Running the Road

Leadership Philosophy

I am in the Jo'burg Airport, waiting for my night flight to Amsterdam. I have a quick turnaround there to fly out to Detroit and then I will be back in Pittsburgh at around 6 PM. I am glad to be going home.

I've been thinking about leadership style and philosophy a lot the last couple of weeks. Everyone has a leader philosophy, did you know that? It may even be "I will never lead anything." That statement will then direct and guide their decisions where leadership is concerned.

My philosophy is as follows:

I was born to lead. I must work hard, however, to be the best leader that I can possibly be. At the same time, I want to exercise a team approach to leadership that will seek out and value the input and worth of every individual. As a leader, I will share finances, success and credit with all those who contribute. I will also use my leadership power to serve others so that they can become all that God wants them to be.

I would like to think that this philosophy is consistent with what is known as servant-leadership. I don't think servant-leadership is one among many acceptable styles of leadership. I believe it is the only style that is consistent with the model that Jesus provided. I think authoritarian leadership, no matter how well meaning, is an affront to God and is a spirit of anti-Christ. By that, I mean that it is the exact opposite of Jesus' style and spirit; thus it is anti or against His style.

Were there times when Jesus was authoritative? Of course! He was and is God. So for anyone to use Jesus as the reason that they rule over others is absurd.

When I reflect on my own leadership philosophy philosophy, I go to 1 Peter 5:2-3

Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Here we see three important aspects of godly leadership:

1. It is willing. Leaders who are not willing are usually angry people. They don't want to lead and don't enjoy it when they do. So they take it out on the people who follow.

2. It must be free from greed. Paul said in Acts 20:33, "I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing." I am not against leaders having money, even a lot of it. They just have to be careful from where they get it. To get it from God's people is wrong.

3. It cannot be lorded. Jesus said, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:25-27).

Now you may be quick to think: "That's how church leadership should be, but that style won't work in the business world." I beg to differ. You can be a servant-leader anywhere. That doesn't mean you are weak or that you stand by while everyone does what they darn well please. On the contrary, servant-leaders exhort, encourage, teach, train, confront, discipline and even release workers and volunteers. They do all those things, however, in the other person's best interests as well as in the interest of the mission or organization they serve.

I heard Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, talk about level five leaders, who have great personal humility coupled with a strong will to achieve professionally. He said that all level-fives practice the principle of the window and mirror. They practice the window principle when things go right, and "look out the window" to see with whom they can share the credit. They practice the principle of the mirror when things go wrong, for it's then that they look in the mirror and take personal responsibility for the problems.

Authoritarian leaders reverse those principles, looking for those to blame when things go wrong and usually giving themselves the lion's share of credit when things go right.

I have stated previously that we have a crisis of leadership today, especially in the Church. Society's leaders weren't trained and developed in church. They may go to church or have grown up attending church, but they didn't learn their leadership style there. They learned it out in the marketplace. Why hasn't the Church produced leaders? Because the church leaders haven't modeled servant-leadership.

So what's the answer? It's almost too late to change a leadership style and philosophy once someone attains a leadership level. That's why a leadership philosophy is so important for everyone before they have power and position. After one has achieved a level of leadership and tasted the fruits of power, it is a rare case when that person begins to serve and give that power away to empower others.

I wrote an article a few years ago entitled Sinners in the Hands of An Angry Leader, a take off on Jonathan Edward's classic 18th century sermon, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God. I am attaching it below, for it makes the case that anger is the hallmark of authoritarianism.

Right now, I think I am modeling servant-leadership in Zimbabwe. I have no office, title, staff or expectations of others. It is true that people serve me and I am grateful, but they do it, I trust, willingly and without coercion. I try to pay people for what they do, even if it's just a token. It is also true that others, namely Celebration Church and Pastor Tom, have opened the doors and allowed me to function in that world and with that philosophy. I am grateful to the Church and Tom. At the same time, I have no contract and can be relieved of my services at any point in time. I am only as good as my next visit, only as valuable as the value I can bring to the people in the organization. They owe me nothing for the past nor do I have any expectations.

Do you have a leadership philosophy? Would you care to share it with my readers? if so, then feel free to include it on the site where this entry is posted. And feel free to let me know if I'm being too harsh, hard or judgmental. I know leadership isn't easy, but that should be no excuse for executing it poorly or in an ungodly manner.

Download article: Sinners in the Hands.doc


The comments to this entry are closed.