Give us today our daily bread (The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 6 verse 11 The New International Version of the Bible. Pub. Hodder and Stoughton)
Choosing a verse from the middle of the Lord’s Prayer might seem odd. After all it makes no direct reference to the task of leadership nor does it at first glance appear to offer much inspiration. Perhaps quite the reverse with its focus on the here and now combined with what sounds almost like a cry for help.
Surprisingly, as I lead organisations through major change, and work with fellow leaders doing the same, I find significant encouragement and wisdom from these few words. Specifically they remind me of the importance of what I do today. I know, of course, that leadership is about the future. I am to help lead people into unknown territory. Nonetheless, as an activity, leadership happens today in the present moment. My words, my thoughts and my actions today help shape the future. As I said to a colleague recently “ We only have today to do the task of leadership - tommorrow has not yet arrived ”.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not arguing that we should’nt plan for the future. As a leader I am reasonably expected to do that. However, I live within the constraints of the 24 hours I have been given. What is significant is what I do with these hours not the time I may, or may not , be given in the future. Living with this truth keeps me on my toes and much more aware of what I do and say than otherwise might be the case.
The plea for bread in this Bible verse always reminds me that as a person and a leader I have a wide variety of needs that can only be met from outside of myself. I can’t get away from the reality of my own need for the basics of life. If I try to be self-sufficent as a leader I find myself quickly coming a cropper, losing motivation, making errors and lacking clarity. I continue to learn to pay attention to my needs, not in a selfish way, but in a manner that respects my own human-ness and fraility. As a Christian believer this also means paying attention to my relationship with God as a source of leadership strength and wisdom.
You may have noticed that this plea for bread is a community plea “Give us today our daily bread”. It goes to the heart of the reality that ,whilst my role as an individual leader can be significant, leadership happens in the context of community. Many leaders playing their part together, acting, speaking and asking powerful questions that focus our efforts on the vision of a better tommorrow. I am not usually on my own as a leader. I am prompted to reflect on the role I am called to play in the leadership communities of which I am a part.
The unspoken implication of this verse and the whole of the Lord’s Prayer is that I am also a follower. So when I do my work as a leader I am daily called by this prayer to remember that I must also work at followership and do so to the best of my ability. I think all of us involved in leadership regularly need to consider to whom, or what, we give our allegiance.