Robert Gates had the unique opportunity to serve as secretary of defense for both President George Bush and President Barrack Obama. During his distinguished career he worked for eight U.S. presidents, fourteen secretaries of state, thirteen secretaries of defense, nine chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, fourteen national security advisors, ten directors of the CIA, and numerous generals and ambassadors. His remarkable experience has given him a keen insight into what makes leaders great and what derails them.
One of the biggies, according to Gates, is what leaders do with their ego. Great leaders keep their ego in check. They are confident enough to stay in the background and let the people that work for them receive the credit when a job is well done. At the same time they are strong enough to absorb the majority of blame when something goes wrong. The work is what is important to them, not gaining notoriety or personally enriching themselves. The worst leaders are those who demand all the attention and crave power. These kind of leaders weaken everyone around them. But the leader with the ego in check recruits the best people because they empower others and make everyone better.
I’m reading a book by Gates called A Passion for Leadership at the same time I’m digging into 1st Peter. Much of what Gates says about leadership Peter says about Jesus. Jesus kept his ego in check. Jesus is the Son of God, but he did not use his divine status to enrich himself. Jesus willingly set aside his divinity to enter fully into our humanity, becoming a servant and taking our sins on his body. For this reason, we have been forgiven and cleansed of the damage our ego has done to us. Isn’t all sin rooted in the ego?
So how’s your ego? Are you keeping it in check? I’m really looking forward to the bringing the third message from 1 Peter this weekend. I going to keep my promise to preach like a new Christian with the wisdom of a preacher with a lot of miles on his body. (To hear other sermons from the Wonderful Light series, click here.)