A Healthy Leader
Over the course of twenty-five years as a leader, and a lifetime observing leaders, it is interesting to me how organizations/churches take on the personalities of their leaders. Healthy leaders often lead healthy organizations. Unhealthy leaders often leave in the tracks broken dysfunctional organizations in the end.
As the Baptist General Convention of Texas looks for a new leader I believe it is critical that our search committee select a “healthy” leader to guide us into the future. When I say a healthy leader I am not speaking primarily of his physical health although that does play a part. I am speaking of a leader who is spiritually and emotionally healthy. A leader’s spiritual and emotional health colors how he or she leads and relates to people. Leadership boiled down to its basic element revolves around relationships. Healthy leaders develop and maintain healthy relationships. Dysfunctional leaders may look good in the spot light, but behind the scenes they leave in their wake broken relationships.
Leading a complex system as large as the BGCT is not a task for the faint of heart, nor is it the task for the man who thinks he is “superman”. The BGCT does not need a hero. The BGCT needs a humble, servant leader. We need to remember Jesus taught great lessons on leadership. He pointed out “the greatest of all is the servant of all”.
Jim Collins in Good to Great reported his findings from studying a number of the greatest corporations in the world. His team of researchers were instructed to avoid the temptation to attribute corporate success to a great leader. However, their research revealed y that great companies were led by healthy leaders. They coined the phrase “Level 5” leaders. These leaders were a study in duality: “modest and willful, humble and fearless”. These leaders were very humble, yet have a tremendous ambition for the organization’s success. Simply put, when you lead like Jesus taught good things happen. We need a leader who is more concerned about the effectiveness of the BGCT than about who gets the credit. Collins noted that when things go wrong Level 5 leaders “look in the mirror and take responsibility” and when things go well they “look out the window and give credit to others”.
Another aspect of being a healthy leader is being at peace with yourself. Peter Steinke in How Your Church Family Works notes that good leaders are those who are “differentiated”. They are able to separate themselves from what they do and the organization they lead. All leaders have struggled from time to time with the temptation to “over-function” or to take on too much responsibility for the group. Healthy leaders realize their value in life has to do to with their “being” rather than their “doing”. Steinke described a healthy leader as one who responds to the challenges in an organization with maturity revealed by a willingness to accept proximate solutions to insolvable problems, the ability to wait, seek support of others, use systemic thinking, acknowledge impasse, look for due process, set clear goals, loosen grip, relax and make clear decisions with specific actions (Steinke, How Your Church Family Works). Steinke looks at churches and organizations from the perspective of systems theory which in essence suggests all organizations function more like organisms than machines.
Edwin Friedman led in the application of systems theory to churches/organizations. He argued that a pastor (CEO) served like the father of a family and that everyone in the church/organization has a connection or relationship to him. When an organization faces conflict or a storm it is critical for the leader to be a “non anxious presence”. In other words, how the leader responds to a crisis will create the weather for the organization. If the leader gets up tight and begins to panic or to be reactive the system will be inflamed, but if the leader remains calm the storm will diminish and pass in time. In light of the critical crossroads we face in the BGCT it seems obvious we need a leader who calms storms rather than creates unnecessary storms.
Looking for this kind of leader demands probing deep into the heart and motivation of the leader. When the LORD went looking for a king he found him not in the palace nor in the halls of state, but rather a young shepherd boy who had a heart after the heart of God.