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FOCUS – Management vs. leadership

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by Bob Gregg – 

by Bob GreggThe Transformational theory says that leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into participants. It is far more interdependent than the obsolete ‘command and control’ or the Transactional styles.

This theory, increasingly popular in the secular arena, begins to feel a lot like Christ’s leadership when we examine it carefully. Christ chose to leave his Glory behind and not tout his traits, or his authority, or his power except to uplift and develop others. We do not find any place in the Bible where Jesus used his power or authority to beat anyone into submission to follow his leadership as in the command and control model. Nor did he ever say, “if you love me, I’ll love you back,”the transactional concept.

Transformational leadership is based on alternatives. Here, followers have adequate knowledge of alternate leaders and situations. Remember, where there is no choice for followers, there is no leadership.

Transformational leadership always emerges from and returns to the fundamental needs, aspirations and values of the followers. It is less the Ten Commandments than the Golden Rule. Because the Golden Rule measures the wants and needs of others by our own, Transformational leadership really is more like the Platinum rule…“Do unto others like they would like you to do unto them.”

Servant Leadership, a modern expression of Transformational theory, is all the rage as a new approach to gain increasing success in post-modern organizations. But the truth is…it has its roots firmly in the New Testament. New Testament style leadership is all about servanthood. The examples are far too numerous to list, but one occasion is when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. In Matthew 20: 26-28 and Mark 9: 35 Jesus tells his disciples that whoever wants to be great must first become the servant of all those they aspire to lead. He mentions that he was not on earth to be served but to help others, even to the giving of his life. And, what is the effect on the least privileged in the organization; will they benefit, or at least not be harmed?

Servant Leadership offers a serious commitment to the servant-steward-sharing model of New Testament leadership. It firmly rejects authoritarian and autocratic roles for those who propose to lead God’s people. In the book, Servant Leadership, author Robert Greenleaf offers the following evaluative tool:

Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely to become servants?

This statement certainly mirrors the way Jesus approached his leadership…that the most effective leaders are servants. In John 13 Jesus demonstrates that concept by taking on the role of foot washing when no one else wanted to do it. Note that verse 15 does not say, “…do what I have done…” but “…do as I have done …” This command for servant leadership is on the concept, not necessarily the specific act. Isaiah 52 and 53 outline the servant nature of Jesus’ role on earth.

Author Jim Collins—looking at over 1,400 UA organizations as part of an extensive research project at Stanford University—takes Transformational and Servant Leadership to an even higher level. In his book Good to Great, he identifies five levels of leadership. Here’s the key…at Level 5, leaders exhibit an apparently rare combination of humility and will. The study identifies the dichotomies between modest and willful, humble and fearless. Collins says that:

Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great [organization]. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the [mission of the] institution, not themselves [Good to Great, pg. 21].

He uses President Abraham Lincoln as an example of a Level 5 leader who combined personal modesty and shy nature with a fierce ambition to preserve the nation as one whole.

In our next time together we’ll look further at the results of the work Collins did at Stanford University, examine all of the five levels of leadership he discovered and see how they fit into what we learned so far about what leadership really is and how it fits hand-in-glove with Biblical principles.


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