Public leaders take responsibility for the place God has put them and raise their voice to speak out for good.
This doesn’t happen automatically. There’s no magic bullet or secret formula. But there are five things that public leaders do.
1. Public leaders know their place.
Public leaders know where God has put them and where He is calling them. They are passionate about the place or the vocation they are in and are committed to seeing it flourish.
If you don’t know your place, look around you. What’s happening? What’s not happening that should be happening? What are the things you’re passionate about, what are the things that excite you and motivate you, that get you out of bed each morning?
What is your community like, and who are your neighbours? Find out what the place is that you can apply your gifts and skills to.
2. Public leaders know things can change
There are a lot of things that need to change, as well as some things that should remain the same. There are injustices that need righting, and services that need protecting. Public leaders know that things can change, that there is no inevitability about things remaining the way they are.
Public leaders look to history and see how Christians have brought about change in the past.
They are inspired by people like Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano tackling slavery, Shaftesbury improving factory conditions, Hannah More providing education, and William Booth who declared that he would fight, fight and fight until the cry of the forgotten was no more.
They look to the present and see Christians leading in the UK and beyond, they see leaders committed to transforming their towns and cities and work places for the glory of God.
They get on their knees and ask God what his hopes and dreams are, listening intently to the heart-beat of God. Public leaders pray about what God can do through them in their towns and cities and across our country.
And they look to the future. They see the challenges around them and they are committed to being part of the ongoing renewal that is needed beyond their own generation.
3. Public leaders practice
Public leaders work hard. If you’re passionate about something, if you are committed to it, if you see something that needs to change, if you want to speak up for good, sometimes practice can seem like an inconvenience.
But public leaders know that it is worth getting good, developing excellence. That it’s worth taking the time to get experience, get trained, to become familiar with the environment you’re working in, and working out what you need to learn from others who have gone before and established public leaders.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers about the 10,000 hours theory; the idea that to become an expert at something takes 10,000 hours of practice. That’s around three hours a day for ten years. One man decided to become a golfer, aged thirty without any experience, and has put the theory to the test. Hard work, dedication and a teachable spirit are essential for becoming an effective public leader (or a professional golfer).
4. Public leaders speak out
Public leaders understand that becoming a ‘go to’ voice is key. When something needs saying they step up to the microphone. They have earned the right to speak and to be heard because they have worked hard and demonstrated their commitment, establishing credibility.
Public leaders engage in the media. They speak up in church and in their community, but they also speak beyond it. They communicate their passion and desire for things to be better. Public leaders know that the media is a challenge but also a valuable opportunity. They don’t fear it.
5. Public leaders take responsibility
If you were in a lift and it broke down, would you be the person to take responsibility, calm people down and find a way to get out? There are many reasons why you shouldn’t do something – it might be hard, it might be complex, it might be controversial. It might be someone else’s job. It would certainly be much easier to keep quiet.
But public leaders take decisions and take responsibility. They know that they have been given authority by God, and they have a responsibility for where God has placed them. They could choose not to speak up or act, but they know that in many of the places where the need is greatest it is Christians who are standing up and taking responsibility.
This is why politics matters, because politics is about taking responsibility and making decisions. And whether you start with politics or not, sooner or later most areas of responsibility will require an understanding of how politics works and how to engage with it, both locally and nationally.
Public leaders know where God has placed them, they know there is a need and that things can change. Public leaders are prepared to put in the hours to get good at what they do, they use their voice to speak out, and they step up to take responsibility.
Have you got what it takes to do this?