Be a Leader of Yourself First (The Brother’s Keeper #59)


Dear Y.B.M.,

In my first series of letters, I strongly encouraged you to “think for yourself.” Today, as we begin this second section in Even Mo’ Letters to Young Black Men, “On Character & Leadership,” I want to strongly encourage you to be a leader but be a leader of yourself first.

That terminology might sound odd at first, but bear with me. I believe that more young black men should be leaders. You may not have any followers right now, but, under God and with God’s blessings, you ought to be a person who thinks for himself and follows his own mind based upon God’s will and God’s Word regarding the direction of your life.

This world has too many followers and too many people looking for someone to take them by the hand and show them the way — all of the way. I stopped following people long ago when I realized that Jesus is the only Leader I need. Most importantly, He is the only Leader who will never let you down. And, because I follow Christ alone, He has blessed me with the privilege of being a leader to others.

The Apostle Paul rebuked some folk for creating factions in the church because they were obsessed with which human leader they were following (including him). Some were saying, “I follow Paul.” Others said, “I follow Apollos.” And others said, “I follow Cephas.” But Paul said, ‘I thank God I have not baptized any of you. I’m not following anybody but Jesus.’ And because he was following Jesus alone, he was bold enough to tell people, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

I want you to be able to say the same thing. Get your life in order under the direction and headship of God through Jesus Christ and you will be ready to be a leader in your own right for the glory of God and for the benefit of many others. Now, this does not mean that you can’t listen to advice from others who are older and wiser. I have a small circle of pastors and leaders who are twenty to thirty years older than me from whom I learn and seek advice. And, thanks to God, these guys have been with for some twenty to thirty years. I listen to their counsel, but I make my own decisions, I take responsibility for those decisions, and I accept the consequences of those decisions be they good or bad. I encourage you to do the same.

There are many different types of leaders. Some are loud and bombastic; others are quiet and contemplative. Don’t be concerned about style. People recognize great, positive leadership when they see it. If you start taking the lead in your own life now, and start leading yourself first, you will be prepared to be a leader, a mentor, a guide, and a role model in your family, in your community, in your church, and in the world.. One day, you may look up and find that people are actually following you as you follow Christ.

Love well. Lead well.

Daniel Whyte III

P.T. (Power Thoughts):

Tony Evans said, “A kingdom man may be defined as a man who positions himself and operates according to the comprehensive rule of God over every area of his life. And every area of life should feel the impact of a kingdom man’s presence.”

John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Tony Dungy said, “The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.”

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a railroad maintenance gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

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Be a Leader and Think for Yourself (The Man in the Mirror #6)

Recently, I heard a story about five teenagers who decided to rob a house in Illinois. They went across the street to a particular residence, knocked on the door, and rang the doorbell. When no one answered, they broke in. It turns out that the owner of the house was asleep upstairs. When he heard the commotion, he awakened, got his gun, and came downstairs. He shot and killed one of the teenagers and wounded another.

Today, the four teenagers who survived are in jail for fifty years. They were not just sentenced for attempted robbery, but, due to state law, they — not the homeowner who shot the gun — are being held responsible for the death of their companion.

In an interview, one of the teens was asked what caused him to do what he did that day. He said the reason was that he was “just being a follower.”

271-think-for-yourselfThe Bible warns us against being followers of those who would only lead us to do evil. Proverbs 1:10-16 says, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.“

You can probably think of a time in your life when you have done something simply because your friends or someone else suggested doing it and you regretted it later. Sociologists call it peer pressure. You feel somehow that because everyone else is doing it, you have to do it too.

Many people have succumbed to that pressure and later wished they hadn’t. For example, the young man who went along with his buddies who were engaged in criminal activity because he wanted to appear cool and later got arrested along with them. Or, the young woman who was eager to get a boyfriend and have sex because that’s what all her friends were doing and she didn’t want to feel left out and she later got pregnant or got a sexually transmitted disease.

Let me encourage you to not be a follower. Don’t feel the need to go along with the crowd. Just because a lot of people are doing something does not mean that it is the right thing to do. You may not have the gift of leadership, but one thing all of us possess is the ability to think for ourselves. So, think for yourself. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. If you do not have a reason other than the fact that others are doing the same thing then you need to reconsider what you are doing.

God gave each of us a brain and the ability to think. Thinking for myself, led by the Holy Spirit of God, has saved me a lot of time, trouble, and consequences down through the years and it will do the same for you.