Leadership: Being or Doing?
In light of an upcoming leadership conference I’m directing, I’ve been thinking about issues of leadership. The process is pushing me to think anew about the role and nature of leaders.
The NNU Wesley Center conference, “Leadership in God’s Reign of Love,” is coming soon: February 7-8. (Here’s a link to register if you have not already done so: register.) We’ve got a great line-up of speakers, including Walter C. Wright, Jr. , Tom Nees, Ed Robinson, Tammy Condon, and Sherri Walker.
Why, How, and What?
All of my preparation work has ignited a desire to think more deeply about leadership in general and my own style of leadership. Two more general leadership books have helped me.
In his book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek writes about the “what,” “how,” and “why” of leadership. He says most people concentrate on the results – the “what” they want to accomplish as leaders. Others realize getting to the results is not likely without a good strategy or plan – the “how.” So they spend most of their time thinking about the process of getting results.
Sinek argues that the big and most important question is the “why” question. He offers many examples of companies and leaders who became very clear about their purpose and passion. This clarity and the drive to stay true to it brought them success in the other areas.
At the Leadership in God’s Reign of Love conference, we’re going to spend a great deal of time with all three questions. I’ve asked about two dozen people to lead table discussions that allow conference participants to wrestle with these three major questions in their own leadership contexts.
The second book I’ve been reading is called, The World Café: Shaping Our Futures through Conversations that Matter. The book basically argues that small conversations are often the most effective way to develop positive change. Getting people together to talk about what matters most in leadership can lead to amazing transformation!
Each year, I teach a graduate level course on missional leadership. While other courses in the missional leadership program focus on a variety of issues, my class takes the doctrine of God as central to thinking about the topic. We ask, in short, what kind of leader might God be?
In most classes, students report that the discussions we have about God’s power are most insightful. I ask about divine sovereignty, and I wonder aloud if God has the power to coerce. We then talk about persuasion and coercion for God as it might relate to human leadership persuasion or coercion.
Most students report that they believe God works persuasively, which includes inviting cooperation and contributions from others. And they say missional leaders should imitate God in this kind of leading.
All of this leads me often to ask about a classic philosophical question: does it matter more who we are or what we do. In leadership terms, is leading more about being or doing?
In my mind, the “being vs. doing” issue inevitably leads me to emphasize both. We don’t think leaders act as leaders unless they “do”: they lead. But leading shapes our character and develops habits in us that create us as leaders: we “become.”
I’m looking forward to the February leadership conference at NNU. I honestly think the kingdom of God – God’s reign of love – will be positively influenced by those who come together at this conference to consider what leadership looks like today.
I hope you can join us at the conference!