertain.

“And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed.

  1. Whose ox have I taken?
  2. Or whose donkey have I taken?
  3. Or whom have I defrauded?
  4. Whom have I oppressed?
  5. Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it?

Testify against me and I will restore it to you.”

They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”

And he said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.”

And they said, “He is witness…” 1Samuel 12:2-5

Only leaders with a clear conscience or with an openness to mend fences or with a keen desire to always seek input and improvements would invite such questions. Samuel was willing to have the people scrutinize his track record. He didn’t have a team of henchmen wearing shades and recording the names of people who dared to ask the tough questions. And there were no intimidation tactics to suppress criticisms or to zip lips.

“Have I ever done anything to benefit myself at your expense? Did I ever take anything from you for selfish gain? Did I ever try to put any of you down? Did I have an ulterior motive in any of the decisions I made? Did I take a secret bribe from any? Now is your chance. If you are harboring any gripes against me, even if they’re old ones, here I am. Bring it up now and I will respond.”

What a leader! Only a leader with the confidence of a clear conscience would be willing to have such an open-mic session. Only leaders who have been doing their job and have been above-board in their dealings would be willing to step into the bull-pit and invite people to ask the ‘hard’ questions.

When the Apostle Paul was under attack by false teachers and those they had befriended, he didn’t cower in fear, thinking they might be able to nail something on him. As you read through 2Corinthians you’ll see that his conscience was absolutely clear. He had nothing to hide.

As Christians we are all to be leaders – leading people out of darkness into light. Our lives are to be blameless. And then, there are elders, teachers and evangelists who assume a public role – they too, are to have a clean track record and a willingness to listen.

Samuel had a life to back him up. Credibility and respect is not something you demand or deserve from people; it is something you earn over time.

Would you be willing to allow people to ask the hard questions about your performance? Would you convene an open session or sit on the hot-seat to listen to the people you are seeking to lead? It has often been said that a local church is not a democracy. That’s true. But neither is it a totalitarian regime. Effective leaders seek input and make it a safe environment for feedback. They actively and sincerely listen.

If you are not yet a leader, would you like to be a leader like Samuel?

Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today.

Warmly in Christ
Peter Ramsay

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