Once upon a time, in another life, I had the privilege of being a team leader. As a new team leader I was obliged, at various times, to attend leadership training. Regretfully, much of what I heard has been long forgotten. That is apart from a lecture given by one of the “in vogue” leadership “gurus” of the day. I’m sorry I can’t remember his name but he was an Englishman. It was clear from his lecture that he was not a professing Christian – and yet, on at least three occasions, he made reference to religion. The first was in relation to the optimum number for an effective team. “It has always surprised me,” he said, “that the man they call the Son of God chose 12 people for his team”. He went on to argue that 12 was the optimum number for an effective team. Later when speaking about the importance of clear communication he stated that, in his opinion, one of the greatest communicators he had ever heard was the evangelist Billy Graham. Again, he went on to elaborate on his reasons for saying so.
But is was his assertion as to the most important quality of a team leader that struck me most. He said that to be an effective team leader – the leader must love his team! I was extremely surprised – given the context and the audience he was addressing. He went on to ask how a leader could do that? Again I remember his first words following the question – “some people turn to religion”. He then quoted some words from a hymn, which, at that moment, I did not see the particular relevance of in the context, but were these – “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee”. As far as I can remember he stopped there, did not use any other example and moved on. However the example he had just used helped me to feel I may, for once, have had a head start – because I knew exactly what he was trying to say!
In subsequent dealings as a team leader I always tried to remember his advice – especially since, whether he fully knew it or not, he was in fact sharing the heart of Jesus message and what, in reality, it means to be a Christian – to love God and love others!
In public service over some 30 years I had many supervisors, of all ranks and shades of opinion. The majority of those were good leaders and I am proud to have been associated with them. It is also true that not every self proclaimed Christian makes a good leader in the workplace. But – and it’s a big but for me – the best leader I ever had the privilege of serving in my 30 years as a Police Officer was a Christian. He was open hearted, kind, transparent, loved others and always had their best interests at heart. He trusted his team , empowered and supported his staff and lived with integrity and honesty. He was, in fact, an example to me of the best kind of leader. And I am not suggesting such qualities are always restricted to the Christian – but this was my experience. However, the fruit of such leadership is very apparent. In a team led by such a man [or woman] you will find willing participation, innovation, inspiration, vision, commitment, productivity, respect, contentment and great fun – which is what the leadership guru was driving at. The leader who knows the love of God – and lives the love of God is a person at peace with themselvs. They are secure in the knowledge of who they truly are and always recognises the good and potential in others and are happy to see them promoted – even above him or herself. On the other hand leaders who seek to control, manipulate, divide to conquer and who puts self promotion above all else – will never lead the most effective or content team – and will never tap the full potential of his/her people.
Some years ago now, during a discussion on the failure and dangers of leadership and at a point where I was questioning the need for leadership in a certain context, a cousin of mine made, what to me at that moment, was a very simple but profound statement – “People follow leaders”. And there is a sense in which we all, at some point in life, have the potential to become people whom others follow – whether they are our children, friends, colleagues, staff, church members or in some official management role. But whatever our sphere of influence as leaders might be, now, or in the future, may we all follow that golden rule – and love our team as Jesus loves us! And yes – it is in being firstly – “Consecrated Lord to Thee” – that gives us the enablement to truly lead and serve others!