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What Defines A Leader? Position Or Influence?

Servant Leadership

This week's blog series is on leadership. I hope you found value in last week's series on victory over death. The best time to learn those types of lessons is before you need them. Nonetheless, on with our story.

What defines a leader? On the most fundamental level there really are two unique answers to this question.

1) Position – People are required to follow.

2) Influence – People are inspired to follow

What Defines A Leader? Position Or Influence?

Sometimes, we only see value in leadership positions and completely underestimate the power of influence. Some of the most influential people in the world did not hold any high positions in society. For instance, Dr Martin Luther King Jr was a community leader who held no political position but had more influence over the African American community than the President of The United States.

When he delivered his legendary "I Have A Dream" speech during his march on Washington and more people than they could count showed up to hear him, his leadership legacy was evident. People had to follow the president but they chose to follow Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Why? He was a man of God with influence.

In fact, let's fast forward to our generation, several years after his death. President Barack Obama has held the highest position in The United States for five years and still lives in the shadow of such a great man. One man has a position, the other had influence. Two completely different definitions of leadership. Oh how we yearn for men of God with influence to lead us.

Now, let's go to The Bible for what I believe is the best example possible of what happens when these two types of leaders face each other. One man was the king and the other was just a shepherd. One had the highest position in the land but the other had something he could never have and that was influence over the people. If position is pitted against influence, here's the result.

What Defines A Leader? Position Or Influence?

1 Samuel 18:5-16(NLT) - Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike. 6 When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. 7 This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” 8 This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” 9 So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. 10 The very next day a tormenting spirit from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, 11 and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice. 12 Saul was then afraid of David, for the Lord was with David and had turned away from Saul. 13 Finally, Saul sent him away and appointed him commander over 1,000 men, and David faithfully led his troops into battle. 14 David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle.

1) King Saul had the position.

2) David had the influence.

3)Saul was intimidated by David.

4) In time, David got Saul’s position.

When God is with a man it gives him influence. When a man without a position has influence the man with the position but no influence gets very afraid. That's why King Saul was so afraid of David. It all started when David was anointed to be king in 1 Samuel 16 after removing His anointing from Saul. From that moment The Lord acknowledged David as the real king and Saul as the "seat-filler" in the palace. Then in 1 Samuel 17, Saul hid from Goliath while David stepped up and killed the giant.

From that moment the people acknowledged David as the real leader and Saul as the "seat-filler" in the palace. Even Saul knew that because in 1 Samuel 18:8 quoted above Saul could sense that his claim to the throne was in trouble. What made it even worse was that David continued to excel and people's love for him continued to grow. The king was no longer the most popular man in Israel and Judah. It became David's land not because he held a high position but purely because of influence.

1 Samuel 18:29-30(NLT) - When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and how much his daughter Michal loved him, Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life. Every time the commanders of the Philistines attacked, David was more successful against them than all the rest of Saul’s officers. So David’s name became very famous.

Even Saul's daughter loved David and he could do nothing about it. The man with the position could only be afraid of the man with the influence. Eventually, the man with the influence was given the position. What made David different from Saul was that The Lord was with him. People follow influential leaders regardless of their position. The presence of The Lord makes you influential.

So today think about this principle. What have you been seeking? Position or influence? If your heart's desire is to be in high position you could end up just like Saul. However, if your heart's desire is the presence of The Lord you could end up just like David.

Isaiah 11:1-5(NLT) - Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot — yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. 4 He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. 5 He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.

There's more to this message. Check us out tomorrow morning for Part Two.