Sunday, April 9, 2017

Authentic Leadership

Contemporary society desires authenticity from its leaders, whether the leaders are high profile or simply the leaders people encounter and work with every day in their jobs or volunteer organizations. Positive, healthy, and trustworthy leaders build confidence in their followers and contribute to their satisfaction and productivity. However, repeated public scandals in business, government, and non-profit sectors continue to raise suspicion about leader authenticity and fuel the demand for greater accountability to achieve it. 

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

As a recent working theory of leadership, authentic leadership has attempted to bring together effective leadership and ethical leadership. Authentic leaders possess a high degree of self-awareness and self-acceptance, and are guided by strong personal positive core values. Because of their integrity and transparency, followers readily identify with them and perceive them to be optimistic, confident, and worthy of trust. Authenticity also involves consistency between the followers’ values and the leader’s values and behaviors. 

Researchers have proposed various definitions of authentic leadership and ways of measuring it. Most commonly accepted, Walumbwa et al. (2008) have defined authentic leadership as “a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positive psychological capacities and a positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information, and relational transparency [emphasis added] on the part of leaders working with followers, fostering positive self-development” (p. 94).

Four Dimensions of Authentic Leadership with Applications for Church and Mission

Self-awareness refers to an awareness of how one “makes meaning of the world” (p. 95) and how this process impacts one’s view of self. Furthermore, self-aware individuals grow in their understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses through exposure to, and experience with, others and observing their impact upon them. What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders seek to grow in awareness of their strengths and weaknesses?

A leader with internalized moral perspective will consistently make decisions based upon internal moral standards and values. Those possessing deep personal self-regulation will guide themselves based upon moral convictions even in the face of “group, organizational, and societal pressures” (p. 95). What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders develop deeper moral integrity and exhibit this more consistently?

Balanced processing of information refers to the ability to “objectively analyze all relevant data before coming to a decision” (p. 95), which includes intentionally seeking out alternate viewpoints from one’s own. What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders learn to seek out and appreciate input from others with differing viewpoints?

Relational transparency refers to the presentation of one’s true self to others, building trust through open disclosure. Those who exhibit relational transparency can also control their emotions, “minimizing displays of inappropriate emotions” (p. 95). What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders build greater trust by sharing more of themselves?

Authentic leadership theory offers much direction and content for reflection on leadership in the church and mission worlds. We also want and need authentic leaders and followers who demonstrate relational openness and exhibit congruency in their values and behaviors.

Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic leadership: Development and validation of a theory-based measure. Journal of Management, 34(1), 89-126.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Culture And Leadership

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) research program began in 1993 and to date has studied 60 cultures organized into 10 culture clusters. The GLOBE study has served as an incredibly useful resource for examining leadership across cultures and will in the years to come. Below is a brief overview to stimulate thinking about culture and leadership where you work or minister.

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

The GLOBE researchers discovered six global leadership dimensions of culturally endorsed implicit leadership theories. In other words, these leadership approaches would be implicitly believed to be what makes leaders effective. Two were universally endorsed by all cultures: (a) charismatic/value-based leadership and (b) team-based leadership. Two were endorsed by a majority of cultures: (c) participative leadership and (d) humaneness leadership. Two were endorsed differently by different cultures: (e) self-protective leadership and (f) autonomous leadership. Effective leaders will make use of the appropriate culturally endorsed theories of leadership within a specific culture, while also taking into account further dimensions of culture. 

The GLOBE researchers described nine dimensions of culture: (a) uncertainty avoidance, the alleviation of unpredictability of future events; (b) power distance, the acceptance of unequal distribution of power; (c) social collectivism, the collective distribution of resources and collective action at a larger group level; (d) in-group collectivism, the pride, loyalty, and cohesion within organizations or families; (e) gender egalitarianism, the minimization of gender inequality; (f) assertiveness, the aggressiveness or confrontation in relationships; (g) future orientation, the engaging in behaviors such as delayed gratification, planning, and investing; (h) performance orientation, the encouragement and rewarding for improvement and excellence; and (i) humaneness orientation, the encouragement and rewarding of fairness, altruism, generosity, caring, and kindness.

