Recently, I traveled to India for the third time, and just like on my other trips, I benefited far more than any of the people I went to serve. One person’s lessons were just what this leader’s heart needed. His name is Raju.
Raju is an unexpected leader, sifting through a dump near his home every day to reclaim and recycle for a living. Until several years ago, he couldn’t read and even his appearance would disqualify him in our celebrity-driven culture. He’s diminutive and as wrinkled as a dried apple, but he’s exceedingly strong and effective.
I’ve come to think of him as a warrior leader, and he left me with some counter-cultural lessons that I want to imitate.
We’re always called to serve with humility.
Our team met with Raju in his home. Even though he’s been raised up as both the pastor and the literacy teacher for the community, Raju’s house is humble. In fact, it’s made of the very trash that he sorts through each day.
We live in a country in which leaders often have more than those they lead — more clout, higher degrees, bigger houses and loftier job descriptions.
Warrior Leader Tip #1: Choose to show that we understand that we’re not called to be elevated. We’re called to serve.
We’re sometimes called to be fierce.
Like most impoverished communities in India, a water truck comes daily to Raju’s little cluster of homes. During a drought, the water truck didn’t come to Raju’s remote community for three days, causing twenty families to face near death. When the truck finally arrived, Raju commandeered it! He sent the driver back to town on foot and informed him that he wouldn’t get his truck back until the community received a well. Raju didn’t hurt the driver, but he demanded that a basic need be met for his people.
There are times when we need to be a fierce leader like Raju. Times when we must be firm about needs being met. Times when we risk being misunderstood as hijackers. I’m not advocating obnoxious militancy, but there are times when our followers need to be protected by their leader’s brave voice being heard.
Warrior Tip #2: Choose your battles wisely, but don’t avoid finding your fierce when needed.
We’re forever called to authenticity.
Before Raju came to love Jesus, his passion for justice was not only misunderstood but landed him in jail. God has powerfully redeemed the trait that once was a flaw.
In leadership, we’re so prone to self-protect, and one of the ways we do that is to create an image of uniformity. However, the beauty embedded in you by your Creator is rare and unique. That characteristic you’d like to hide because it brought you shame in the past? That’s probably the very one God wants to transform to strengthen your ministry.
Warrior Tip #3: Be ruthlessly authentic.
Who knew that my greatest leadership lessons would come from a man living in desperate poverty all the way across the world? God knew – the God that esteems humility, fills us with a warrior spirit and loves our truest created self. He knew.