As a Christian Leader, adopting a Christ centred servant leadership style is probably the most significant thing you can do to enable your people to excel. Excellent leadership inspires an organisation’s people to greater commitment, enabling them to achieve their full potential.
Back in the 80s two men, Kouzes and Posner, studied hundreds of organisation to work out what made the difference between the best, the mediocre and the worst. They noted that it was leadership and leadership of a certain style at that. Since then they have completed over 25 years of original study with more than 4 million leaders around the world. They found 5 key practices of excellent leadership and that where there was leadership excellence, the organisation out performed its rivals by a country mile.
When you read the factors below undoubtedly you will think it’s all quite obvious, no rocket science here and you would be right. But that does not stop so many leaders letting it pass them by as they put up with less than is actually possible. The reason being that so often they fall into a “me boss, you not” leadership style.
For Christian leaders it is clear that our “leadership style” really ought to be modelled on Jesus, and that means servant leadership. The difference being that the servant leader aims to facilitate the best possible performance from his people instead of demanding it, come what may.
From the perspective of Christian servant leadership Kouzes and Posner’s 5 factors are 100% in line with practices that are consistent with Jesus’ style of leadership . To learn more about being a Christian Leader in a manner that is centred on Jesus I would recommend reading the series entitled “The King Who Led with a Towel”
How you are as a leader of people is probably the most significant factor in the success of your organisation or team. Excellent leadership inspires an organisation’s people to greater commitment, enabling them to achieve their full potential. With that comes the reward of an organisation that makes the most of its opportunities and resources. A team that, man for man, achieves more than might otherwise be expected; plus the bonus: a more enjoyable and satisfying experience
The Big Question For Christian Leaders
The big question over leadership is “Can anyone be a great leader of people? Can you be a great leader? A Winston Churchill, a Nelson Mandela, a William Booth or a Billy Graham? May be not, but can you develop excellent leadership skills?
For sure, if you want to; pretty much anyone can. Excellent leadership is not about being born to it, it is not about being an anointed Bible expositor, a great evangelist or a natural visionary; it is a skill set that can be developed. From the Christian leader’s perspective it is also about conforming more and more to the character of Jesus. But it has to be said, it seldom just happens, you have to work at developing excellent Christian Leadership skills.
Christian Leader, How Are you Doing?
So, now your own big question. How do you rate as a leader of people in your situation whether it be a team, agency, charity or business?
It’s a question worth answering because of the gains that can be made. The following Leadership Audit is based on Kouzes and Posner’s work but it looks at the evidences of your leadership skill through the prism of your people. Although the leadership practices derive from secular work you will observe characteristics that you would expect to see exhibited by Christian leaders who model themselves on Christ servant leadership style. I believe that this is no accident as mankind is created in the image of God, so when we see the best outworking in any human situation we must be seeing the image of God emerging more clearly than might normally be the case.
For each of these questions score your answer on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is low and 5 is high. Note: Where I use the word “organisation” read, team, agency, charity or business; whichever fits your situation. The principles apply regardless.
How the Organisation Works
Before addressing the 5 practices of leadership there are some pertinent questions with regard to your organisation as a whole. While the 5 leadership practices can be applied to church situations this first set of question don’t completely apply, although they may be informative.
- Does your organisation have a deliberately defined and fostered culture (set of attitudes, beliefs and values) that is embodied in its policies?
- Do your people have SMART* objectives and are they reviewed?
- Do you have trouble retaining the best staff?
- Are absenteeism and the levels of genuine sickness puzzlingly higher than you would expect?
- Are productivity, quality and customer satisfaction levels lower than for comparable organisations that you know?
Exemplary leaders live out the desired culture (attitudes, beliefs and values) of the organisation. As such they demonstrate standards of excellence and set the example of the way that people should be treated and pursue their goals. Plainly for Christian leaders the culture and goals are informed by Christ-centred values.
- Do your people enthusiastically embody the organisation’s declared culture as they go about their duties or do they do something different?
- Do your people follow the example that you set as you model the culture?
- Do your people exhibit trust in you or do they think that you say one thing and do another?
Leaders are passionate about the difference they can make and enlist others in the realisation of their vision. Of course one would expect Christian leaders to be passionate about making a Kingdom difference in the world.
- Are your people captured by and proactively working towards a shared vision and dream for the business or do you find it hard to keep them motivated?
- Do your people simply work to your directions or do they get the big picture and contribute beyond your expectations?
- Do your people proactively demonstrate their own passion for the success of the business?
Leaders innovate to improve the organisation and its capabilities and they encourage others to do same. This can be a challenge for Christian leaders because the “church” tends to be conservative and Christian organisations seek to remain true to their mission. However, the goal is to achieve that mission with great effectiveness and excellence and this necessitates the flexibility to meet changing circumstances, as well as simply doing things better and being more effective.
- Do you your people continually seek better ways of doing things or do they only do things the way that they have always been done?
- Do your people show initiative and push on the boundaries to be more successful or are they risk averse?
- Do your people demonstrate the ability to learn from mistakes and adapt what they do accordingly?
Leaders empower their people, encourage collaboration and build spirited teams to achieve extraordinary results, based on mutual respect and trust.
- Do your people collaborate, working together to achieve goals or do they tend to work against each other?
- Do your people feel confident that you will support their decisions or are they fearful that you would overrule them?
- Do your people go from strength to strength in their jobs or do they seem to stagnate?
Leaders spur on their people to greater achievement by recognising and celebrating the contribution of individuals.
- When you speak with your people do they respond as if encouraged and engage with their tasks more enthusiastically or do they seem demotivated?
- Do your people feel both recognised and rewarded for their achievement or do they grumble about not being appreciated?
- Do your people feel recognised and rewarded for their commitment, even if things have gone wrong?
How did you do? Top score for all the questions in both parts of the article is 100. Is any one area weaker than the others?
Take a little longer over this for a more considered view. This survey looks at the behavior of your team as a reflection your skills as a leader. Having considered the results take half an hour out with a cup of coffee and sketch out an action plan for your leadership approach to deal with any weaknesses that you found. Effective Christian leaders follow the leadership example of Christ. You can read about this in the series “The King Who led with a Towel”.
Its not necessarily costly to fix the things you observe but the benefits can be huge. Whilst there may be people who are born to be charismatic leaders it has to be said that leadership skills can be taught, learned and honed through practice and coaching. It is possible for “ordinary” leaders to become exemplary leaders. In the Christian sphere it is possible for Christian leaders to model Jesus effectively, after all we have the in-dwelling Holy Spirit through whom Christ lives in us. But we do have to co-operate.
If you want a more objective view of your capabilities as a leader, the Leadership Practices Inventory is a 360 Degree Assessment based on the 5 leadership practices. Claybury International can help you run this, interpret its results and work out your follow up action plan to develop your distinctively Christian leadership style and qualities.
Ordinary leadership gets ordinary results. Great leadership gets great results. One of the key things to consider is that question of culture. What is the actual culture of your organistaion, department or team? How does that stack up against the declared culture and which do you model?
What could you do to be a better role model? A leader’s example is crucial in enabling the people in their team to achieve to their full potential.
* SMART = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound
Image: AndYaDontStop Flickr