Let’s face it, every one of us who have worked at least a day in our lives have had at least one boss that was just a jerk. Some of us may have had more than that, but I’m pretty sure that we’ve all had at least one experience with an arrogant, egotistic, self-centered, and dictatorial boss.
Having had some experience with bosses that were less than desirable to work with and for, I have grown somewhat sensitive to my own methods in leading people, whether paid or volunteer. I have caught myself elevating the tasks above the people, obsessing over what needs to be done rather than the people that need to do it. That kind of leadership is destructive, leads to high turnover, and treats people as simple cogs in a system: replaceable and lifeless.
When I worked as a consulting engineer, I went through the project manager training with my company. Much of what we talked about and were taught had to do with budgets and managing the project in regards to tasks and activities. Not much was spoken about managing people. With project management, the project and budget are an important and vital part, but it is the people who get the work done and to miss that is to miss great management and leadership.
One thing that I have really appreciated about my seminary experience is that there is a high focus on theology and Scripture but there is an equal emphasis on leadership, so much so that there is a possibility of pursuing the Master’s of Divinity degree with a focus on Transformational Leadership. As I continue to take leadership classes in pursuit of my degree, I am acting like a sponge, doing my best to soak in all of the wisdom and knowledge that I am learning from these classes.
I read a book the other night for one of my classes called “Leadership by the Book: Tools to Transform your Workplace” by Ken Blanchard, Bill Hybels, and Phil Hodges. It’s an older book and often, I have to admit, I judge a book by its cover. I was not incredibly hopeful when I took a look at this book. I just didn’t know what I was going to get out of it, it seemed fairly generic. I was pleasantly surprised at what I got out of it. Below are a number of quotes that stood out to me in reading the book.
“He came to believe that people were content merely to talk about good leadership practices rather than actually implement them.” (p. 14)
“His duties were quickly defined by the existing traditions imposed by a strong council of lay members whose families had attended the church for three and four generations. The senior pastor, while kind to his new associate and interested in some of his innovative ideas, had become a reluctant but weary upholder of the status quo.” (p. 28)
“Jesus is interested in us becoming different people, not just in our acting differently.” (p. 40)
“The weakness of rules is that people can always find a way to live comfortably within the letter of the law without it affecting their hearts or character.” (p. 41)
“People who are leaders first are too often those who naturally try to control, to make decisions, to give orders. They’re ‘driven’ to lead – they want to be in charge. And they’re possessive about their leadership position – they think they own it.” (p. 42)
“Leaders often just don’t know how to develop people, and they end up doing all the work themselves. In addition to burning themselves out, their people remain dependent on them and underdeveloped.” (p. 55)
“When people’s egos take control, they become other-directed and determine and evaluate who they are by external rewards, not internal peace.” (p. 69)
“They try to overcome their spiritual emptiness by striving to hold on to control and maintaining their leadership position at any cost.” (p. 73)
“…the most important people in organizations – those individuals who have contact with customers – spend all their time looking over their shoulders trying to figure out what their boss wants rather than focusing on the needs of the customer.” (p. 133)
“I’ve discovered that people don’t mind tough goals if they know they have a manager who’s in their corner.” (p. 148)
This kind of leadership, both within the workforce as well as in the church, is not found as often as it should be. Specifically within the church, an organization that has a tendency to be a few years behind in the area of innovation, the business models and principles that have been adopted are outdated and treat pastors more like managers rather than shepherds. Eugene Peterson has a lot to say about this in his book/memoir “The Pastor.”
Whatever it is that we do, wherever it is that we lead, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are leading people. They have thoughts, emotions, and feelings, just like we do. When they are cut, they bleed, when they are insulted or demeaned, they hurt. People cannot become just a means to an end. The minute that they become that to us as leaders is the minute that we need to step back and ask ourselves whether or not we are leading correctly.