Walk the Talk as Leaders

Bill Taylor, author and cofounder of Fast Company, in his article in Harvard Business Review (August 2014), emphasized that in order to lead organisations we need to develop a vocabulary of competition that helps everyone understand what it makes to be special and what it takes for them to be at their best. The only sustainable form of business leadership is thought leadership.

Leaders that think differently about their business invariably talk about it differently as well. Today, “talk the walk” is more appreciated among the best leaders in game-changing innovators and high-performing organisations than “walk the talk”. “Walk the talk” is a modern version of old sayings “actions speak louder than words”, “practice what you preach” and “walk it like you talk it”. It is easy to talk the talk but difficult to walk the talk. Each one of us influences lives of others in some way or other at home, college/university. workplace, church, missions and organisations. The moment we confess and acknowledge and take a stand on faith, values or systems, we are under watch and being followed even without our knowledge. People around us like to notice our attitudes, perceptions, actions and reactions and try to find consistency in what we speak and stand for. Therefore, everyone is a leader in his own way. Only the degree of influence differs. The larger the sphere of influence, the bigger is the range of surveillance. The best and popular leaders have more followers. Leaders are not only followed but respected, honoured, valued and set on higher pedestals in society mainly due to the reason that they are expected to walk the talk. But history records failure of many celebrated leaders in all walks of life. Scams and scandals have caused downfall of corporate, business, political and religious leaders over the years. These leaders did not act but just talked, did not show but kept saying and did not prove but only promised. Christian leaders are not exceptions to it. Dr. J H Holmes, Professor of Philosophy and a member of Society of Friends who had several interactions with Gandhiji, said what Gandhiji had expressed, “I like your Christ but not your Christianity. I read the Bible faithfully and see in Christendom that those who profess faith pretend to see” (The Harvard Crimson, Jan11, 1927).

Too many people talk the talk and very few actually walk the walk. The decline of values in society has led leaders to think that the leadership is just a position or title and it is not about action and example. In the rat race, achieving the results within the shortest time by any means is more important than setting an example. Practice of leading lives by examples is in the wane. Believing leaders often falter on this front too as they confront threats to their testimonies on different fronts. Only some concerns in this regard are highlighted here.

Carnality has replaced our spirituality or spiritual maturity. Paul in his epistle of I Corinthians (3:3) point out that as carnal believers we behave like mere men and not as spiritual matured persons. As a result envy, strife and divisions are manifested. There are umpteen examples of divisions in churches and organisations as we do not act in unity and acknowledge Christ as our enduring foundation and we are God’s building (I Cor3:9). Paul further admonishes we are temple of God and if anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him (I Cor. 3:17). A leader cannot live an exemplary life when he pollutes himself and deviates from holy living. It is very wrong when a leader tries to use his authority for his own advantage (1Timothy 6:3-5). There have always been leaders who want people to follow them instead of Christ (2 Peter 2:1-3). Peter too taught that God’s people are holy (1 Peter 2:9). Paul taught that the Holy Spirit lives in each Christian (Romans 8:9). So, Christians have a duty to give honour to God by the way they live. Paul reminds us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4).
Leaders will fail to walk the talk unless they find favour and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Their first passion should be to find favour in the sight of God and man. The proverb describes of being blessed and preferred by God and men and having the reputation for wisdom and discretion. These are great goals, and the book of Proverbs teaches how to obtain them (Prov.3:1-3). Some think that having a good reputation or loving favour from others is not very important, as long as God approves of them. A good reputation and loving favour from others is more important and valuable than wealth. Men make great effort and spend much time to acquire financial assets, but being approved, esteemed, and promoted by others is a better choice (Pro. 22:1). Samuel and Jesus both grew in favour with God and men (I Sam. 2:26, Luke 2:52). They both thought it was important and they adjusted their lives accordingly. Leaders should strive to follow these two holy examples. Joseph found favour with Potiphar, In- charge of prison and lastly Pharaoh who appointed him over Egypt as he led a life pleasing to God. When we choose God as the most important object for affection and attention (I Pet. 3:15, Isa. 8:13) and then choose to purely and sincerely make others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4, James 3:17), our speech will be gracious (Pro. 22:11). We need to become sensitive to all those around us in a new and deeper way so as to adjust our speech and conduct to meet their expectations and please them. This is not compromise, if the worship of God is not involved; it is discretion and an excellent spirit like Daniel.

Inconsistency in spiritual life hinders leaders from being examples to others. Samson, an anointed judge of Israel, started off well as a leader who showed God’s power and authority against Philistines. But his inconsistent spiritual life caused his downfall. He lost his extraordinary strength and Nazarite anointing due to his fallen lifestyle and he ended his life in the hands of his enemies over whom God called him to declare victory of his nation. But David grappled with the problem of losing the presence of God and the Holy Spirit and confessed his sins. He was honest with himself and with God when he asked to be cleansed from secret faults and presumptuous sins (Psa. 19:12-13). Beyond forgiveness, David knew he needed God’s continuing strength and help to harmonize his walk with his talk. So he earnestly prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord” (v.14). It is important to lay aside every weight that comes in the way of our anointing and call of God. The writer of Hebrews exhorts to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us (Heb. 12:1). Many a times we are so busy in the affairs of the world and neglect seeking presence of God till we have preaching or teaching assignments. We feel we can make it up later. Leaders cannot be in the flow of the world neglecting the continual flow of the Holy Spirit in their day to day lives. Paul’s prayer in Colossians, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”

(Col 1:10). Our actions and reactions at the lowest points of life are observed by the people around us as real tests of consistency of spiritual life. “You are the Bible some unbelievers will ever read (John MacArthur)”. Do we strengthen ourselves in Lord as David did when his own family and the families of his troops were taken captive and people wanted to stone him? (I Sam.30:6)
Leading a life of testimony for Christ is quite challenging in the campus and marketplace. We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of this world. Billy Graham once said, “The unbelieving world should see our testimony lived out daily as it just may point them to the saviour.” Therefore, let us conduct ourselves with such honour among the Gentiles that, though they slander us as evildoers, they may see our good deeds and glorify God (I peter 2:12).
Additional Ref: Letgodbetrue.com: commentary on Proverbs

Dr. NANDA DULAL, The author works as group director in a govt. organisation. He lives with his wife Geetanjali in Bangalore.

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