Over Easter I was reflecting a lot on the nature of ‘leadership.’ I’d been looking at some resources and remembering back over many many readings, workshops, role models and some rubbish I’d seen and read. I was thinking about the costs and the essential nature of relational leadership. Christian communities of faith are not military endeavours or businesses. There are moments in need of ‘authority’ but by and large authenticity, humility and servanthood are our template. It’s more vulnerable, time consuming and rewarding. It doesn’t rely on power over but the elusive practice of power with.
Much is made of and fostered from the Biblical imagery of the Shepherd and the Sheep. There are many positives in this age old and Jesus shaped metaphor. Especially for relational leaders thinking about the shepherd knowing the sheep well. There’s a richness pondering terrain, lost sheep, danger, foxes etc. It’s also an image with the potential to take too much focus, to crowd out change agent roles or to feed into the tension for Leaders around community development and the common good. I actually prefer a focus on servanthood per se…
Luke 22: 24-30 Friend of the People
24A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, “The Kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
28“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29and I confer on you, just as may father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Queensland UCA Leadership Development Framework holds this starting point definition of leadership: “Taking responsibility for the success of the organisation. This involves by inference a degree of modelling; as people act and take up their responsibilities, it affects others to do the same. Leadership is thus seen as relational and influential more than positional and directive.”
I have a few favourite Mandela quotes and this is just one: “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”
I know my preferred style of ‘trying to make space for others in leadership’ is not always applicable and over the years I’ve worked hard to develop other attributes and approaches and also not to just have that ideal but to be better at putting it into practice. Just as I wonder how brilliant it must be to go through life without feeling the need to reflect on group dynamics or the nature of community or the impact of your words on others… I also know the freedom of not being in any of this for my own ego or advancement. I’d just love to see others live more abundantly and find my enjoyment and fulfilment in things and people ‘coming together.’ If only I could also beat myself up less for not getting it right. I reckon a good measure is how marginalised or silenced voices are advocated for and heard… The older I get the more I see this as important. It’s where real change comes from…