The start of a new series here at Abbey Research - Leadership Voices. Leadership is such a dynamic discipline, and we are so fortunate to know so many students of that discipline who are in so many different roles that we wanted to feature some of them. We at AR have always found that learning is best done from others, and personal stories are easier to glean wisdom from then theories. If you'd like to participate in Leadership Voices - through writing your own blog or being interviewed by Dr. Donnelly - then contact us here. We're looking for a cornucopia of opinions, so please get in touch!
Today's Leadership Voice comes to us from Northern Ireland. Jim Deeds is the Parish Development Co-Ordinator for the Diocese of Down and Connor, but he's also a poet, theologian, and leader. Dr. Donnelly asked him to craft a short blog on what leadership means to him and his answer is below. Jim tweets at @gymforthesoul.
A lifetime ago, when I was studying to be a social worker, I heard a sentence that has stuck with me ever since: ‘the sign of real leadership is that good things happen round good leaders’. This has been my working model of leadership ever since. It leads me to speculate on some of the key tasks of a good leader.
Leaders Care: (“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” He must become greater; I must become less Isaiah.” 41: 10): Leaders are not distant creatures to be feared. A good leader will truly care about those whom she/he leads. This will be demonstrated practically in a leader being available, approachable and interested in the people/project they are called to lead.
Leaders Listen: (“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12: 12). The task of leadership is one that requires the voices of many people to be heard. It’s not of much use to anyone (especially the leader) to sit in splendid isolation of others in their tasks. Leading people means listening to people; and truly listening to people means listening empathically with a desire to truly take on board what you hear.
Leaders Empower Others: (“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Philippians 2:3): Leadership is an outward facing task. Leaders are called to recognise the gifts in those they lead and are challenged to nurture those talents. Self-interest has no place in a leader’s mind. What good if a leader is skilled up, earns more money and accolades and progresses to better things if those they lead and the projects they work on fall by the way side?
Leaders Lead: (“For want of guidance a people fails, safety lies in many advisors” Proverbs 11:14): Leaders are called to develop, hold and give a vision for how things can be; for how things can be better. A good leader will know that to give a vision away, one must truly believe in that vision. Therefore, a good leader will develop a vision over time, spending time in deliberations and discernment to enrichen that vision. Ultimately, a good leader will know when to lead from the front, taking responsibility for her/his vision and people. They will also, of course, know when to leader from the midst of their people, allowing the voices of many to echo out much more than their lone voice.
Leaders Serve: (Mark 10: 42-45 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”): This encapsulates what I understand to be at the core of leadership; paradoxically it is a task of service as well. All the work of the leader is geared towards serving the people, the project, the organisation, the mission.
In this way, the leader is much more than a manger, for example. There is nothing wrong with good management. We need good management of resources and of time lines and outputs. However, leadership goes far beyond managing in this way. Servant leaders invest themselves in the work they do. They have a genuine interest for the tasks at hand and much more for the people they lead. They don’t get caught up in always having to tell people what to do. No, through service good things happen round good leaders.