Why leadership matters…December 18, 2019
Leadership guru Peter Drucker once said that only three things come naturally to all organisations: friction, confusion and under performance. Everything else requires leadership.
It’s worth thinking about. My observation is that those in church circles have an uneasy relationship with leadership. They are conscious of how easily it can be abused, and of how some leaders embark on toxic quests for power and control, using the nobility of the mission of Jesus to mask their naked ambition. Consequently they are quick to point out that genuine Christian leadership is different, and they are right. After all, Jesus not only taught servant leadership, he modelled it as well. It is the latter step that was the game changer, for we all know that talk is cheap, but when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet shortly before his crucifixion – well, clearly that was more than just talk.
Christian leaders also know that they are never the prime leader – for only God has that role. Christian leaders need to be led, and know that they will ultimately account for the way they have followed or ignored the leading of God.
There are many other qualifiers we sometimes add to the task of Christian leadership, but in our caution let’s not overlook how important good leadership is, and the difference it makes to any organisation – be it a workplace, the church or the local sports club.
Think of the three natural but unhealthy defaults Drucker identifies…
Friction is often present in organisations because we don’t have a leader who can help us hold courageous conversations which help to nip deteriorating talk in the bud. Without that, unacceptable behaviours get glossed over, and so continue. If there has been no one to help us stamp out gossip, selfish agendas, and sloppy habits, friction inevitably results.
If you are in a harmonious workplace, thank God for the leadership that has helped bring it about. It doesn’t come naturally. If you are not, think if there is a way to strengthen your current leaders so that this can change. It is possible to exercise a form a leadership from the second, third and fourth chair, so simply because you are not the main upfront leader does not mean you can’t help set the culture in your organisation.
Confusion is the second of the default states identified by Drucker. It expresses itself in different ways, most commonly by people saying they don’t know what is going on, and if they do, they don’t know why it is going on. Decisions seem a mystery, and people are not sure just what direction they should go in. They might have a general sense of what they are supposed to be doing, but because they don’t see its place in the wider vision of the organisation, they don’t know where to direct their extra energy, or what would be helpful.
You have a good leader if the people in your organisation are able to say, this is where we are going, this is why we are going there, and this is the role I am supposed to play in getting there. If they can not only say it, but say it with enthusiasm, you have an outstanding leader.
Again, if this is not the position, why not explore ways you could help to rectify things. Some leaders have a clear sense of what is supposed to be happening, but have failed to communicate it effectively. Or perhaps some decisions have been made that the leader forgot to convey. Perhaps you can jolt their memory, or think about ways that you can move from confusion to clarity.
Underperformance is the final of the woes that under led organisations find. There is a leadership dividend that is tangible in well run organisations. People sense they are a part of a place that is going somewhere, and so want to bring their best self to it. The reality is that we are all potentially many different selves. There is our bored, disengaged self, or our preoccupied self, or our anxious even fearful self. None of them see us produce our best. But if the leadership of our organisation has articulated a clear, worthy, stretching and attainable vision, we are likely to step up, and do the best we can, especially if the environment is also encouraging and affirming.
If the leader or leaders you serve under tick all these boxes, you can indeed by grateful – and do tell them that you appreciate what they do (for there are many times when leadership is a lonely and difficult road, and leaders also need encouragement). But if not, why not see if there is a chance to lead from the second, third or forth chair. Much better to be part of the solution than to simply add to the friction, confusion and underperformance.