General Jim Mattis is a leader who has fascinated me. Ever since I read stories of his courageous and selfless leadership in Nathaniel Fick’s book One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about this extraordinary man. He has recently published a memoir on leadership, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, with his co-author, Bing West, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. I recommend this book to any aspiring leader, or anyone looking for direction in life. Here are some lessons I learned from General Mattis:
Always be a student, always be a learner. General Mattis “armed himself with books” to go to war. He is legendary as the “Warrior Monk,” with a library of over 7,000 books, and was known as one of most well-read commanders in any of the armed services.
“Operations occur at the speed of trust” (156). If you are in church leadership, you can replace “operations” with “ministry.” Apart from trust and willing cooperation, the best-laid plans will never get out the door.
“To do our jobs well, we should not want our jobs too much. In the dawn’s early light, we need to be able to look in the shaving mirror without looking away” (184). Whatever job we have is a stewardship of the Lord. It is a means to serve others and a means of provision for us. But if our jobs become an idol, we cannot serve with great effectiveness.
Officers eat last. Field Marshal Viscount Slim wrote in World War II. “As officers, you will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor smoke, nor even sit down until you have personally seen that your men have done these things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the end of the world. And, if you do not, I will break you” (98). I’m think about getting this quote framed for the wall of my study. This perfectly encapsulates servant leadership.
I’ve always had misgivings when I’ve been at church dinners and seen pastors pray for the meal so that they can get in the front of the line. Leaders must go last. If anyone must go hungry, or have slim pickings, it must be the church officers, rather than the members or the visitors. If anyone must go without a seat, it must be the leaders, rather than the guests.
Trust is built in this way, one day at a time. Failing to attend to such details causes leaders to lose credibility.