Employees sense it in the workplace. Churchgoers feel it on Sundays during the worship service. Volunteers observe it as they serve. Even teenagers can point it out at home, school, or at their part-time job. Bad leadership. For many, it’s all we know. The stifling, ceiling-hitting environments where a tyrant calls the shots and everyone else has to live with it, powerless to do or say anything that will make a difference.
The world is crying out for good leadership. From politics to commerce, from media to the church, the lack of effective leadership has left a large gap to be filled—and quality leadership from Christ followers is the ingredient to make the difference. No matter the setting, in business or ministry, certain traits define today’s effective leaders. How can we as Christ following leaders apply ourselves to filling the leadership gap and make a difference in the world today?
1. The effective leader must be strategic.
What exactly does that mean? According to Hughes & Beatty, strategic leadership occurs when individuals and teams think, act, and influence in ways that promote the sustainable competitive advantage of the organization. To do this, it is vital that the l leader know himself, his team, his organization, his mission, and his clientele.
Knowing who you are and where you are going in the long-term is essential if the leader is to be strategic. Having self-awareness and the ability to think about what approach is best for the organization considering multiple perspectives—employees, clients, and other stakeholders is key.
2. Leaders effect change in and through their organization.
As Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time.” Effective leaders are concerned with accomplishing the tasks of an organization, in fulfilling its mission and making the vision a reality. Along the road to success, there will be many things that need to change. From small inconsequential ways the organization does business to large organizational shifts including culture and employee placement, the effective leader isn’t afraid to effect change.
Jim Collins in Good to Great explains that an organization can have the right mission but the wrong people on the bus. Be sure the right people are in the right seats on the bus to accomplish the precise goals of the organization. Otherwise, the organization and the leader will fail. Effective leaders view change as a friend, a necessary component to a winning strategy to enhance the competitive advantage of the organization.
3. Relationship building is a primary tool of the effective leader.
Such individuals have the ability to transcend organizational goals to inspire and motivate others. Inspiration takes place through relationship. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” We must learn how to motivate followers to accomplish more than what is expected of them.
The good news is that the art of relationship building can be learned. Empathy, listening and communication skills can be sharpened to help the leader gain confidence in relationship building. Making a priority of relationship building will impact the leader’s daily calendar, but the rewards are great as organizational goals get realized more efficiently and individuals grow into more influential followers, thus increasing the effectiveness of the organization.
4. More than ever today, the effective leader must be a visionary.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 NKJV). If this were true in Solomon’s day, it is true even more today. The world is much smaller in many ways. Information travels much more quickly than ever before. These changes have necessitated reforms in organizations throughout the world. To have a competitive advantage, it is vital that a clear and motivating vision guide the organization to accomplish great things.
In his book, The Power of Vision, Joel Barker emphasizes the need for the leader to find, secure, and communicate a positive vision as a source of strength to overcome obstacles that often keep the organization from achieving excellence. One of the primary roles of the effective leader is consistently articulating the vision, giving followers something to work toward together.
5. Adaptability marks the attitude of the effective leader.
According to Ohio University, among the skills that employers are looking for in a potential employee, adaptability is ranked the highest along with communication, interpersonal skills and a strong work ethic. If this is true for the employee, then how much more is this true for the leader of an organization! Managing change in an organization requires adaptability, rolling with the punches of the day-to-day to stay one step ahead of the drag of what doesn’t work.
How does a leader cultivate adaptability? Certain personalities deal better with change than others. Our ability to demonstrate adaptability is contingent upon an examination of our thought patterns. If we are inflexible and resistant to change, we need only begin to examine the nature of our thoughts toward change. If we are successful in improving our mental approach toward change, we can see great strides come to our willingness to adapt in action on the job. As role models, effective leaders provide the example of adaptability.
6. Effective leaders never quit pursuing their goals.
Consider what Calvin Coolidge once said,
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
One hundred years ago a profound inventor named Thomas Edison never gave up creating a light bulb. Even with countless failures, Edison’s attitude became crystal clear when he was reported to say, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don't work.” This kind of persistence is what is needed to give the global leader the edge in today’s world. No matter the challenges and obstacles faced personally and professionally, the leader must continue the journey toward the goals set before him.
7. The effective leader exhibits transformational qualities.
This type of leader is concerned with inspiring followers to accomplish things beyond expectation. Considering the nature of communication and information flow today, global organizations must have leaders that go beyond personally getting great things accomplished. They must be about the work of inspiring followers to accomplish great things multiplying the effectiveness of the leader and therefore, the organization.
According to Kouzes and Posner, transformational leaders can accomplish incredible feats due to five practices.
• Model the way for followers; “walking the walk” of what they preach
• Inspire a shared vision; helping others to realize their dreams in the process
• Challenge the process and effect change; not settling for the status quo
• Enabling others to act; empowering them to do what it takes to get things accomplished
• Encourage the heart of the follower; building relationships and rewarding accomplishment
The process of achieving the status of the transformational leader takes time and perseverance as the journey can be daunting. The effective leader willingly submits himself to the process of growth. He does so with the end goal in mind—leading both the individual and the organization to accomplish much more than anyone expected while capturing the competitive advantage.
These seven qualities describe today’s effective leader. Without Christ, however, worldly achievements are temporary. The global leader is strategic, effecting change, relational, visionary, adaptable, never quits, and demonstrates transformational qualities.Taking the first letter of each of these and completing the leadership equation for Christ following leaders is being a servant.
8. Servanthood is an attitude of the heart and mind that Jesus exemplified and sought to instill in his followers.
Jesus told his disciples, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” (Mark 10:45). This is an overarching attitude that impacts the value of the individual in the leader’s mind and actions. As a Christian, to become an effective leader without the overarching attitude of servanthood motivating actions is to strip the evidence of Christ’s redemptive work from the leader’s life.
The Christian who is willing to endure the process of gaining experience and depth to achieve the status of the transformational leader must also be willing to carry the fragrance of Christ while leading. In setting the example for his disciples, Jesus lowered Himself and washed his disciple’s feet saying, “If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
Armed with godly traits embedded in character, the Christ following global leader has the unique opportunity to demonstrate the love of God throughout the world simply by serving those they influence at work. By exemplifying Christ’s servanthood to those within our spheres of influence, we positively impact the global landscape.
Christ following leaders dedicated to these eight principles are the antidote to the gap left by bad leadership. Effective leadership can be spelled s-e-r-v-a-n-t. What an incredible difference effective leadership can make!
Photo source: depositphotos
Andy Zawacki, a former pastor and teacher has a passion for developing leaders who will change the world. He serves as the Director of Ministry Development for Back to the Bible and is a doctoral student of strategic leadership at Regent University.