Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

This week marks the 112th anniversary of the beginning of an interesting era in American politics. On September 14, 1901, President McKinley was assassinated, and Theodore Roosevelt, at age 42, became the youngest person to ever serve as our nation’s president. “Teddy” would lead his country for the next seven and one-half years. On his way to the presidency, he had endured and accomplished many things.In 1884, he lost his wife and mother on the same day. He led the Rough Riders to victory at San Juan Hill, one of the most brutal and difficult battles of the Spanish-American War. As president, Roosevelt was known for standing tough against the big-business trusts and promoting conservation interests. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to ending the Russo-Japanese War. Many people regard him as one of our nation’s great presidential leaders. For more information on President Theodore Roosevelt, click here.

And Teddy was a leader! In military service and in government, he earned a reputation for leading decisively. Perhaps his most well-known quote was, “Speak softly and carry a big stick!” His view of being a leader was deeper than that, however. He also said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” President Roosevelt recognized that strength and bluster, though perhaps temporarily effective, cannot provide a sustainable foundation for the leader. The one who leads well offers, instead, his/her own character and commitment as an example to those who are watching and thereby influences them because they find the leader to be a compelling person, one who is worth following.

I like to think that Teddy drew this insight on leadership from our Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect leader. The president was actually a member of the St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in New York City, a part of the same denomination known today as the Reformed Church in America. Perhaps it was there that he heard these words from Jesus to his disciples on the occasion of the Last Supper:

But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. . . So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you (Luke 22:26-27; John 13:14-15).

Leadership based on character and commitment demonstrated through service is how Jesus led the twelve, and it is how he would have leaders function in today’s church.

Church Leadership Center assists leaders and churches with leadership development. Click here for more information. To view videos about Commissioned Pastors and those who support them, click here.

To read previous blogs, click here.

Mark your calendar: Leadership and Commissioned Pastor Retreat is planned for October 25 – 26, 2013 at Camp Geneva, Holland, MI. Guest presenter: Pastor Marlin Vis. Topic: Reading the Bible through Middle Eastern Eyes. For additional information click here. To be put on the retreat mailing list, contact Alison DeBoer, adeboer@rcagl.org

This guest article was written by Dr. Mark Veldt who is a Leadership Development Specialist on the staff of Church Leadership Center.