With the wealth of executive and leadership qualities among our BCBP businessmen and professionals, why do our chapter heads often find it difficult to raise up abundant action group leaders, service team heads and other chapter leaders? This article leads us to examine what it means to be a spiritual leader and concludes that, in God’s eyes, each one of us is a leader-in-waiting, just waiting for His call.
“I’ll help, but don’t ask me to lead!” This is the oft repeated refrain we hear when someone is asked to assume a leadership role in the parish or in their community or in the BCBP. It is ironical when we hear it in the BCBP though, because the membership of the BCBP is supposed to be composed of people of influence and leaders in their respective businesses or professions.
Why then are people, you and I, usually reluctant to step forward when asked to lead in a Christian capacity? Is it because Christianity and business are incompatible? Is it because we are apprehensive of just what our boss – Jesus Christ – may demand from us? Is it because to many of us the concept of submission to Christian authority, although verbalized, is still not yet internalized in our psyche?
What do we mean by Christian leadership?
What really is leadership from the Christian point of view? Part of the problem in defining the qualities of a leader is that we tend to emphasize only the outward manifestations of what the world calls leadership. We look for people with vision, who exercise faith, can motivate people, mobilize resources, persevere in hard times, administrate well, and please most of the people most of the time. We often overlook the fact that a leader should not necessarily be defined by performance or results, but by strength of character. And this holds true whether in the business world or in the Christian community.
Jess Jernigan in an article on Christian leadership (Discipleship Journal #76) defines a leader as “someone who influences others to follow a decision or course of action through strength of character.” He points out that a leader in the biblical sense embodies the combined characteristics of shepherd, steward and servant. Shepherds focus on nurturing those they lead. Stewards mobilize people and resources to accomplish the task at hand in the way that their boss wants it done. Servants pour their lives into others and the Lord’s purposes rather than serving themselves.
Interestingly he concludes that leadership, in this sense, is something everyone can exercise – whether as a parent leading a family, a woman motivating her neighbors to live and share their faith, or a person leading a small household prayer or bible study group. Therefore we are all leaders-in-training, or leaders-in-waiting.
What skills make a good leader?
Leadership does require skills, but skills alone don’t make a person an effective leader. What distinguishes effective leaders from mediocre leaders? Browse through any bookstore’s sections on management and business and you will be overwhelmed by the variety of opinions, fool-proof methods and ‘tried-and-tested’ programs all aimed at helping you become a leader of men. Most of these depend on two things: your willingness to learn new techniques and your ability to put your learning into practice in your workplace.
Actually if we really pause to examine Jesus’ leadership style, we find that He also depends on these two key principles. He asks his disciples to follow Him and learn from Him. Then He sends them out to put into practice what they had learned.
In leading his small band of disciples Jesus focuses on six leadership principles: dependence on God, winning God’s approval, modesty instead of blatantly advertising His divinity, empathy with the weak and erring, optimism in God’s plan and man’s inherent goodness, and the need for anointing by God’s Spirit (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership).
What kind of leadership changes lives?
I believe that we need leaders who can tolerate diversity. When my husband Jun and I first served as discussion group leaders and later, action group leaders (1986-89), our group consisted of a Catholic priest who was considering leaving his vocation, a Fundamentalist evangelist, a banker who wanted to become a lawyer-politician, a retired Navy officer, a well-established businessman-industrialist, and an insurance agent seeking the Truth. Talk about diversity!!! And yet we met weekly for over three years and enjoyed each other’s company every minute of our meetings. We all learned from one another, enhancing our spiritual growth in the process.
Difficult? Yes. But even then Jun and I took inspiration from the best of all examples – Jesus and his disciples. What a variety of personalities and temperaments they were! And yet, what a strong foundation for Christianity they provided the early church.
Effective leaders are able to make the difficult decisions. They know how to develop, train and inspire their followers. They welcome feedback – even unsolicited feedback that can be hard to swallow – and welcome others’ opinions and observations.
The bottom line is that effective leaders care about people – not only as ways to get a job done, but as men and women with families and concerns, as children of God, as fellow sojourners along the Christian highway.
There is yet another bottom line to spiritual leadership. A Christian leader must be like a radio or television set – well grounded in the Word of God, with his antenna of prayer stretched upward and tuned in to God. Moreover to insure constant and clear reception, the antenna and parts of the radio or T.V. set must be regularly cleaned by participation in the Sacraments of the Church. And finally, the radio or T.V. set must be turned on and tuned in to the right frequency, God’s frequency, Jeremiah 33:3.
Spiritual leadership is upside-down leadership
True spiritual leadership is authoritative, but not authoritarian says Sanders. It is authoritative because it commands the sanction of Scripture and secures the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, but not authoritarian in the sense of exercising an undue influence on the decisions and life-style of other believers. If we compare spiritual leadership with worldly leadership, we can clearly see the difference.
Leadership is not a role or a reason to “pull rank”, expect privileges or put a distance between “me” and “them”. Spiritual leadership is a function, a way to build relationships, nourishing, encouraging and strengthening everyone concerned in the relationship.
Leadership is not a right, it’s a responsibility. Leadership is not an automatic claim to the next step up the ladder of power or influence; rather it involves the responsibility to help those on the ladder rungs above and beneath you. As a leader, you have the responsibility to lead by good example.
Two Paradigms of Leadership
In the BCBP’s Steward Leaders Training: A Course in Transformational Christian Leadership, designed by Fr. Herbert Schneider, S.J., BCBP’s Spiritual Director, we learned that there are two leadership paradigms: the leadership paradigm of the World, and the Steward-leadership paradigm of Jesus.
The leadership paradigm of the World tells us that being a leader presupposes a “dog-eat-dog” mentality, is self-seeking; the leader wants to be important, power-hungry and in control. He is authority-centered and delights in lording it over others, with his leadership flowing from power and riches. He gives orders and makes demands of others. However, the end result here usually is a highly stressful life, a sense of aloneness and increasing inner turmoil. Result? Enemies and adversaries, both from superiors and subordinates.
On the other hand, the steward-leadership paradigm of Jesus is based on Matthew 20:20-28. Steward leadership, Christian leadership, flows from service and dedication to the welfare of others; it is other-centered. He leads through example of life, anchored in personal integrity and a genuine love and concern for others; he lives his own teaching/belief/value system. The result? Many friends and a fulfilled life with a heart full of joy and inner peace.
What kind of a leader are you?
Life is a test and a trust. If we are found worthy we receive affirmation, promotion, and celebration. If we are found lacking like the steward/servant in the Parable of the Talents, Matt. 25:14-30, we face condemnation, demotion, and being thrown out (terminated from our work) where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
To be a good leader in the BCBP community, therefore, requires not only that we walk our talk, but also that we know what we are talking about. Spiritual leadership is having an intimate personal relationship anchored on the Lord and on His Word, following His example of life, learning from Him, and being willing to follow where He wants us to go. Jesus is the true model because He lived out His own teaching that whoever wants to be great must be the servant of all.
Leadership and leadership authority needs to flow from the unconditional love and dedication of the leader to those whom he leads. Unconditional love and dedication to others are also the keys to a genuine human life; again Jesus shows us the way.
We are all leaders-in-waiting, waiting to be called to service in the Lord’s vineyard. We need to prepare ourselves for this calling so that we will be ready to respond with an unqualified “Yes!”. The key question here is: Are we willing to follow Him when He calls us to serve and lead in the BCBP community? –-Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila