Most people would agree that good leadership is something like a brass ensemble gathered on the stage of life, playing beautiful music. Each instrument represents a feature or quality of leadership that stands out at one moment, and blends in with other instruments at another. Together they create a captivating harmony that moves the audience into a constructive common experience.
Or perhaps quality leadership is more like a recipe in which there is an assortment of carefully chosen ingredients, mixed in fine proportion, simmering on the family stove, ready to be served up with just the right flourish, so the gathered family will be satisfied and nourished.
Leadership is of vital importance to us because, for one thing, it constantly revolves around issues of power and influence. So we flock to leadership summits. We read voluminous books and pore over magazines, journals, and Web sites. We absorb interviews with successful leaders on and off the air and convene conventions. We create classes that may only be part of a comprehensive university curriculum. Then there are the seminars and tapes, audio and video, and now it's CDs and DVDs.
In the face of all this, may we suggest, and still appear sane, that there is just one jugular leadership principle that stands out in a class all its own?
I think so.
To describe it I need the vivid words of a renowned contemporary luminary who writes about leadership in the workplace in general. William Glasser says: "We have hardly scratched the surface of the prosperity we could have if we changed from bossing to leading in the workplace. ... I am not so na'i've as to claim that people will not work hard for bosses. Many will because they see themselves as hard workers, no matter how they are treated. They will give their hands and even their brains to a boss. But they will give their hearts only to a leader, and the feeling we experience when that happens is something a boss will never know."1
Bosses versus leaders; what's the difference? ... "They will give their hearts only to a leader. . ."
The core of the difference between a boss and a leader lies in the fact that the leader has caught the vision of how critical it is to actually lead by enlisting the hearts of those who work with him or her. He knows the unsurpassable value of consistently leading from that perspective. While a leader may not be able to do this purely and consistently in every situation, it is nevertheless always the essential underpinning of a healthy leadership orientation. It helps to make more boss-like actions more palatable and effective when at crunch times the leader is forced to be more "bossish."
The boss simply hasn't caught this vision. The more he senses that he does not have the hearts of those he super vises (a common frustration for him), the more insecure he tends to become and the more he tends to operate as "the boss." And the more he or she bosses, the more his/her approach alienates. Thus again the natural tendency is to remedy the fallout by turning yet again to still more bossing. This escalates until this way of administrating or merely managing not really leading becomes his/her predominant, default style.
Jesus was, of course the consummate leader. His was the way of discipleship and that's an infrastructure I word when it comes to the sort of leadership we're advocating here and He gave His whole life to modeling this approach (Read again Mark 10:32-45.)
He led with the overarching aim of reaching people so they would voluntarily come to see for themselves the magnificence of His vision, and to choose to follow freely and of their own volition. He did not need to resort to "bosship." If there is any arena in which it is, by the very nature of things, critical to capture the hearts of the people we are leading, it is in Christian ministry.
This special double issue of Ministry, inspired by General Conference President Jan Paulsen, celebrates the 58th General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is dedicated not just to making good leaders, but contributing to the further development of genuinely Spirit-filled, spiritual leaders who are effective because like Jesus Himself, they are satisfied only with an approach that goes for the heart.
1 William Glasser, Choice Theory (New York: Harper Coffins, 1998), 289.