Leadership Will Never Be Right if Your Heart is Wrong

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Leaders ultimately are judged by their actions, which Jesus teaches flow from the heart.

Some of the stuff that came out of my dad’s junkyard would have made Dr. Frankenstein proud (and I have a lot of great junkyard stories in my book, Salvaged).

Like the Ford station wagon painted lime green—with a large plastic frog bolted to the top—that Little Bob entered in a destruction derby. Or the guy who bought a twelve-cylinder Jaguar motor to put in his Buick.

Don’t judge a car until you look under the hood.

So I learned pretty quick not to judge junkyard things by their appearances—and not to judge junkyard people that way either.With things, it was pretty easy. The tattered doorjamb plates were actually expensive aluminum, perfect for recycling. The catalytic converters, covered with road dust, were filled with precious metals like platinum. Even bald tires were of valuable to somebody, judging by how many were stolen when we set them out front.

Not judging people was a lot more difficult.

The eccentric customer who drove the old Studebaker filled with pizza boxes? He was actually a renowned rocket scientist working for General Electric down the road. And the Asian guy who barely spoke English and was missing an arm? He was a war hero to the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who had settled in our area.

So while it was tempting to judge them based on appearances, I had to learn it was wiser to judge less and observe more.

It reminds me of the time in elementary school when my best friend Greg and I got taken home in a Rolls-Royce.

Riding in style.

Of course, in the days leading up to it, we bragged constantly, and none of our classmates believed us—at least until after school that day, when Mom pulled up at the wheel of a long, silver Rolls. Every kid ogled the new arrival. The long, elegant swoop of fender, flaring slightly above the back wheel. The impossibly long hood. The flying-lady hood ornament.

I opened the heavy, perfectly machined door and entered the spacious back seat. Greg followed, waving to our gaping classmates as we pulled away.

There was just one catch: Our wrecking-yard Rolls was running on a wrecking-yard Chevrolet engine.

Knowing the car was worth more in parts than whole, Dad had worked a deal with a local importer to pull the expensive Rolls-Royce engine out and replace it with a less expensive Chevy engine. All the looks and style of a Rolls, but considerably cheaper!

Most of us tend to look at the surface of things and make a quick judgment. And we’re right just often enough to reinforce this practice as an easy way to navigate life. But it’s often a trap. When we’re too lazy to take time to look a little deeper, we can miss out on what’s really going on.

No one is bothered when a Rolls runs on a cheaper engine, but people are a different story. As leaders—and as followers—we’ve got to look under the hood and learn what really powers the people around us.

Salvaged from Scripture

Scripture actually talks about Chevy engines inside Rolls-Royce bodies quite a bit. Just as the engine is the heart of a car—and when you step on the gas it’s the engine that responds, not the car’s body—so the human heart is the source of our character and actions.

Remember when Samuel is tasked with picking the next king of Israel, and he assumes that whichever of Jesse’s sons is the tallest and toughest will be God’s chosen one? First Samuel 16:7 records the moment Samuel understands the parameters for the job search are divine, not human. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

In the New Testament, Jesus instructs that “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers” (Luke 6:43-44). Elsewhere, Jesus warns, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

We humans are obsessed with surface and appearance. Always have been, always will be. Godly leaders, however, must fight that tendency. As with the beautiful-looking Rolls-Royce with the Chevy engine, we need to ask what’s under the hood.

Jesus makes the point explicit in Luke 6:45: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

My dad’s Rolls-Chevy combo was pure fun. There were no harmful consequences from the fact that I got to cruise home from school in comfort. When it comes to leading, however, too many of us are like Rolls-Royce bodies pumping out Chevy-engine emissions. When our hearts are wrong, our leadership will always be harmed.

Lessons from the Junkyard

When we’re too lazy to take time to look a little deeper, we can miss out on what’s really going on.
As leaders—and as followers—we’ve got to look under the hood and learn what really powers the people around us.
We humans are obsessed with surface and appearance. Always have been, always will be. Godly leaders, however, must fight that tendency.
When our hearts are wrong, our leadership will always be harmed.

You have just read chapter 6 from the book, Salvaged: Leadership Lessons Pulled from the Junkyard by Roy Goble.

Want to Salvage more, insightful leadership ideas? These thirty-one, easy to read leadership lessons each take about five minutes to read and will resonate in your heart (and the hearts you inspire) for a long time. Buy here, or learn more about Roy Goble here.

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