What makes a successful leader?

A Christian Science perspective: Prayer and its relationship to being a good leader, from Solomon to today.

Many positions – whether in the home, in an office, on a sports field, or in government – require effective leadership. Some individuals come naturally to leadership positions with confidence, innate talent, and past success. Others, because of quickly changing circumstances, have a leadership role thrust upon them.

Such was the case of the biblical figure King Solomon. Events of the time catapulted him as an unprepared young man, possibly a teenager, into ruling a nation. Solomon had no experience to rely on and was aware of his lack of any expertise in governance. But he opened his heart to God, and in these humble, heartfelt words prayed: “Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a lad [in wisdom and experience]; I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish).... So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people?” (I Kings 3:7, 9, Amplified Bible).

Solomon’s prayer was answered, and he became a great king, leading his nation to both peace and prosperity for more than 30 years. So great was his judgment that today people still speak of “the wisdom of Solomon.”

Wisdom is a spiritual quality. It includes an “understanding mind and a hearing heart,” and it finds its source in God. Christian Science defines God as infinite Mind, the source of wisdom, intelligence, and understanding. Prayer brings us into unity with this divine Mind. It turns us away from the uncertainty and confusion that accompany many problems and acknowledges the present guidance and intelligence of divine Mind. In accord with this Mind, a limited approach to issues is replaced with an understanding mind, one that brings deeper insights and leads to new and fresh ideas for practical solutions and their implementation.

Prayer also turns us to God as divine Love, the source of a hearing heart that listens to the genuine needs of others and cares deeply for their welfare. Such caring draws strength from its divine source and leads to actions that promote justice and equality and motivates people to act with honesty and integrity.

Mary Baker Eddy fully understood the importance of prayer and its relationship to effective leadership. She penned the following words from her own experience as the successful leader of a church, and as an author, public speaker, and the founder of a publishing house and this international newspaper. She wrote: “Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 454).

As we open our hearts and minds to the reality of God’s goodness, and with the humility of Solomon pray for divine guidance, the arrogance and tyranny of human willpower yields to the divine power that improves the human scene. Prayer of this kind is actuated by the desire to live and serve in a way that recognizes the dignity, worthiness, and potential of individuals that in turn leads to progress for a family, a team, or a nation.

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