Thoughts on Leadership, Part 1 by Larry W Peebles April 21, 2017 17.14
This might just be my dream job. I was invited to interview for a major leadership position with a big company in our local area with a great brand name. This was a successful company with an image to match. They were looking for a company president to take them to another level. I went through a high level interview, with all the appropriate tests and interview strategies, conducted over several sessions. In one of the sessions I was asked to name a favorite book or a book that I had read recently. I replied “the Bible”. This caused an awkward moment for the interviewer, as if that was an unusual or inappropriate answer. I think the follow up question to my answer was “Why”? I gave a short but accurate response and we moved on to the next question. Instead of my answer being considered a strong answer, I had the impression it was deemed something they might be able to overlook or work around.
I was offered that job, but after praying, I felt I should decline. God ultimately had something even better in mind. Thinking back on it, I do not believe I could have been happy in a company that never saw themselves intentionally aligned with Biblical principles, or had no appreciation for or understanding of anyone who was seeking Biblical wisdom and guidance.
I have been fortunate to have many men in my life that I respected and considered to be leaders—even great leaders. As I think of these men, I realize styles of leadership vary. My dad, my father-in-law, my two brothers, a coach, and a few pastors and friends are certainly on the short list of leaders that impacted my life. However, for purposes of this article, I will use my grandpa as an example of a great leader. I loved my grandpa, and the older I get, the more I remember from what he taught me. I do not write this to glorify my grandpa, although I adored him and think of him often. He led by example more than by what he said. Much of what he demonstrated I did not grasp until years later. There is no better legacy than to have your example endorsed by the Bible.
Let’s start with this familiar principle–we reap what we sow. I can remember when I was a small boy I found my grandpa alone in the barn, combing through the ears of corn, hand sorting each one. Everyone else was in the yard starting to celebrate finishing the harvest of the corn crop. Good ears went in one pile, bad ears that were only partially developed, or that had sections of brown or black kernels went in another. The bad ears would be used for hog or cow feed. Grandpa was really looking for the outstanding ears—the ones that were big, perfectly developed, with rich golden kernels. Grandma’s fried chicken at the celebration would have to wait until he had finished searching for the perfect ears of corn.
When he found one of those golden perfect ears, it went in yet another pile in the corner of the barn. After those ears dried, they would be run through a special machine that picked the kernels off the cob, where they fell down a chute into a seed bag. The seed bag would be sewn shut, and the seed stored until the next planting season.
Without his ever saying a word, my grandfather taught me a valuable lesson. If one wants to produce a field of big, beautiful golden corn, one must have the discipline to start with the best seed. Seed selected from the partially developed ears with black kernels would produce more of that same poor quality corn. The poor corn should be fed to the animals. Similarly, the seed from the average corn would produce more average corn. This corn could be sold or eaten. The very best corn had only one purpose. It was not to be eaten, not even at the celebration with friends and neighbors who helped bring in the crop. The very best corn needed to be his seed for the next planting. Similarly, the best results require the best effort. If we expect to be treated well, we must treat others well. Loving others is the best way to receive love in our lives.
The Bible says it this way. “Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man shall sow, that also shall he reap.” Galatians 6: 7. Whatever one plants determines his harvest. My grandpa provided a graphic illustration of this Biblical truth I shall never forget. Consider these additional examples that reveal great leadership:
- He worked hard, dawn to dusk, and he was not afraid to do things that were hard. There were fields to plow, livestock to feed, barns and fences to build or paint, and lots of children and grandchildren that needed attention. Colossians 3:23- “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Proverbs 16:3- “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 14:23- “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Isaiah 41:10—“Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- He did not work on Sunday. Exodus 20:10- “But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: in it you shall not do any work, not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor any stranger that is within your gates.” Sunday morning was for church, and Sunday afternoon was for the large family gathering at the farm for fellowship, a light evening meal, or perhaps homemade ice cream.
- Grandpa not only rested himself, he rested the land. He lived his whole life on his farm. He was born there, and he died there. He was a successful farmer, married over 50 years to one wife, and raised six children through two world wars and the Great Depression. Under all that pressure, he never over-worked the land. He also never used fertilizer on his crops. He plowed the stubble back into the field after the last crop, and let it decay naturally back into the soil. Certain crops were planted that had no value except to rejuvenate the soil, and crops were rotated through different fields. On a rotating schedule, he also rested a field so it could refresh itself. Leviticus 25:4- “During the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath rest to the Lord; you shall not sow [plant] your field nor prune your vineyard.”
- Grandpa left an inheritance. He left a book full of fond memories, an example of a life well lived, and a monetary inheritance. Although he only completed formal education through the third grade, he ultimately owned two farms, and a number of rental homes and commercial buildings. He was decisive with the investments he made with the money he had received as a blessing from God. When he died, my dad and mom (his daughter) were able to pay cash for a modest home from the inheritance. When my dad and mom passed, my portion of the proceeds of the sale of that house went to my children, or grandpa’s great grandchildren. Proverbs 13: 22- “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”
- Grandpa was a willing lender/giver to those in need. He loaned money to my older brother to finish college. He gave me and my wife an envelope full of cash on our wedding day, which took a great deal of financial strain off our plans for the honeymoon. Grandpa had no debt, and he never had a credit card; he paid cash for everything. One of the blessings the Lord promised Israel in return for following and obeying Him is found in Deuteronomy 28: 12- “You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.”
- He cared for the widow. I went with him and watched him care for his mother and my grandma’s mother (both my great grandmothers) after they became widows. He would visit them often, make sure they had food to eat, check on their health, and keep up the maintenance on their homes. James 1:27 says- “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I watched him care for his wife (my grandma) when she had a stroke and went into the nursing home. As busy as he was, he always had time for others and their needs. This experience helped me as I cared for my parents in their later years.
- He helped his family and neighbors. He could repair almost anything. He painted my first car, put new brakes on my cousin’s first car, and helped my dad keep our family car running. If he was not repairing his own farm equipment, he was off helping a neighbor repair theirs, or helping them bring in a crop. Hebrews 6:10- “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”
- He loved to laugh. He had a certain enthusiasm for life. Many of his children, my aunts and uncles, carried on that trait. They were the generation that courageously carried the burden of WWII, but when the war was over, they came home, rebuilt their lives, moved forward, and learned to laugh again. They never allowed their situation or their circumstances to diminish their joy or hope. Psalm 126: 2-3– “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us, and we were filled with joy.”
He never used tobacco products, and the only alcohol I saw him drink was a little brandy he made himself from peaches he grew on his farm. These are just some of the leadership examples my grandpa left for me, all Bible based. Enthusiasm, courage, discipline, and decisiveness are some of the traits of a leader I saw in my grandpa. I’m sure Grandpa was not perfect, and maybe these are the things I choose to remember about him. But the examples I remember out of the shadow he chose to cast helped me as I grew older.
Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples and a leader in the early church. His shadow healed the sick as he walked by. (Acts 5:15). We all cast a shadow as we walk through life. My prayer is that my shadow is helpful to others, not harmful. My prayer is that I can be a positive influence on my wife, children and grandchildren. My prayer is that I can lead by example, and demonstrate an inner Biblical compass that points to Jesus.