My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 'Christian leadership' section.
- by Elisama W. Daniel
Leadership can be defined in different ways. These definitions mean different things to different people as well as showing different interpretations of the functions of leadership. This chapter is not attempting to give an academic discourse on the subject of leadership but will rather give some understanding, especially from the biblical or Christian view. I believe this is the ideal, even for our South Sudanese society and nation. Let us therefore consider a few of these definitions:
“Leadership is the art of getting things done through people”
This definition tells us that leadership is an art, thus requiring imagination and skill. It has various forms that can be learned by the average person. It can be improved and developed to a high degree by those who have special talents, provided that they are willing to study carefully then diligently apply the laws that govern their specific form. Thus leadership can be learned and perfected.
Leadership means, “getting things done”. This is a very important reason for leadership. Where people are idle, or doing very little, leadership is not fulfilling its function. On the other hand, where there is no work to do there is no need for leadership. As long as Israel and Moses were moving forward, Moses had a leadership role to play. When there is positive action there must be dynamic leadership, but where there is no action there is no need for leadership. Leadership tells us that objectives are accomplished “through people”.
There are three ways of doing this, or we could say, three basic kinds of leaders:
Doing things to people see Ezekiel 34:1-10. This type of leader tends to exploit people for their own benefit. In some cases the work extracted from the people may be considerable, but generally productivity under this kind of leadership is low and wasteful. God condemns this in verses 1-2.
Doing things for people (sometimes called an average leader or paternalistic leader), see Exodus 18:13-18. This type of leadership is very sensitive towards the people and often more importance is placed on their welfare than on the work they are supposed to do. This type of leader tends to be very busy but the productivity of the group is low. Here leadership tends to do what the people should do.
Doing things through people see Exodus 18: 19-24. This is the true function of leadership – getting things done through people. Here leadership has a specific role, which differs from that of the people. The leader does not do the work; that is the responsibility of the people. But we must understand that each type of leadership may borrow from the other. Good leadership is the right combination of these three headings. Jesus Himself was an example of doing things through people, Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-20. He equipped and commissioned His disciples.
“Leadership is the art of combining ideas, people, things, resources including time, and faith to achieve predetermined objectives”
Again leadership is an “art” and leaders still have to get things done through people. This is in a practical way, combining or putting together the various elements involved. Therefore the main function of this leader is to “combine” all the elements in proper proportions so that the objectives may be accomplished. “Ideas” are the basis for our thinking, conversation and action. They are the product of the mind and are produced through a creative thinking process. Ideas are visions and the Bible tells us that where there is no vision, people perish, Proverbs 29:18. To be successful a group must be able to create ideas or adapt those of others for its own purposes. These ideas become objectives and methods. “People” are always the most important resource. Organisation is essential to people and people are essential to organisation. Christian leadership must be able to see people from God’s perspective before it can properly fulfil its role in the guidance of the people to their God-appointed objectives. People are a product of God. He created man (and woman!) for a purpose. Christian leaders must always have that purpose in mind when planning Christian or church objectives. Secular leaders should keep it in their minds too. “Things”, we must be good stewards of God’s resources, large and small. In the end we are all accountable to Him. “Time”, we must redeem the time, save time, make the best use of everybody’s time, understand and apply time management principles. “Faith”, because where there is material lack, it is faith that guarantees success. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”, Hebrews 11:1. All leaders, Christian or non-Christian, must acknowledge that faith is an important factor. Christian faith has a much more solid backing because God stands behind it. To the ungodly faith is only a risky “hope for the best”. “Objectives” are what we accomplish through the process of combining leadership with ideas, people, things, time and faith. Christian leadership should not just be reacting to situations, but rather looking ahead, going forward and making things happen. Leadership means anticipating the future with preparations to meet it on our terms.
So an effective leader has to have a great deal of knowledge and skill to be able to correctly combine all these elements into a successful conclusion. In the process of combination leaders must:
Get the elements to mix. Some elements under normal conditions resist mixing and stay separate, but a successful leader is the one who is able to combine them.
Get the elements to stay mixed. Supply sustenance to the mix, work on relationships, team building, and the like.
Prevent violent interaction or reactions. Think of the dangers of mixing petrol and fire. There are different values between believers and non-believers, and between practising disciples of Jesus and those who are Christians in name only.
