NEW YORK (March 1, 2012)–Last Sunday morning in Brooklyn, Pastor A.R. Bernard of New York’s Christian Cultural Center was in his usual fine form as he launched what could be a new series on leadership.

For those of us moving out of young adulthood into the terrain of middle age (although not as slowly as we might wish!), we were reminded by the African-American spiritual leader that “leadership is not about how far you advance but how far you advance others.”

It was a revealing message for many who battle for survival in today’s dog-eat-dog world, sometimes forgetting that true happiness comes when we love, a higher form of love that benefits others at the expense of self.

The scriptures teach us: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” so leadership is clearly about serving people–even a generation of people you may never see. Greatness is determined by the degree to which we serve.

The late Rev. Edwin Louis Cole contended that leaders are qualified to lead to the degree they are willing to serve. He asserted leaders can never stop serving, for when they do, they will no longer be qualified to lead.

Serving is ministry. Learning to minister, serving capably and well, work for the benefit of others–this is the quality that defines a leader.

Jesus Christ took a towel and washed his disciples’ feet, demonstrating that leadership also entails service of the most menial kind.

Bernard, who was honored last week by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz on the occasion of Black History Month, reminded us from the pulpit that everything rises and falls in leadership and good leaders adapt, and adjust quickly to change. Change is inevitable.

“The quicker you adapt and adjust to change, the more successful you will be,” he said, adding that whiners and complainers often get stuck.

Leadership is about being solution-oriented, he counseled. While there should always be time to reflect, he cautioned, it should not be at the expense of solving problems.

Leaders have to be focused, he stressed, since distraction will “undermine our success and rob us from opportunities, keeping us from moving to the next level of life–in ministry and in business. We will not get where we need to go if we are not focused.”

So as we close out the week and prepare for another, let’s be intentional and methodical. Let’s establish a clear vision and mission. Inspire and be self-motivated. Be organized and, for those of us who are in leadership positions, direct, delegate and serve. And serve some more. Effective leadership is about taking people in a clearly defined direction–a direction that enables real growth in all areas.

Hearty thanks to Bernard for reminding us the path to effective leadership is paved with service–lots of it.