Monday, January 4, 2016

The Leadership Tree

UV 1632/10000 The Leader as Tree
And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.
Judges 9 v 15

Jotham’s parable on the “bramble of leadership” is a wonderful lesson on leadership relevant to modern times as it was in the time he spoke it. Jotham was comparing the leadership of Abimelech, his step brother and son of Gideon as nothing but bramble or a thorn bush whose fire would one day destroy all other trees even as he had killed seventy of the sons of Gideon. The trees, implying the people of their tribe and clan went out to select or elect a leader and ended up selecting the bramble or the thorn bush. They ignored the claims to leadership of the tallest among them in beauty and in character- the cedars. They ignored the godly leaders, the anointed of God, chosen to serve God and man- the olive trees whose leaves symbolised peace and whose fruit gave nourishment, good for the human heart and spirit, yielding pure oil that would act as lubricant, medicine, an excellent cooking medium. They did not even chose the fig tree whose fruit was sweet and healthy. They did not chose the vine- the vine that had no strength to stand on its own, needed props but stayed humble and close to the ground or to reality.

A leader should be like a tree in enabling people to climb up to their full potential using its branches. Leadership like a tree should be fruitful. A leader should be a source of blessing to those he leads. External charisma is not the criterion. Very often the most charismatic leaders lack the moral courage or inner character to be an example to the followers. The vanity and charm of the physically charismatic and the highly talented deludes them into thinking that they have a natural right to lord it over others, that leadership is a privilege that they were born into. These are the cedars of leadership- the cedar has a beauty, stature and fragrance of its wood that makes it stand out as the natural king among trees. What distinguishes the different types of leaders? Their seed or source of inspiration is different. Their root or what they derive their support and strength from is different. Their branches or the parts of their lives are different. Their sap or source of motivation is different. Their leaves or words and thoughts are different. The very wind or influence to which they sway is different. Their fragrance or invisible aura is different. When we scour the pages of world and national history, we find all these types of trees of leadership. The olive tree leaders were few : Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, M.K. Gandhi and the greatest of olive tree leaders- Jesus Himself. The bramble of leaders were many: Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and so on. The fire of their fierce ambition and ruthlessness destroyed thousands upon thousands.

Leaders who do not have any other goal but to perpetuate and promote themselves and their families at the expense of the organisation or nation are the bramble, the thorn bushes who are ready to hurt or harm others to advance their own cause. The bramble are envious of the cedars and of the olive tree leaders and would gladly set these on fire to eliminate any possible future competition. They lack vision as well as passion and mission. A mission is a larger than life purpose for which one is ready to make any sacrifice and if needed one’s own life. Such bramble leaders have marked themselves for self - destruction as most of the tyrants, dictators and despots of history have through the generations. Non charismatic but principled and godly leaders are the “ olive tree” leaders who exist for a larger and nobler purpose. They seek not to enrich themselves but to enlarge, ennoble and enable others to live a better life. These are leaders who like olive trees endure for long, whose memories and example outlives their own lives. People crush or analyse their words like olive fruit is crushed in the olive press to derive meaning and power. They stay evergreen or passionate and consistent about the vision, passion and mission in life. Though they are exalted to high positions, their attitude is one of being a servant to many people and to the One almighty God. They derive their strength and nourishment from the anointing word, spirit and wisdom of the Lord.

Prateep V Philip

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