Leadership Resources

A Story of Ultimate Demotion

Rick Sessoms Upward Mobility In recent times, many have become familiar with the phrase upward mobility. The term has found its way around the world into everyday corporate cultures. But don’t think for a minute that upward mobility is a new concept. Interest in personal advancement dates back to the garden days of Adam and Eve. Questioning the concept of upward mobility causes a kind of inner turmoil that most people do not handle well. The mere mention of words like demotion, decreasing, and losing set off alarm signals in their minds. “Not me! Please! Let’s change the subject.  Let’s talk about promotion, increasing, and winning. Then you’ll have my full support. Then you’ll get my vote.” If you take a deep look within, you may find – as I have – that upward mobility has a hold on you in ways you aren’t even aware of.

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What is Virtuous Leadership?

Those who really deserve praise are the people who, while human enough to enjoy power nevertheless pay more attention to justice than they are compelled to do by their situation.                                                                                                -Thucydides

Dwayne (fictitious name) recently retired after twenty-five years as president of a U.S. company. During his tenure, the business had doubled its customer base and added four new buildings to its physical plant. His leadership was widely considered successful. When Dwayne announced his retirement, the board announced that they would name one of the newly-constructed buildings in his honor. Dwayne was well-known and respected in his network.  His forty-seven-year marriage to Sarah was exemplary. He demonstrated discipline and modesty in his personal finances. During the last ten years of his presidency, Dwayne had been invited to serve on several boards of other organizations; he was generally respected by other senior executives. In contrast, Dwayne’s employees observed a different kind of leader.

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A Leadership Model for the Suffering Church

Rick Sessoms Sebastian (fictitious name) met us soon after the border officials had checked all our necessary papers and approved us for entry. For several days, Sebastian led us on a whirlwind tour of the church in mainland China. He told us stories about untold suffering. Along the way, Sebastian recounted his own personal journey as a Christian leader. Born into a Christian family in 1928, Sebastian’s father served as pastor of several churches. Sebastian followed in his father’s footsteps and became a noted church leader in southern China. As his leadership role became more prominent over the years, Sebastian faced increasing scrutiny from the Mao system. Unwilling to compromise his commitment to lead an “unregistered” church, he was arrested and served hard labor for twenty-three years in a communist prison camp. He was finally released when he was sixty-seven years old.  Sebastian was faithful to his leadership calling.  With a sense of satisfaction, he said, “Although I permanently lost my position and my personal influence, the church in China today is flourishing.” Sebastian’s story exemplifies leadership in the suffering church that may call for biblical alternatives to popular western leadership models.

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