Great leadership is partially defined by initiative. This does not mean that they were the ones to come up with a great idea and patent it. It simply means that they took a deep breath and dared to be the first to step forward. They did not wait for the masses to join them. They led.
What is so important about having initiative as a leader? Because it embodies the definition of a leader. What does leader mean? One who leads or stands out in front and directs. You cannot be in that position and be successful if there is no initiative. The person might wear the title of leader, but the true defining of them falls extremely short.
Daniel — Initiating Purity
A true test of leadership comes when you realize that you might be making a stand alone and you still do it. The fact that the crowd goes the opposite direction does not deter a leader shows his true heart. Daniel was one of those that over and over in his life he showed initiative as a leader.
In the book of Daniel we find the young man’s story, but the scene that stands out the most in regard to showing initiative is in Daniel 1:3–21. Persia has taken over much of the Middle East. In the process of conquering lands they take some of the most able-bodied survivors and take them back to the capital to be trained for the expanding Persian Empire.
Part of the training was a Persian education and a royal diet. The food was not poor and was what most people could only dream of having. Anyone would have thought that this form of captivity was grand. Anyone, but a future leader in the making.
Daniel was not like most of his captive countrymen. He was not ready to give up his entire heritage. He was determined to keep what was most scared to him while adopting the Persian ways in those areas that were not. Religion was scared to him. His religion forbade certain foods and even some good foods if they were not prepared in accordance to Mosaic Law. The thought that Daniel would have to eat foods that were not acceptable tore at his heart.
Daniel and three friends took the initiative to approach the guard and request other foods. Though he was hesitant from the fear of the king, the guard agreed to test the young men by giving them only vegetables and water for their meals. If they were looking worse off than the other captives, they would eat the other food. Time showed that only Daniel and his three friends looked healthy and had the energy to go through each day.
Accepting the status quo and just going with the flow was not an option for Daniel and his friends. They stood on their believes and began the foundation of their leadership roles in the Persian Empire.
Peter — Initiating Change
After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the Apostles began a long journey of getting the believers on one page and teaching them all that Jesus had taught them. But no matter who you are, when God requires a change, we have to take initiative to get it done. No one is comfortable with change. And Peter was no exception.
During the Biblical times, those that were not Hebrew, or Jewish, were called Gentiles. They did not follow the Mosaic Law strictly which meant that they ate different foods and approached their religion(s) different.
When we are unsure of anything and turn to God to guide us, be prepared for the unexpected. It is only then that we get to see the awesomeness of God’s power. Giving Him our problems is a spectacular event to behold. Peter was took time to pray with God. It was there that he was told of a change in the early church’s thought process. Gentiles were not to be considered “unclean” because they ate different foods. It was not the food that was unclean. God made all food; therefore, condemning someone for eating it was wrong. The Gentiles were to be accepted and told of the Good News.
Peter was not about to just accept this. He protested. His upbringing and the teaching from all those years came rushing back. But God emphasized again how the foods were not wrong.
Immediately, Peter was faced with taking the initiative on this issue when a knock was heard. A Gentile was requesting Peter’s presence. Peter was to tell the man and his family about Jesus and the hope and love He has to offer for those who accept Him. To enter a Gentile’s house and eat their food was something Peter would have declined just a few minutes earlier. Now, he went forward as directed by God and did something that no Jew of that time had done before. He initiated crossing the gap that existed between cultures.
Because of his courage and obedience, Peter got to witness a miracle and be a part of the confirmation of accepting others. He took initiative. He did not wait for the Jerusalem church to ok it. He followed God alone and was blessed.
Noah — Initiating Uniqueness
Nothing can be as scary as having to do something so odd and unusual that no one else in their right mind would do it. You step out and are usually alone. Noah was one of those that took a deep breath and initiated being unique.
God was getting very frustrated (ok, slight understatement) with how the people of the world were acting. He could not find anything redeeming about them. That is, until His gaze fell on one man. Because of that He decides to destroy everything. Noah and his family would be saved and responsible for getting the world back in order after the destruction.
What God called Noah to do called for initiative. Noah was to build an ark. This was not going to be the size of your local fishing boat. It was to be gigantic. Noah was to begin construction on this massive craft and get if finished to very specific criteria. This was not a task that many people did in that day. In fact, it was completely new. Noah was being asked to do something different. It could not be done in a basement away from prying eyes. It was out there for all to see. What would the neighbors think?
A lot is called of one person who has to take initiative and do something that could very easily call forth ridicule from others. That is one of the biggest reasons some people refuse to venture out and try new things. Potential leaders have closed the door on that opportunity because they were afraid.
Being a leader will give a person many opportunities to take initiative and make a public stand on something. It might be standing against a practice, moving to “hopeless” area, reaching out a hand to someone shunned, or just practicing what they preach. A leader is called to act first and show the rest of their flock that they have faith in God and willing to take a chance.
Joseph — Initiating Integrity
If the rest of the world is doing, why shouldn’t we? If it will make our way smoother, why say no? If it will not rock the boat, why pull away? Because there is no integrity. Joseph showed that a good leader initiates integrity and is willing to take the consequences.
Joseph already had a lot of things against him. He had been treated by his brothers badly. They handled him roughly and sold him into slavery. From there it got a little better when he landed in a home of a high ranking Egyptian. His honesty and good work earned him a high position in the household and the ultimate trust of his master. But let a deceitful woman on the scene, and only disaster is around the corner.
His master, Potiphar, leaves on business. His wife approaches Joseph when no one else is around and attempts to seduce him. He could have gone through with it because after all she is the boss. He could have seen all the potential good that could come out of having a mistress with such ability to advance him and give him more power and maybe one day his freedom. But Joseph was not just any man. He was a leader in the making.
Joseph replied that he could not betray the man who trusted him so. The results were a false accusation of attempted rape and a long prison sentence. Joseph chose the honest and pure route called integrity instead of the corrupt and ugly route known as Easy Street. This prepared him for the tasks before him and the ultimate leadership position in Egypt, second in command.
David — Initiating Courage
One thing a leader has to have is courage. He has to be able to stand up to huge opposition, stand alone, and know that death could be on the other side. He has to be willing to step forward not knowing what is before him. A leader has to initiate courage.
The most famous story of courage is the one about David up against the big bad giant, Goliath. This young boy is just on the edge of manhood. There has been no training to lead anyone. The only training he has is in courage watching the sheep against the wild animals. But on the job training is just what a leader needs.
He is delivering things from his father to his brothers on the battlefield. When he gets there and sees the Israelites cringing in fear, he is shocked. Why would the chosen ones be afraid? Just because the enemy is over seven feet tall and is intimidating is no reason to cower. Don’t they all know that God is behind them? David volunteers to out against a man at least twice his size. He has all the odds against him. Yet, he walks forward and takes up the challenge of Goliath against David and God.
David showed courage in that nothing on this earth scared him. Only knowing that God was with him no matter what he faced was enough for courage to lead him forward.
All leaders need initiative otherwise they are not leaders but followers. They receive the vision from God and they lead others forward under God’s directive. Initiative is not being prodded. It is moving forward willingly and submissively to be a leader.