One of the most important things that will help you grow as an integrated leader is knowing your story, owning your story, and telling your story. Watch this Leadership Lab video to see what I learned from Plass and Cofield’s book The Relational Soul.
Aristotle’s Four Causes
In order to be an intelligent and effective leader you have to know a little bit of philosophy. In this leadership lab video, I frame up the most basic teachings of Aristotle about the nature of reality.
Leadership Lab: Leading vs. Facilitating
Have you considered the difference between facilitating and leading? Many leaders think they are leading a gospel community but in reality they are facilitating. The difference between the two is crucial for every leader to understand.
The Importance of “Self” in a Leader
We often say that Christian leaders ought to be selfless. But have we considered what we mean by this word? Is it possible for a leader be self-ish without being selfish?
One of the most thought-provoking books on leadership I’ve read in the past 12 months is Edwin H. Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve. (I give a brief video summary of this book here.) Friedman, who died in 1996, was a Jewish Rabbi, a family therapist, and a leadership consultant. His take on leadership is interesting, intriguing, and nuanced.
Friedman discerned in American culture a “systemic anxiety” which subtly works to destabilize leaders and undermine their leadership. One of the ways this anxiety manifests itself is in “the association of self with autocracy and narcissism rather than with integrity and individuality.” Friedman explains:
Well-meaning efforts to eliminate the evils of selfishness by eliminating self can have a regressive effect on a community… Far from being antagonistic to the purposes of community, the expression of self in a leader is what makes the evolution of a community possible… Well-defined self in a leader – what I call self-differentiation – is not only critical to effective leadership, it is precisely the leadership characteristic that is most likely to promote the kind of community that preserves the self of its members.
The twin problems confronting leadership in our society today, the failure of nerve and the desire for a quick fix, are not the result of overly strong self but of weak or no self.
I think Friedman is onto something here. At the risk of over-simplifying his insights, I seem him proposing a “third way” of understanding self. We are often pressured to embrace a binary choice: either the self or the community, either individuality or togetherness, either me or us. When faced with this binary choice, choosing “self” is always a choice against community, against togetherness, against “us.” But this binary choice is a fallacy. In reality there are three options:
No sense of self Well-differentiated self Selfishness/autocracy
(all us, no me) (me, for the sake of us) (all me, no us)
I’m especially convinced of Friedman’s point that “Well-defined self in a leader… is most likely to promote the kind of community that preserves the self of its members.”
So, leaders: do you understand the difference between self and selfishness? Are you growing in having a well-defined presence, yet without selfishness and self-will?
(As a gospel aside: learning this will likely involve some mistakes and over-corrections. That’s why you’ll need to continually return to the gospel. You’ll likely fail by being autocratic, harsh, and inflexible (selfish). Or, you’ll fail by being unprincipled, soft, and passive (self-less). Continual repentance and faith, strengthened by the grace of God in Jesus, will be necessary.)
In summary, Christian leaders should be selfless… but not self-less. What new insights does this discussion give you? What questions does it raise?