As you look at leadership in the Old Testament, many of its leaders served as 'seers'. Leaders were first 'see-ers' -- discerning the way things are, hearing from God and responding with faith and courage; with confidence and strength as decisions were made; choices to honor God and follow His ways. Today, while the same principles of leadership remain, we have to recognize that we live in a very complex world; that leadership has and is changing.
In the late 1800's at the dawn of the Industrial Age leadership rested on the shoulders of great men. By the 1920's and 30's leadership had evolved; resting not only with strong individuals but being shared at different levels. In the 1940's and 50's the focus was on the characteristics of good leaders and managers and in the 60's and 70's men like Ken Blanchard began to talk about situational leadership. In the 80's and 90's you might remember the focus on excellence in leadership--how do we achieve greatness. Tom Peter's book 'In Search of Excellence' was a benchmark for this ear. We began to see a reworking of the Great Man leadership theory of the late 1800's with a mix of charismatic leadership.
Today, the talk is around adaptive leadership because of the complexity of leading in our day. We live in a world where the volume, momentum and complexity of change is at such a rate we live in a totally disruptive and uncertain world; a world marked by heightened levels of stress and anxiety. As we seek to find our way through there is a need to build trusting relationships as a platform for leadership; positional leadership is fading.
Donald Laurie in 'The Real Work of Leaders' argues that we need to think about leadership in different ways.
The real work of the leaders is to stand back and see; to communicate what is real (Peter Drucker has said, the first task of the leader is to define reality); to clarify competing values; focus on supporting values; promote dialogue, regulate distress and make everyone responsible. In 'Leadership Without Easy Answers' (1998), Heifetz writes: "Leadership is the mobilization of adaptive work--the challenge of getting people to pay attention to issues that require painful adjustments and that people are inclined to resist--it is walking the razor's edge".
For those of us who walk by faith, we come back to the example of the Lord Jesus; the example of servant leadership--a term that is gaining influence in our complex world. It is leadership committed to the growth of the people we are called to lead; not just getting people to do things for you / the organization. It involves listening, empathy and humility, awareness, persuasion, stewardship and community building.
As we take this summer to pause and reflect; to recalibrate and look ahead, may the example of the Lord Jesus guide as we seek to discern His leading for the future of Valley!
The greatest among you will be your servant. (Mathew 23;11)
James Macgregor Burns (1978)
Never has so much been written on a subject that so few seem to really understand.