Call for leadership
Some people have natural leadership gifts. With seeming ease they work well with others, they motivate co-workers and subordinates, and they never seem to make demands on people. Unfortunately, most of us do not fall into this category! So the next best thing we can do is to acquire these “people skills”, usually through experience. Skills for people come with experiences, often painful ones. For successful leadership to happen, we need two things to happen according to Anthony D’Souza:
1. A basic knowledge of group behaviour, human relations and managerial skills
2. Training in applying these skills. Psalm 78:72 gives a tribute to good leadership and management: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them”. A. W. Tozer says a true leader is not the one who seeks to become a leader, but the one who has been forced into leadership by internal pressures, e.g. the Holy Spirit, vision, etc., and external pressures, e.g. people look to and admire him, circumstances promote her, the situation needs fit him/her. Therefore the call to Christian leadership demands the following:
Seeking to serve rather than dominate, guiding others to do the same for you are all serving God. Leaders with the people they lead are all servants, but the leaders are responsible for the people and also responsible to God.
Seeking to encourage and inspire others
Respecting others’ personalities, with no exploitation
Reflecting, praying and acting on the words of Jesus, that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”, Matthew 20:26-28.
Therefore, leaders should be able to carry the following characteristics:
Goal orientation/visionary ideals. A mark of leaders is this attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others. They are better than most at pointing the direction. As long as one is leading, one always has a goal. A goal is arrived at either by group consensus or by a leader acting on inspiration who may simply have said, “Let us go this way”. By clearly stating and restating the goal the leader gives certainty and purpose to others, who may have difficulty in achieving it by themselves. For Christian leadership the goal or purpose, we may say the focal point, means going the same way that Jesus went, helping people to become all that they can be under God. Jesus said, “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”, John 10:10.
Enablement. Effective Christian leaders, like their Master, seek to enable others to experience that life in its fullness. Leaders’ lifestyles and their methods of relating to people show themselves in many real ways, including their focus on helping others to grow to their own maximum, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”, Ephesians 4:13.
Concern. Human beings are the most important resources leaders have and leaders are called to identify and empathise with their people, and so must be considerate and humane in their interactions with people.
Self-development. In the process of developing others, we leaders should also be growing and developing ourselves positively in a healthy self-image. It is not to brag or become proud, but is an affirmation that in Christ Jesus we can do all things, Philippians 4:13. This is an, ‘I can-win’ attitude. It is true because I am a person of value to God, God has made me His child, and I belong to His family, Romans 8:16-17. Jesus calls me His friend, John 15:15. Jesus affirms my value by calling me to partner with Him as a co-worker. He chose me to bear much fruit John15:5. He will never leave me or forsake me, Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:35; Hebrews 13:5. He has given me abilities and gifts which I should use for His glory and for the good of others.
What good leaders do! (According to members of their team/workforce)
“He not only accepted our ideas and suggestions, but went out of his way to encourage us”.
“He inspired confidence by placing confidence in us and showing us respect. He often told me that I was better than I felt I was”.
“He was a good communicator and he kept us updated on important things”.
“He had a thorough knowledge of the business. The most professional person I ever worked with and for”.
“She made us feel important, as well as our work”.
“She taught me to be constructively critical of my own work, something I now try to do with my own people”.
“She gave us as much freedom as we could handle”.
“She insisted on high standards of performance and helped us to reach them”.
What good leaders are!
People who have the initiative to start things and keep them alive.
People not afraid to become involved, to listen with an open mind, and to be considerate of the feelings of others.
People who welcome the ideas of others and act with understanding toward even wild suggestions.
People who bring out the best in other people – some people under a leader will be better than the leader in some respects, and that should be appreciated and utilised, not causing the leader any personal insecurity.
People easy to work with, accurate, thorough and reliable.
People who look at a situation, take hold of it and search for solutions.
People who admit when they are wrong and take steps to correct their mistakes.
viii. People who are tactful, yet forceful and firm, who never quit or complain.
People who emphasise that every single person has a contribution to make to the common effort.
People who encourage the fainthearted while gently restraining the overly enthusiastic.
People who can reconcile clashing viewpoints, rather than take a stand as a partisan or special pleader one side or the other.
