Leadership- then and now

O Lord you are there to help!Leadership was once about hard skills such as planning, finance, and business analysis. When command and control ruled the world, organization leaders were heroic rationalists who moved people around like pawns and fought like stags. When they spoke, the staff jumped.

Today, organizational leadership is increasingly concerned with soft skills—teamwork, communication, and motivation. Sadly for many top-level leaders, the soft skills remain the hardest to understand, let alone master.

Leadership in a modern organization is highly complex and increasingly difficult. Among the most crucial skills is the ability to capture your listener’s attention. Leaders of the future will also have to be emotionally efficient. They will promote variation rather than promoting people in their own likeness. They will encourage experimentation and enable people to learn from failure. They will build and develop people.

This may be too much to expect of one person. In the future, we will see more leadership groups rather than individual leaders. This change in emphasis from individuals towards groups has been charted by the leadership guru, Warren Bennis. In his work Organizing Genius, he concentrates on famous ground-breaking groups rather than individual leaders. “None of us is as smart as all of us,” says Professor Bennis. “The Lone Ranger is dead. Instead of the individual problem-solver, we have a new model for creative achievement. People like Steve Jobs or Walt Disney headed groups and found their own greatness in them.”

Professor Bennis provides a blueprint for the new model leader. “He or she is a pragmatic dreamer, a person with an original but attainable vision. Inevitably, the leader has to invent a style that suits the group. The standard models, especially command and control, simply don’t work. The heads of groups have to act decisively, but never arbitrarily. They have to make decisions without limiting the perceived autonomy of the other participants. Devising an atmosphere in which others can put a dent in the universe is the leader’s creative act.”

The role of the new model leader is ridden with contradictions. Paradox and uncertainty are increasingly at the heart of leading. Many leaders don’t like ambiguity, so they try to shape the environment to resolve the ambiguity. This may not be the best thing to do—the most effective leaders are flexible, responsive to new situations. If they are adept at hard skills, they surround themselves with people who are proficient with soft skills. They strike a balance.

The “leader as coach” is yet another phrase more often seen in business books than in the real world. Acting as a coach to a colleague is not something that comes easily to many senior-level leaders. It is increasingly common for executives to benefit from a mentoring relationship. They need to talk through decisions and to think through the impact of their behavior on others in the organization.

Today’s leaders regard leadership as drawing people and disparate parts of the organization together in ways that makes individuals and the organization more effective.

Adapted from Jonathan Farrington, What Leadership Was and What It Will Become 11 March 07

Chuck Swindoll wary of ‘corporatization’ of church

I have been pastoring since 1980 and there is a trend that I have observed: an increasing “corporatization” of the churches in Singapore. This is partly down to the fact that many lay leaders come from the corporate background and are successful in the MNCs or big local companies. When they are appointed leaders in the church they naturally think that what works to make the company a success must surely make the church a success too.

Some of the so called “best practices” of companies actually have spiritual parallel in biblical values. Forming high performance teamwork is a case in point. The church is the body of Christ and the members perform different functions according to the grace given by Christ. They work together, complementing and respecting one another, for “high performance” and growth of the community. Leadership in church should work well with a good gift mix and deep respect and mutual submission in the team.

However, there are some practices that do more harm than good when introduced from the corporation to the church. I shall not elaborate on these. For now, just read what Chuck Swindoll, respected evangelical pastor, best selling author, seminary president and mentor of pastors has to say on this:

I have discovered three principles and three imperatives I believe all churches should examine and apply. The first principle is this: clear, biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. And the imperative? Think spiritually! However well-organized our churches become, we must give priority to biblical rather than to secular thinking. In the first-century church, there were no secular organizational structures or church politics. There was no guru of authority or “chairman” of anything. There were no power grabs from control freaks. There were no personal maneuverings, infightings, financial squabbles, or turf protection. Instead, it was a place where a spiritual emphasis took precedence over the world’s way of doing things.

What does this look like when applied today? For starters, our teaching needs to be biblically based and spiritually inclined. Our Sunday school classes, adult fellowships, and small-group instruction gatherings need to center on the teaching of the Bible and spiritual lessons. Our songs and our hymns should have spiritual content. Our counseling ministry needs to be derived from the Spirit’s revelation in the Scriptures. Our relationships with one another need to have spiritual priorities—intimate fellowship where people can trust one another. The church ought to be the one place where spiritual thinking overrides everything else—all those battles we fight within the marketplace. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. The church is a spiritual entity.

To read more go to his blog post HERE.

Today’s pastors need encouragement

Thank you Lord for creative and caring members

I was so blessed to receive a gift the other Sunday. It was not a box of mooncakes. Rather, something more precious:  a wooden box  with a beautiful handpainted rainbow, the word “Inspiring” and my name “Kenny”. Each of the English adult congregation pastor received one – each unique. Inside the box were well-crafted and anonymous personal notes of appreciation and affirmation. I read mine a few times and was encouraged. There are always warm and loving people in church who are spiritually alert and know when their pastors need encouragement and they do something about it.

They are like  Jonathan, that rare gem, the covenant brother of David.

Your love for me abounds. Thank You Lord.

It is often forgotten that every pastor needs encouragement just as much as members. In fact, they need it even more. For many reasons too.

For one, they had entered the ministry with a passion to make a difference in people’s lives, but it frustrates and pulls them down when their expectations have not been matched with reality on the ground. People change so little and so slowly. Some even get worse. Some members show so much of their dark sides, it makes pastors feel like Elijah under the juniper tree.

The ministry is very demanding and people have unrealistic expectations of their pastors. To worsen things, the pastor lives in a Web 2.0 world where his members can hear the best preachers in town and the world, and be unfairly  compared to and criticized. In addition, the pastor pushes himself constantly, and even lays his health and family on the altar of people’s immature expectations .

Another pastoral struggle is the fight in the mind against anxiety and fear. Even more vexing is the struggle to embrace ambiguity, paradox and suffering in ministry.

Pastors  get burnt out from prolonged labour and no sabbaticals; weary from working with meagre fruit to show for sacrifices put in; and from being misunderstood and hurt.

To worsen things are professional critics who think they are doing the church good by criticizing with disdain and disregard the weaknesses of the church and pastors.

Satan is of course always searching for unmended gaps in the fence of unity through which to discourage, harass, attack pastors. Centuries of expertise has informed their strategies. “Get the leader and the sheep will suffer,” the devil officer will tell his demon soldiers. “Use the church members and it doubles the impact of hurt and discouragement.”

When David was running for his life with the state army of king Saul searching for him in the wilderness of Ziph, he was filled with discouragement and fear.  Jonathan risked angering his father Saul, and found David and encouraged him:

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,”  he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”(1 Samuel 23:16-17)

Mooncakes supplies energy, which pastors need. But encouragement supplies hope and fresh motivation for the journey ahead.

Pastors of today, more than ever, need treasure boxes like the one I have received.