Why leaders must shake up their spiritual bearings

When was the last time you had your spiritual bearings shaken up in your leadership?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, every leader is guided by a set of spiritual bearings.

They’re the set of values, commitments and deeply held truths that help you navigate decisions, devise strategies, and execute plans.

They determine what you do as a leader, why you do it, how you do it, and ultimately they determine your legacy as a leader.

And sometimes, those bearings need to be shaken up.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.

Years ago I was reading through the Old Testament book of 1st Chronicles which, as you likely know, features a lengthy (and somewhat ponderous) recitation of the various kings of Judah.

In giving this history lesson the author Ezra uses a standard formula. He lists the name of the king, how long he reigned, the name of the king’s mother, and then he summarizes his reign using one of two designations; he says either that the king “did what was right in God’s eyes” or that he “did what was evil in God’s eyes.”

Those are the only two designations.

And as I compared my leadership to that of these kings of Judah, I felt reassured that, indeed, I would fall firmly in the category of those who were “doing right in God’s eyes”.

In other words, my personal spiritual bearings as a leader were being reinforced.

But then I came to chapter 25, and everything changed.

1st Chronicles 25 tells the story of another King of Judah; a man named Amaziah. And it’s almost as if in summarizing Amaziah’s leadership, Ezra needed to come up with a new designation. It seemed that it was not enough to label this king as either one who “did right” or “did evil” in God’s eyes.

And so Ezra added this chilling phrase.

He said of Amaziah’s leadership, “he did what was right in God’s eyes, but not wholeheartedly.

Amaziah was basically doing what was required of him to look good on the surface, but his leadership never involved a heart fully yielded to God.

And my spiritual bearings were rocked.

I was forcibly reminded that it’s not enough to do what is right as a leader. My leadership must flow out of wholeheartedness.

And ever since, that has been my spiritual bearing, and I’ve come to believe that having clarity on your spiritual bearing is critical to effective leadership.

What does this mean for you?

At the very least I hope it means you’ll become aware of your own spiritual bearings. I hope it means that you’ll prayerfully consider,

  • What you do as a leader,
  • Why you do it,
  • How you do it,
  • And what you hope will be your legacy as a leader.

And if you don’t like your answers, I hope it means you’ll have the courage to shake up your bearings.

It could make all the difference in the world.


Scott Cochrane serves as vice president of international ministries for the Willow Creek Association, based in South Barrington, Illinois. Canadian by birth, Scott served with Willow Creek Canada for 10 years in various roles, including chief executive officer, and also served as executive pastor of a large Canadian church for a number of years. Scott and his wife Nora live near Willow Creek Church in Illinois, and have three grown children; Adam and Amy (in Canada) as well as John (Australia). You can follow him on twitter @WScottCochrane.