Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The World Needs the Church and the Church Needs Lots of Leaders

Management, though a valuable and essential commodity for any organization--from the nation-state all the way up to the local church, is not the same thing as leadership. As John Kotter, professor emeritus of Leadership at Harvard University's Business School, writes:
...management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it's not leadership.

Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it's about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it's a recipe for failure.
Organizations need managers. But they die without leaders, lots of leaders who can shepherd ideas from vision to reality.

In my experience, the best leaders are first of all, servants. They're not people who bark out orders or, as the Brits say, "put a bit of stick about." Leaders know that even if they have the power of coercion over the people they've been called to lead, coercion is, at best, management. Leaders persuade, convince, inspire.

They're people who put their hearts on the line, have a passion for moving in a certain direction, and accept the probability of rejection and ridicule. (After all, it's always easier to be a lemming who goes with the flow than a leader who dares to call a halt to most organizations' suicide marches.)

And, in my estimation, anyone who tries to lead in the power of their own personality is crazy. I have come to understand the truth of what Jesus says to His followers "apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:8) and of what Saint Paul writes, "I can do all things through [Christ] Who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). The very best leaders I have ever known, like my internship supervisor, Pastor Jim Petteys, and my colleague and friend, Pastor Steve Sjogren, have also been humble servants of Christ who have relied on Him above all.

I have jettisoned the idea that only certain types of people are meant to be leaders. Jim and Steve, for example, are very different in personality and temperament. But both, in their own ways, showed me what a leader looks like.

Here's the thing: Everyone is called upon to be a leader sometimes.

But most people shirk from leadership and here's why: It's a lot easier to master the techniques of management or, worse yet, to pretend that we have nothing to offer others, than it is to take the grief of leading the charge for a vision, especially if we believe that vision has been planted in our minds and hearts by God.

If you feel God has called you to lead, I share this simple imperative from Paul directed at those God has given the spiritual gift of leadership, given, as all the gifts are, not for the benefit of the recipient of the gift, but for the ministry of the Church and the strengthening of fellow believers. He says if you are a leader, then lead "in diligence" (Romans 12:8).

Everyone has different leadership styles. Few leaders are the flashy charming types who wow people. Some are plodders. But whatever your style, if you have been gifted by God to lead, whether you're a pastor or a layperson, if you have a passion for a ministry that will help the Church do its one and only mission in the world--make disciples--and you feel called by God to spark the ministry in your Church, then lead.

In his phenomenal book, Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels wrote:
...the church has an utterly unique mission to fulfill on planet Earth, and...the future of our society depends, largely, on whether or not church leaders understand that mission and mobilize their congregation accordingly.
I believe that's true!

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