No person or leader wakes up and decides that they want to be a failure. Everyone - and I do mean everyone - wants to be a success. The problem, however, resides in that the definition of success is as different as the people pursuing it. Some common definitions of success include fame, fortune, position, power, and possessions. Is that all that there is for leaders? The answer is no but it will require some explanation.
What it is Not
Contrary to popular belief, success is not money, wealth, possessions or things; and this statement applies to every leader. If success was merely the accumulation of wealth or things, then why do "successful" people always seem to want more? The answer is blatantly obvious: wealth and things do not satisfy. The selfish pursuit of things for my enjoyment alone is an empty version of success.
Let's turn to Bible, specifically Paul's first letter to Timothy, for a deeper consideration. In 1 Timothy 6:9 uses strong language when it comes to those chasing the success that focuses on wealth or things alone. Paul says pursuing riches is a temptation and snare because it is a harmful desire that plunges people into ruin and destruction.
The imagery is telling. Wanting a "typical" definition of success traps us in a never ending cycle of pursuing things that we will purchase, consume, and then have to replace. The desire for more things is called harmful, which is easy to recognize, but notice the action term used: "plunge." That desire causes a person to quickly, swiftly, and fully to be overwhelmed resulting in ruin. That insurmountable wave is the never-ending desire for just a little more.
This version of success is fool's gold.
What it Is
True success shifts the paradigm from what I can get to what I can give. This starts by knowing, understanding, and fulfilling your true purpose in life. We referenced Paul to understand what success is not, and we will, once again, look to him for the true definition of leadership success.
In his first letter to the Thessalonian church, specifically 1 Thessalonians 2:19, he lays out his definition of a crown or success. Please understand the cultural context as he was using an analogy that would have been easily understood to his Greek audience. The crowns or wreaths were given out to champions or winners in athletic competitions. These were symbols of success and achievement. Paul asks what is his boasting achievement and note his unequivocal answer: "For YOU are our glory and joy."
Yes, you read that right! His service to others was his crowning achievement. Others choosing to follow his example in trusting God was his enduring success. Loving and communing with total strangers that transformed those relationships through the grace of God was his fulfilling purpose. Giving completely of himself and leaving nothing behind was his lasting legacy.
In case you do not know much about Paul, he was widely considered a success during his era due to pedigree, education, mentors, personality, intellect, and accomplishments. Yet, he surrendered that version of success when he discovered the truth of God and the reason for which he was created. Have you discovered the truth and your purpose in life? If not, this moment - right now - can define your future!
In conclusion, true success is not fame or fortune but faithfulness to God's purpose for your life!