Certainly, culture consists of far more fascinating complexity than the nine cultural dimensions and the six culturally endorsed implicit leadership theories. However, these explain a lot and help us see more clearly and understand more thoroughly how leadership works in various cultures around the world. They also help us think through how leaders shape and can re-shape culture. So, when we serve cross-culturally, how can we make full use of culturally endorsed implicit approaches to leadership? How can we do this most effectively considering all the various dimensions of the culture in which we are working?

Dorfman, P., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., Dastmalchian, A., & House, R. (2012). GLOBE: A twenty year journey into the intriguing world of culture and leadership. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 504-518.

House, R., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., & Dorfman, P. (2002). Understanding cultures and implicit leadership theories across the globe: An introduction to project GLOBE. Journal of World Business, 37(1), 3-10.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Servant Leadership

We talk about servant leadership a lot in our churches and missions, but different leaders mean different things when using the term and practice servant leadership differently. 

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

Robert K. Greenleaf developed the leadership theory we call “servant leadership” in 1970. Greenleaf (1977) based his theory of servant leadership on examples from the New Testament. Other theorists have continued to explore the Scriptures and leadership studies and have furthered the description of servant leadership. Jesus Christ set the example when he washed his disciples feet and finished with these words:

John 13:14–16 ESV “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

The Theory

In servant leadership theory, leaders primarily attend to the needs of followers, while accomplishing organizational goals as a secondary priority. Servant leaders build trust with their followers by communicating openly and honestly, exhibiting personal integrity, and trusting followers themselves. Servant leaders listen to their followers’ personal concerns, help them grow wiser and healthier, and empower them to achieve their individual goals. Such leaders seek to create a culture focused on caring for the needs of all the organization's members as they work together to achieve common goals, all the while seeking to develop many other servant leaders within the organization. 

Patterson (2003) developed seven constructs for describing servant leadership: (a) love, (b) humility, (c) altruism, (d) vision, (e) trust, (f) empowerment, and (g) service. In Patterson’s definition, love concerns itself with moral judgment and action. Humility shows itself by keeping proper perspective of oneself and staying focused on others. Altruism consists of concern for the welfare of others and acting with complete fairness. Vision focuses on the personal vision and faith of followers, not the organization’s vision, rather the individual’s goals and fit within the organization. Leaders build trust through integrity and mutual respect. Leaders empower others by truly sharing power, emphasizing teamwork, and valuing input. Finally, the mission of servant leadership will be achieved by service as a way of life, attitude of the soul, and manner of being.

Servant leaders primarily concern themselves with serving their followers, while also helping them contribute to the organization's mission. How applicable is servant leadership in leading your church or mission?

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977) Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist.

Patterson, K. A. (2003). Servant leadership: A theoretical model. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable, Virginia Beach, VA. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Approved And Entrusted

The concepts of being “approved” by God and “entrusted” with His gospel played a key role in the Apostle Paul’s self-understanding of his mission, his relationship to God, and his relationship with all people including the Thessalonians. This approval and trust empowered him to minister boldly in the midst of great opposition, to remain committed to avoiding error, impurity, and deceit, and to stay focused on pleasing God rather than people. 

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

In the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul recounted God’s powerful working among the Thessalonians in their radical conversion to Christ from idolatry and their immediate zeal for spreading the gospel throughout the region. Intense opposition followed Paul wherever he went and the Thessalonian church had already begun to experience it for themselves. And so, Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote this letter to encourage this new community of Christians in their faith and identity in Christ. They would need to be able to withstand, persevere, and triumph in their new life of adversity and persecution.
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, English Standard Version)
Empowerment of the Apostle Paul and His Team

Motivation and empowerment increase when people’s work matches their values, when they possess confidence that they will be successful, when they can choose when and how they perform their work, and when they believe they can make a difference. God delegated to the Apostle Paul tasks of appropriate difficulty that related to his career as an Apostle. In his empowerment of the Apostle Paul, God delegated in a manner consistent with what is considered good delegation: (a) specifying his responsibilities clearly, (b) providing adequate authority, (c) monitoring his progress, (d) providing necessary information, support, and assistance, and (e) turning his mistakes into learning opportunities (Yukl, 2013).

