Saturday, July 19, 2008

Leadership (part 5)

This is the fifth in my series of articles on leadership. We have been exploring the application of five lessons for leaders in the 21st century. They were developed by Joel Barker in a video called Leadershift. This series of articles provides my perspective on the lessons and their application to the local church setting. The fourth of Barker’s lessons relates to our need to examine our leadership style to see how it affects productivity. Barker is primarily working in secular environments. He contrasts the “bully leader” with what he calls the “charismatic leader.”

There has been a significant movement in recent years within a portion of Baptist church life toward a more autocratic leadership style. Some schools and seminaries have advocated a more authoritarian approach to pastoral leadership. Some of the discussion links a rather chauvinistic attitude with a kind of “macho” approach to leadership. Within this model church members are taught never to question their pastor or leaders. It often functions as a very top-down management and leadership style.

It is interesting to me that Barker’s study of corporate leadership styles indicated that this “bully” approach to leadership has been far less effective than a more relational or person-centered approach. In fact many companies have made very intentional decisions to move away from the autocratic and top-down approaches to management, leadership and supervision, because it became clear they were far less productive. Barker’s study indicates the companies utilizing the “bully” approach were simply unable to compete with the more “relational” approach.

Remember the definition of a leader. A leader is someone you choose to follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself. People have to choose to follow you. If no one is following, then you are not leading. We can try to “order” or “coerce” people to follow, but these are very poor motivators. We are to build bridges to the future that help people move from where they are to where they want to be. We are leading the people of God on a journey of faith.

The Biblical model for leadership is “servant leadership.” The ultimate model is the suffering servant! Pastors and church leaders seeking to bully or dictate God’s will to their people will never be as effective as those who out of love, compassion and a commitment to God’s will seek to lead their congregations to know and do God’s will. It seems ironic to me that in some cases the corporate world from a secular perspective has learned the value of the Biblical model of leadership more quickly than the church.

Servant leaders understand that people matter. People are the “bottom line.” No holy agenda warrants mistreating or manipulating people. The servant leader is willing to sacrifice himself or herself for those they lead. It is the commitment, integrity, compassion, and vision of the leader that causes people to “choose” to follow a servant leader. Who are the people you choose to follow? What are the characteristics of their leadership style? If you having difficulty leading maybe the place to begin is an examination of your leadership style—your approach to leadership.

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