I spent eleven and half months of my life serving as the senior Chaplain for the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan in the war against terror. I’ve served with many kinds of leaders but there is only one kind I want to go to war with and that is a competent leader. When you’re daily in “life and death” situations, you want the “competent” leader to be making the decisions, not just the “popular” or “nice” one.
There are two short parables in the New Testament that provide some insight into competence. Luke 14:28-31 talks about commitment, counting the cost before taking action and risk management. The impression that we are left with is that the tower was never built and the war was never won. So on one hand, one can say that these two parables are examples of counting the cost and risk management, but on the other hand, the tower was never built and the king had to live in a negotiated and compromised situation. The bottom line is that the builder and the king lacked competence.
So, the Bible teaches us three lessons about competence:
- Commitment – Jesus teaches that he is looking for people with “total commitment”. “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple”. The apostle Paul reminds his young protégé Timothy that “no one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life” (2 Timothy 2:3) because you cannot be doubled minded. In warfare, you must be single minded and focused, you must be totally committed to the cause.
- You need to count the cost – Jesus reminds the crowd that if you’re going to build a tower, you better sit down and figure out if you have all the resources required. Because if you don’t, you are going to look like an incompetent entrepreneur when the foundation will be laid and you don’t have the money to build the walls and the roof. Competence requires that in your planning stage you ensure that you have the right trades, gifts and resources to complete the project. It’s not a question of having an abundance of any one resource but the right mix to get the job done.
- Sound judgement – When Solomon became king of Israel, he didn’t ask God for popularity, power or wealth, he asked for “sound judgement”, “give your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 King 3:9). Sound judgement develops competence in a leader. Competence is the demonstration that you have the ability and insight and know what, when, why and how to do “the right thing”. To always compromise to “keep peace” like the king in the parable does not always bring peace. Knowing when, why and how to confront the enemy will bring the horrors of war to an end and provide the environment to rebuild and put in place the processes for healing and reconciliation rather than capitulation.
So, the moral of the story is that people follow competent leaders. People are inspired and attracted by competence and competence will lead to excellence and that’s why people will follow you!