God’s empowerment of Paul noted in 2:1-4 fits with psychological empowerment as a leadership theory. Paul referred to himself in 3:2 as a co-participant, sunergon, with God in the Gospel, and described the delegation of duties in 2:1-4 in various ways. God approved Paul and his team and entrusted them with the Gospel. Consequently, Paul ministered with great motivation to please God and appeal to people with the Gospel. 

The four elements of psychological empowerment are: (a) meaning, (b) self-determination, (c) self-efficacy, and (d) impact. Paul felt empowered because God changed his life and gave him a new mission (meaning), trusted him to develop his own strategies and methods (self-determination), infused him with confidence that he could be successful (self-efficacy or competence), and allowed him to witness the results of conversion and transformation of people, and the establishment of churches (impact).

Empowerment Continues for Us Today

As a public Apostolic epistle, 1 Thessalonians was meant to be read aloud to the faith community in Thessalonica and to all faith communities (5:27) for their encouragement. God’s empowerment of Paul extended to the empowerment of the Thessalonian believers, and it has continued to extend to His Church ever since and all throughout the world. From the Apostle Paul’s ministry model with the Thessalonian church Christian leaders and churches today can shape and re-shape their ministries accordingly, and by God’s Spirit and grace can expect similar results that will bring Him glory through increased effectiveness and spiritual joy. 

Christians should proclaim the gospel boldly and live out the gospel genuinely. The Apostle Paul served as an entrusted messenger, teaching Christ-followers how to live out the gospel they preach. Can Christians today likewise appeal to others to examine their lives as Christians, and ask God to do the same? Such transparency speaks volumes to the world about honesty, integrity, and authenticity. The world needs more Christians like this. This will further strengthen and empower the church as God keeps supplying a greater boldness and the grace to prove faithful as those “entrusted with the gospel” (v.4). 

Yukl, G. (2013). Leadership in organizations (8th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Pathway For Others To Follow

As Christians one of our greatest desires is to lead others to God, to a real salvation experience through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The book of Proverbs is likewise concerned with the very same goal, and so will help us greatly in doing this. 

Proverbs 10:17 ESV “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.”

A Better Translation

“Whoever heeds instruction.” This is the person who meditates upon the Word of God and deliberately puts it into practice. “Whoever rejects reproof [i.e. correction].” This is the person who abandons the teaching he or she is given.

In this verse the phrase “is on the path to life” is more accurately and better translated from the Hebrew as “is a path to life.” This person who heeds instruction becomes a pathway to life for others to follow there. 

The point of this Proverb is the effect of our obedience on others, not just ourselves. As the apostate actively leads others astray (and gleefully quite often), so also, the faithful follower of God will show others the way to life. This is life both in terms of a quality and spiritually fulfilling life, but also in terms of eternal life with God.

Obedience Affects Everyone

In our culture, we tend to think that our obedience or disobedience only affects ourselves. Many social scientists strongly disagree and write, speak, and teach otherwise. However, it appears few of us listen, because we are so committed to our out of control individualism. Yes, even Christians.

Maybe some people would agree that on occasion our obedience or disobedience to God can have an effect others. Yet, this is usually acknowledged only if there is a direct and immediately observable effect. For example, we bless someone with kind words of spiritual counsel, or we hurt them with our angry words; we might meet some tangible need, or on the contrary commit some abusive act.