People who inspire follow-through in those with whom they work.
Also good leaders are aware of their impact on others, are open to feedback and suggestions, and they work hard to have any negative tendencies checked.
Five principles of good leadership
Offer guided freedom. People generally go only where their leaders lead or allow them to go.
Willingly encourage capable people to help the team beyond their own ability. Poor leaders will take their people only as far as they themselves are able and willing to go. This involves two aspects: firstly, ability, no one can take you beyond their capabilities. But the most important factor here is that the leaders’ personal limitations ought not to limit what they undertake to do, neither should leaders’ limitations prevent others from going further than the leader can take them. Ability can be improved and increased by: proper training and the right kind of experience; proper selection of personnel for specific tasks; recognition of special gifts given to the different members in the group; specialisation instead of being the jack of all trades and the enlisting of stronger or more people or technology. The second aspect is willingness shown by: getting involved in the action; taking (making) time to understand the need of, and results from, a particular action; total dedication to a cause; definite priorities in one’s own life; personal discipline and the deliberate staying with the task until it is completed.
Good leadership ensures that people reach their maximum potential and go beyond the personal limitations of the leadership itself. Every individual has special skills and gifts. These may be greater than those of others with whom we work. But we all have physical, mental and spiritual limitations, which, if imposed upon those under our leadership, would have a limiting and constraining effect upon our organisation. A leader is evaluated not on the basis of what he achieves personally, but on what his people accomplish and how much they mature under his leadership.
Nothing moves or happens without some form of leadership behind it. When something happens where human beings are involved, the answer is simple and straightforward, there is some form of leadership behind all that activity. Some leadership is in the forefront but more often the real leaders are in the background, planning the moves, directing the people, creating the environment to act or respond in some predetermined manner. The action or inaction of the people reflects on their leadership.
The distance between the quality of leadership and the average in the group is constant. If leadership standards and performance are high, the average performance standard will also be high. If the leadership standards and performance are low, the standards and performance of the group will be proportionately low. A good leader demands performance (and not necessarily conformance) to ensure high quality results.
Qualities of a good and effective (Christian) leader
a. Committed and faithful Christian
b. Mature in their faith, I Timothy 3:6
c. Cares about people
d. Has strong personal convictions that guides his/her life
e. Able to recruit people to the cause
f. Challenges people to do their best
g. Knows how to train people to do what he does himself
h. Knows when to cut the cord and let people lead on their own
i. Not power hungry, but knows when to, and is happily willing, to exit graciously (best to exit when you and the organisation you lead are at their best).
j. Blameless in character, Titus 1:6
k. Objective in out-look, Titus 1:7
l. Inoffensive in behaviour, Titus 1:7
m. Cultured in mind, Titus 1:8
n. Hospitable – not greedy, Titus 1:7-8
o. Just and holy, impartial
p. Having charisma (knows God’s Word, and lives it; a teacher, exhorter, ‘rebuker’ and learner)
Qualifications of a (Christian) leader
a. Integrity – knowing and defending that which is right, even in the face of opposition.
b. Honesty – keeping all activity above reproach before God and before other people.
c. Conviction – this determines the degree of one’s dedication to the task God has given.
d. Loyalty – to God, to superiors and to those who are served.
e. Stability – the ability to accept responsibility and remain true under pressure until the job is done.
f. Interest in others – putting the welfare of others ahead of oneself.
g. Discernment – gathering all the facts and acting upon them in a conscientious
h. Motivation – enthusiastic, must be positive and forward-looking.
i. Tact – showing genuine concern for the feelings of others; speaking and acting so as not to cause offence.
j. Not content with the average or status quo, but always striving for the best and bringing positive change.
Cost of (Christian) leadership
Salvation is the only thing in life that is free, Ephesians 2:8-9, because Jesus has paid the full price for us, instead of us, on our behalf. Everything else in life has a cost. Following Jesus Christ is costly and Christian leadership has a very high price tag. This is why Christian leaders are hard to come by.
Before becoming a leader, one must be prepared to serve as a follower, which might take many years because there are no short cuts. Below is a checklist of some common costs, or we may say, ‘the price to pay’:
Willingness to stand alone (loneliness).
Willingness to go against public opinion in order to promote what you believe: facing criticism, opposition and even mockery.
