In the past few weeks two high profile female politicians have unexpectedly tendered their resignations. In January New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern
“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility – the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”
Leadership can be draining. The pressure, mounts up and the inner resources get depleted so that before long we realise that we are near to breaking point. Of course, some leaders don’t see the signals and reach breaking point. It is obvious but not always remembered that all leaders are human.
Ardern said: “I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”
Not every leader, political, business, or Christian, has the same self-awareness, honesty, or courage. Sometimes leaders imagine that that it the nature of faithfulness to soldier on against the odds, even when all the alarm bells have been ringing for a long time.
The second high female leader to announce that she is going is, Nicola Sturgeon, who is stepping down after 8 years as the head of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland. Perhaps it is because in Westminster we have had five Prime Ministers in that time it seems that she has been a fixture for much longer.
Cynics are suggesting that she is leaving because internal party issues and the public mood is stacked up against her. History will indicate whether the critics are right on that matter.
Many church leaders choose to leave their churches rather than stay and resolves issues that seem intractable. An “honourable” but premature exit seems to be preferable to the long and winding road of dealing with the backlog of unresolved issues.
Like Jacinda Ardern Nicola Sturgeon reflected on the limits of her humanity:
“I’m a human being as well as a politician.”
One of the things said about Nicola Sturgeon that struck me, was the comment that she has the ability to “speak human.” Politicians with the human touch are a welcome rarity, people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who are about to speak to and in the familiar terminology of their fellow human beings.
It got me thinking about my own preaching and leadership style. Do I know how to “speak human.” In teaching on John’s Gospel recently I have been struck again by how Jesus has the right words for the right people in every situation.
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus: “…knew what was in each person (John 2:25)
Jesus can read people and speak into their lives with razor sharp accuracy, penetrating honesty, and breath-taking tenderness. Reading the accounts of his dealings with the very different characters of Nicodemus and the unnamed Samaritan woman in John Chapter 3 and 4 is an education in how preachers can speak human. When preachers treat their congregations with the human touch, perhaps their congregations might learn to return the compliment.