No Big Men in Christ-Centered Leadership

Bob Osborne | January 21, 2016

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about leadership is one I look back on with embarrassment. I was a young man working in Africa for UNICEF and CARE, two of the world’s largest humanitarian agencies, which gave me a certain perceived power. Native Africans deferred to me simply because I was an American with some responsibility.

This worked its way into me so deeply that I started believing it, which was toxic. When placed in leadership I ruled by the strength of my position—by dictate and fear. In Africa this is called the “Bwana Syndrome,” “bwana” being the “big man.” I became a bwana. My approach was to use others to accomplish my goals. I was building my kingdom.

God Overhauled My Life  

When I became a Christian, though, God overhauled my life. I began seeing people not as objects to use but as people made in God’s image with unique abilities, passions, and interests. My responsibility as a leader was to serve them.

When Jesus spoke about big men, he said:

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so…

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