Suffering in many different ways and forms!
Discouragement: the temptation to quit is always a reality!
Willingness to risk failure: and if you fail, learn from it and rise up again!
Mastering of emotions: at times, self-denial.
Striving to remain above reproach: discipline and hard work!
Willingness to make decisions others do not want to make. As such some may not like you.
Willingness to say ‘no’ at times, even when you would like to say ‘yes’. Hence offending or disappointing some people, especially here in South Sudan.
Sometimes being willing to sacrifice personal interests for the good of the group, remembering you are shepherding the whole flock.
Willingness to work harder than people who are not leaders, to keep your own life in balance.
Quotes or slogans on leadership Some adapted from Max De Pree at depree.org
“A good leader is not one who does the work of ten people well, but the one who allows ten people to do their work well”.
“Good leadership is not tested by the quality of the head, but by the tone of the body”.
“A true leader is not the one who seeks to take power, but the one who has been forced into leadership by internal and external pressures”.
“A good leader does not cause pain, but bears pain”.
“A leader is a source of inspiration. His personality and initiative inspire people to change their destiny”.
“Effective leadership flows out of who a leader is personally”.
“Effective leadership changes the way people view themselves and the world in which they live”.
“Leadership is a process in which the leader and followers use their God-given gifts, behaviour and managerial skills to influence each other and the situations where they are”.
“It is a mark of bad leadership for one’s ministry to collapse immediately after him even if it was excelling during their time”.
“Leadership does not consist merely of what we say or do, but what we are personally”.
“The art of good leadership is to have a clear vision and worthy objectives which are shared by your followers, and to which you are committed together to achieve”.
“A real leader does not impose himself or herself on others, but is freely and enthusiastically followed by those who are attracted by his vision and version, and who shares her objectives”.
“It is poor leadership to try to do everything yourself while your people merely look on and admire your efforts”.
·“Contemporary Christian leaders have much to learn about how to appreciate and reward achievements by those they lead”.
“Autocratic leadership often conceals an inner insecurity”.
“Bad leadership incites rebellion and causes civil strife, whereas good leadership knows when it is time to quit and hand over to others”.
“The leader must become a servant and a debtor”.
“Leaders must leave behind them assets and legacy”.
“If a leader thinks he is leading and no one is following him, then he is simply taking a walk”.
“A good leader is a good follower – you cannot claim to lead others while you find it difficult to follow others! In fact to be a good leader, you must have been a follower even of some terrible leaders”.
One of the hallmarks of good leadership is knowing when and how to step aside or move on. Many good and honest leaders can only move when they have secured or been guaranteed some new opportunities elsewhere for themselves. Moving becomes rare and increasingly difficult when nothing awaits them. This is usually disastrous for the leader and the organisation. Another aspect of bad leadership is not handing over completely; in other words when you move on to a new organisation or a job, do not take along all the friends and partners from the previous job or organisation. This is not helpful as friends and partners of organisations should not become personalised and encouraged to follow you wherever you go. Instead continue to insist and affirm their loyalty to their employing organisations.
Jesus, who was and is still the best leader on earth, only served for just over 3 years in His ministry. Then He left. However, the ministry developed and grew more in His absence. Good leaders must therefore not feel indispensable. The ministry, the position or the job you are occupying will probably continue to go on with or without you!
Once upon a time, a certain fellow boarded a bus from a city suburb to go to the city centre. When he got to his final destination he failed to disembark and continued back to the suburb on the same bus. This happened to go on and the bus conductor noticed the fellow stayed put throughout the day in the bus. Somehow it did not bother the conductor because this guy faithfully kept paying his fares. However, it came to the end of the day and the bus needed to be parked somewhere for the night and so the conductor requested everybody to disembark. This fellow seemed disinterested to leave the bus and so the conductor and bus driver were left with no option but to use some kind of force to get this man off the bus. When they had managed to do so, they discovered that this fellow had had serious diarrhoea and had messed up his trousers and the bus seat, hence was ashamed and embarrassed lest someone discovered it and saw the mess he had made!
Perhaps many leaders – church leaders, country leaders, organisation leaders – especially in Africa (and Sudan/South Sudan in particular) are like that man – they messed on the seat in their role and are now too ashamed to leave and scared of being discovered?