The best book I’ve read recently on leadership is Leading Across Cultures, by James Plueddemann, former executive director of SIM International. The book is his attempt to cut through cultural variations of leadership and get down to the core of what leadership is before building back out to find culturally-appropriate expressions of leadership. I’ve tried to do this a little by digging into what made me a leader, following Dr. Robert Clinton’s theory in The Making of a Leader. I’ve also tried to develop and articulate my personal philosophy of leadership, as a number of authors have urged. I’ve taught a session on my philosophy of leading in your strengths, leading in your weakness and leading in your context. (I should blog on those for you sometime.) But Plueddemann went deeper: he challenged me to consider my leadership theology.
As a church elder, I’ve had to spend some time trying to figure out theology. I’d never really been interested in theological discussions, thinking them a bit of a waste of time. Why not spend your time applying it instead of arguing it? But it has been helpful for me to dig into what I really believe about God so that I can then realize the implications. That’s what Plueddemann says: your beliefs about God will drive your leadership practices.
Let me provide an example. If we believe that human beings are created in the image of God and will live forever, what are the implications? If we truly believe that, therefore
the primary goal of leadership is to facilitate the development of people so they become all God created them to be. The atheistic philosophy contends that people are expendable for the sake of the government. Christian theology argues that governments come and go, but people live forever. People are more important than institutions, including the organizations we lead.
I’d never really considered that logic. I obviously believe in developing leaders, but I’d never considered why before. Of course, now that I have this foundation, it means that I have probably not gone far enough in my practice. Plueddemann points out one clear application to my task-oriented tendencies:
Effective leaders don’t use people to accomplish the job; instead they use the job to develop people.
It’s worth the time to focus for a couple of posts on some other theological beliefs and how they might apply to leadership. Plueddemann gives the why very succinctly:
The purpose and the worldview of leadership are intertwined. A bad theology of leadership will inevitably result in bad leaders. Leadership grounded in God’s glory and driven by a scriptural worldview is the hope of the global church.
When I was going through the Wycliffe application process and was asked the many questions about my theological beliefs, I balked. But the more that I got into it–spending hours in the Word, prayer, meditation and writing–the more I not only enjoyed the process but realized that it was the first time I ever had to really think about what I believed and put it on paper. It was incredibly helpful, not only for me spiritually but also in my development as a leader.
Thanks for these good posts!
Thanks for the comments, Chris. I recently re-read what I wrote when I joined Wycliffe. It was a good discipline and involved a lot of research. I’d have a much more personal, informed response to those theological questions now. But it’s been an interesting exercise to think through the leadership implications.
Maybe I’ll go back and re-apply just so I can think these things through in-depth again.