FOCUS – Leadership: Jesus, the ultimate leader

by Bob Gregg – 

Effectiveness over time is all about ‘how’ the decisions are made and implemented.

The Rost definition demonstrates that leadership is a relationship between leaders and followers, and that both have a critical role to play in making an organization successful. In older definitions and theories of leadership (the concepts to which some in leadership positions still seem to adhere) the word follower has a connotation that is certainly something less or lower than the leader. However, in the post-modern landscape, following Rost’s definition, and more importantly, Christ’s example, leaders are far more leaders of leaders, and teachers of others in the practice of leadership than stand-alone, command-and-control dictators and wielders of raw power.

Look at Jesus as the ultimate leader! At no time do we see him using a dictatorial or command-and-control style of leadership…those are a man-made aberration of leadership born out of personal weakness and lack of self-confidence. Rather, he was constantly teaching and growing those who would go on to be the leaders of the Christian church. Actually, in all non-divine leadership, it is the followers who determine the level of success—if any—of every leader.

There are three types of follower-ship:

Yes sir/ma’am—followers only do what they’re told to do. They never offer suggestions or question decisions; they appear to lack energy and creativity, and exhibit little or no commitment or passion for the organization’s mission.

Passive/aggressive—followers appear to submit to the leader’s request—often grudgingly—out of a sense of fear of loss of their position and/or favor of the leader, and possible public embarrassment. This kind of response can be even more destructive as the person with this kind of attitude tends to actively undermine the success of the organization.

In either case, the loss is enormous, as most ‘followers’ have the ability to make a significant contribution to organizational success.

Thus, where there is no choice for the followers—where they are made to do only as told—there is no leadership. The most effective type of leader/ follower-ship is where this relationship of mutual influence is predominant, a shared leadership where the followers are actively engaged in the process of visioning the future and developing the plans to get there. They know that their talents are valued because they are used regularly.

As we said earlier, the leader is responsible for making and implementing the decisions. However, sometimes a crisis will arise when she/he will have to make an important decision either quickly, without the direct input from the followers, or one that is not understood by the followers. This can occur in all organizations because of circumstances or information that the leader cannot share. However, the leader who has demonstrated value for his or her followers’ input and participation can draw on a “bank account” of trust when such a situation does arise. This bank account of trust allows the followers to be confident that these decisions will never allow for the abuse of followers, even in the times of crisis.

Next time, we’ll lay some additional groundwork by briefly reviewing some of the theories on which nineteenth and twentieth century leadership was based. They include Trait (this theory espouses that men are either born leaders, or they can not be leaders); Great Man (Identifies men [does not mention women] who rise to prominence in times of great crisis); Transactional (suggests that good, or excellent, management in actually the same as leadership).

Finally there is the Transformational, or servant (a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into participants), which we’ll explore in detail [including ample scriptural references], as it is the closest thing we have to the example Christ set for us as post-modern leaders.

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