Chappy’s corner “The heart of a leader.”

In the middle of the night, the First Sergeant woke up his commander and asked him, “Sir when you see those stars shining over us what thought comes to your mind?” The commander pondered for a moment and then said, “Those stars remind me how great the universe is and how small we are in comparison and yet I’m also reminded that God created both the stars and us, and we are inspired by God to reach for those stars!” At that point the commander then asked, “First Sergeant, when you see those stars over us what thought comes to you?”  The First Sergeant replied, “Oh I was just wondering who stole our tent?”

One man has a philosophical outlook the other has a more practical view. Both points of view are valid and we need both points of view.  In fact a good leader deals with practical matters but also looks at the philosophical point of view or the big picture. However, the very best leaders are not only philosophical and practical, but also personal. Jesus said it this way, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. (John 10: 14-15)  In those words Jesus describes what it means to be a good leader.  A good leader is one who is brave, strong, intelligent, but most of all cares for those who follow him. A good leader knows the needs of those who fall under his care and a good leader is willing to make sacrifices for those folks.  Jesus did that by sacrificing his life for us.  He didn’t have to do it; he chose to die to pay for all the mistakes we have made so we could be forgiven and have life with God now and forever.  That is displaying the heart of a shepherd.

Good leaders are willing to do that! They care for those under their command. They are willing to make sacrifices! In my experience the best military leaders not only have the heart of a lion, but also have the heart of a shepherd.

One such individual is BG Theodore Johnson who retires from the service this year. General Johnson was my commander in Afghanistan. Until our deployment I had very little contact with him, except for my first annual training when he requested chaplain support for his troops.  At that time we had no idea that twenty years later we would both end up in the middle of Kabul caring for troops.  He cared for them as their commander while I served them as their chaplain.  In some ways we were both shepherds as we worked together to help people and to get the mission done.  Through our deployment I was extremely grateful to the Lord for those who were serving in leadership roles whether they were officers or enlisted, but I was especially thankful for General Johnson’s leadership as our commander.  I know it was not always easy.  I also know that like the rest of us he had his good days and his bad days.  None of us are perfect. We are all sinners, but thankfully we have a Good Shepherd who gave his life so we may live our lives as God’s forgiven people, who strive to do what is best for those under our care.

General Johnson was good at helping us strive to do our best.  I’m thankful that I served under his command and that I can call him a good friend and fellow Viking’s fan.  But most of all I am thankful that he has a shepherd’s heart when it comes to dealing with people.  He will be missed but we know that the Lord still has plans for him. 

And now it is time to pray that God will bless us with leaders who have both a “shepherd’s” heart.

Those are just my thoughts from this SE corner of the great state of South Dakota!


CH (COL) David Gunderson