Instead, we should consider that obedience has indirect effects that can accumulate weightiness over time. Things like years of faithful time in the Word and prayer and letting the Holy Spirit change our lives. Things like faithful church attendance and simple, even behind the scenes, works of compassion and service. These will change lives and direct people to life often more than we realize.

Furthermore, there are ripple effects from our attitudes and behaviors that spread throughout the fabric of society, and especially within our Christian communities and our local churches. Our character is revealed by our attitudes and behaviors, again positively or negatively. It is especially grievous when we “reject correction” from the Word, the Spirit and fellow Christians, repeatedly refusing to be spiritually transformed and grow in wisdom. This is what “leads others astray.”

A Better Pathway

Perhaps, you have seen the truth and principle of Proverbs 10:17 at work, both positively and negatively? How a person’s, or one’s own, obedience or disobedience affects other people, even groups of people? The examples are limitless.

May we become a better pathway for others to follow and find life with God.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Not Just Any Verse For Every Situation

Pastors deal with complex situations in leading their churches, complex situations in counseling their congregations and complex situations in speaking to their broader communities.

Few troubles are as frustrating for pastors as church members who might be somewhat familiar with a situation, or outsiders with little knowledge of a matter, approaching them with urgent Biblical counsel they have discovered that will help him.

Where Do the Bible Verses Come From?

When Christians read their Bibles, sometimes verses strike them like never before, and they are eager to share them and apply them. Maybe it applies to this situation with which our pastor is dealing, they wonder.

Many Christians have favorite Bible verses they have memorized and find useful in their lives on many occasions. Somehow they made a connection from one of their favorite verses to the pastor’s situation. Maybe it will help, they reason.

Other Christians stay current with cultural trends and Christian trends. They know the Biblical passages under discussion these days. And so, they hope to inform their pastor and help him see how the situation with which he is dealing is addressed by this current discussion.

Yet other Christians believe that all of Christian theology and practice can be encapsulated in key verses. Often these key verses have to do with broad themes such as love, grace and mercy, or authority and submission, or divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and the list goes on.

In each of these examples, people wrongly think they have the secret answer verses providing simple solutions to complex problems. Sincerely motivated as they may be, not just any verse applies in every situation.

3 Unrecognized Problems

When we are excited by our new discoveries in the Bible we see perhaps more connections than are warranted. When we see the world primarily through our favorite verses we can miss a lot of other things in the Bible and in other people’s lives. When we vigilantly stay current, the foundations and the history too quickly fade from view. When we live by broad themes we might feel especially skilled, however, we might fail more often than we realize in specifics of life’s realities.

First, people often miss the point of the text they are referencing. It certainly holds great and godly instruction. It is inspired by God and intended by Him for proper use according to His intention. But such a misuse of the text will not really advance God’s purposes.

Second, people often miss the point of the situation into which they are trying to speak. Likely, they don’t really understand the life situation and the spiritual dynamics of it. As a result, they mismatch it to their selection of Scripture.

Third, people often miss the best and proper texts that could provide the counsel that is needed. Because of a cursory search of Bible passages and only a surface analysis of the situation, they draw hasty and inaccurate conclusions on both fronts.

3 Constructive Solutions

First, as a pastor and leader, make sure to pushback against off-base counsel. Often people are simply too eager to share their point of view without understanding other points of view. They are mistaken about the Bible, the situation and their relationship.

Second, teach people about how to use the Bible, and how to use it well and appropriately in conjunction with its purpose. Assume those who would counsel you are well meaning, even if you suspect they are not.

Third, explain with patience both the situation about which they are concerned and the Bible verse they about which they are excited. We do not have to share all details, and obviously most often we can’t do this. But, we can share what we are doing, our approach to the situation and the Bible, and our seeking of counsel.

Finally, simply thank those who visit you in this manner. Thank them for their concern. Thank them for their love of the Word of God, and eagerness to live by it and please the Lord. Thank them for praying for you and others involve. Then, close by asking for their prayers and praying together with them.