Leadership and Personal Growth

Lt Colonel Allan Hofer“For the sake of others”

Someone characterized great leadership as follows:

“A great leader…their character is deeper, their ideas fresher, their spirit softer, their courage greater, their leadership decisions better, their concerns wider, their compassion more genuine. They give away power…they ask great questions. They understand the key role of a leader is to create other leaders.”

Three years ago I was asked by a colleague as to why I felt it necessary at that stage in my ministry to apply to attend a leadership course with the ARROW Executive Stream program.  He thought I was already well established in leadership. My answer to that question was simple: “For the sake of others around me”.

If I was to lead well and in a manner honoring to the Lord, I needed to increase my capacity to lead for the sake of those around me and frankly for the sake of the Kingdom.

I am very conscious that leadership in one word is influence. Leaders can influence in both negative and positive ways.  Leaders either cast shadows or light wherever they go.  Jesus meant for us to be salt and light.  He calls us out of darkness into light.

Christlike leadership is crucial in helping us and those around us become all that God wants us to be.

Proverbs 11: 14 states: “Without wise leadership a nation is in trouble.” This is true of every area of life. Without wise leadership a family is in trouble, a business is in trouble, a community is in trouble, and/or a Corps (Church) congregation is in trouble. Without wise leadership your own team is in trouble. No single factor is more important in determining the effectiveness of an organization than the quality of its leadership.

Based on this reality leaders need to invest in their own personal growth. That investment is not to receive acclamation from those around us nor is it just for one’s own sake.  It is meant to help people around us grow and become healthier and whole.

The ARROW journey for me was instrumental and transformational in my own leadership journey.  For a period of 18 months I was in community both onsite and online where I was held accountable by the ARROW faculty and by fellow leaders as well. Their approach and aim is to help leaders in three areas: To be led more by Jesus, to lead more like Jesus and to lead more to Jesus.  This seemed to be a perfect fit for me.

It was a time for me not only to gain new skills but also to reflect back on my role as a Christian leader.

  • To be led more by Jesus

As a Christian leader I am first and foremost a follower. To use Salvation Army terminology I am a soldier first and secondly an officer. I must continue to learn to surrender and submit to the Lordship of Christ, spending time in His presence, being rooted in Him and  learning to understand God’s heart for people.

Henry Nouwen, in his book “In the Name of Jesus” writes:

“Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice and guidance.”  (pg 45)

The One who offers life giving water calls us to come and spend time with Him so that this water may overflow from us to others.

  • To lead more like Jesus

Jesus spent much time around people.  As a leader I need to invest in others never putting a task before people.  More to the point, I must understand that my tasks are completed in the context of serving God and His people.   The disciples were a motley crew but He still led them in love, speaking truth into their lives and not fearing to confront them when this was necessary. Jesus was a leader worth following because people knew that He was authentic. What He said and what He did were one and the same.  They knew that He loved them.

Jesus modelled Servant Leadership. Servant leadership is always in the best interest of those being led for it always rejoices in the growth and development of others. Oh Lord help me to lead more like you.

I love the following quote by Andy Stanley:

“You can lead without character. But character is what makes you a leader worth following.”

My only hope is to emulate Christ’s leadership by being led more by Him myself.

  • To lead more to Jesus.

In the corporate world success is measured and defined by financial returns, by profit.   Christian leadership is not positional or power-based as defined by the secular world. It is a delegated influence given by God. Christlikeness and service defines us.

Brother Lawrence writes:

“Neither success not status defines Christian leaders, service defines a Christian leader.”

It really is about reverse marketing. We begin with Jesus and we end with Jesus. It is all about Him, His Name and His Glory. Sometimes when under pressure we can lose this perspective and miss the whole point of the mission. I have learned the importance of when faced with a relentless schedule of meetings and decision making of stepping on to the balcony for a few moments and regaining a new sense of purpose and perspective. It is all about Jesus.

We work under His authority.  General (R) Linda Bond is quoted as saying:

Christian leadership recognizes the privilege of the role as a channel of Christ’s authority. It is responsible to Him and committed to selfless service, marked by integrity and humility.

My prayer is that I may emulate Christ’s leadership and that my service as a Salvation Army leader be one that will bring Him glory and honour.

The same person at the beginning of this article recently asked me if I was now done with learning after ARROW. My response to him was: “For the sake of others, never.” As long as I have breath I will continue my quest to learn.

Poised for the Mission

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4: 7 – 10

I sat in Conference Room 2 at the United Nations in New York City.  Before me was a sea of faces reflecting the diversity of culture world-wide.

The issues being discussed were deeply entrenched in these cultures and were many.  Underlying the issues ran a common thread:  the establishment of a better standard of living by recognizing, valuing, affirming and giving agency to persons.  How that should and does get worked out is as varied as the cultures represented.

In the absence of the Gospel, the language is “human rights.”  The distinct attitude is “entitlement.”  The platform is political.

We do not denigrate culture but follow a Leader Who enters and transcends culture.  Jesus walked among and interacted with the Jews, the Romans, the Samaritans, the politicians, the religious leaders and others comprising the world of His day.  Jesus lived in culturally troubled times.  The issues then were very much the same as they are now:  religious and political power struggles, women’s issues, and the yearning for more.

Jesus was not troubled.  He was marked by poise—neither because he had elevated status or position nor because he was a silvery-tongued orator who was able to manipulate with his words.  He was poised because he knew to Whom he belonged!  This deep sense of identity as the Father’s Son and as His ambassador meant that Jesus was free to do the Father’s bidding and love well.  His agenda was the Father’s agenda.  His platform was relationship.

The language of the Gospel is not human rights:  it is incarnational love walked out among those clutching for their own sense of identity and value, often by embracing the externals of life.

Incarnational living is the one real hope for impacting culture so that the change is truly transformational.  Do not be taken in by counterfeit measures.  Jesus spent time with the Father as his first priority and then moved among men.  The rhythm is the same for us.  We must sit with and before our Father and then move among men.

Living like Jesus means that our energies and efforts will be single-focused:  Knowing Christ results in the fellowship of His sufferings [which we undergo for redemptive purposes in us and through us] so that glory is brought to the Father.

Knowing Jesus brings poise to our walk.  Let’s consider this as we learn to lead effectively, love inclusively and serve helpfully. Embrace the journey!

Book Review – “Fresh Encounter”

Fresh EncounterThis month we continue to build upon last month’s theme, stewardship, by transitioning our focus to personal growth. The greatest catalyst for revival is the understanding that no matter how much we have grown spiritually, our personal development pales in comparison to the standard, Jesus Christ.

In “Fresh Encounter,” authors Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King, discuss the need for continual revival in the Christian community.  They assert that Christian leaders work in an environment that requires us to give so much of ourselves and challenge others to grow, and we are also called to continue to develop ourselves as well.  Many of us find ourselves spiritually stagnant. We often fail to take the time to truly nurture and continue to develop ourselves. It is at time easier to focus on others.

The authors emphasize there is an ever present need for a fresh encounter with Christ and often a need to revisit the basics of our faith in order to spur growth.  The authors offer fresh perspective to the ministry concept that we must view ourselves in light of Christ and we must be refilled in order to continue to pour into others.

“Fresh Encounter” offers practical ways for continued renewal and personal growth by discussing the purpose of prayer in revival, the history of revival moments in Christian community, how to become a catalyst for revival, and common mistakes we make in ministry that hinder those around us from gaining a renewed desire for growth.