by Kenneth O. Gangel
Winston Churchill spoke of that “special moment” when a person is “figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents; what a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would have been his finest hour.”
Winston Churchill spoke of that "special moment" when a person is "figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents; what a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would have been his finest hour." In the next 10 or 15 years, scores of missionaries are going to be in precisely that position and the tapping will be more than figurative. Let us agree that some will be prepared and qualified; some will be prepared but unqualified; some will be qualified but unprepared, and still others will be neither prepared nor qualified.
HOW DO WE AVOID THE RECRUITMENT PITFALLS?
Since the responsibility for the preparation of new leaders invariably falls upon existing leaders, the major amount of our time (those of us currently holding leadership roles in some form of global ministry) must be given in finding, training and producing successors.
In doing so, there are several pitfalls to be avoided. Often the pitfalls center around a bias that comes either from our commitment to tradition, or the failure of our own leadership styles. Permit me to identify three bias-type pitfalls constantly plaguing Christian leaders of all types. The first we might call availability bias, which finds us grabbing the first warm body whenever a need presents itself. Pastors do this when deacons and elders, Sunday school superintendents do it with teachers, and mission executives do it with missionaries.
It may be admirable for a missionary trained in church planting to take over the deanship of the Bible institute, but his pliability and willingness do not substitute for training and expertise in the area into which we have thrust him. Just because a person is "there" does not mean he or she represents God’s choice for that particular position. This is an evangelical variation on the old sales error which finds salesmen recommending not necessarily the product that meets a customer’s needs, but the one that they have been most recently trained to sell.
The availability bias is compounded by the association – bias, in which we choose leaders for position B because we remember they were successful in position A. Such an error forgets that leadership is always situational. Indeed, three ingredients invariably present themselves in every leadership situation — the leader, the people he serves, and the situation in which he serves them. Failure to consider any of these three ingredients is a failure to understand the essential nature of leadership.
Association bias is easily seen in executive decision-making. We often choose a course of action because we associate it with some past success, failing to understand that the current problem, really very different, calls for a different solution. Kepner-Tregoe, a Princeton-based firm that has given basic decision training to two million managers, says U.S. companies use good decision skills only 12 percent of the time. Shrewd and wise leaders will study carefully the process of decision-making, willing to recognize their own bias and model the process of decision-making for the new generation of leaders.
Finally, there is agreement-bias which selects leaders by appointing those who hold carefully to the party line and have no record of rocking the boat. Never mind that they have no record of initiative, no vision, and no demonstration of capability toward supervising the work of others. Such candidates remind us of James Unger’s domestic anecdote:
"Osborne," said the Duchess to a household employee, "How long have you been with us? According to my records, you were employed to look after the dog." "Yes, Ma’am." "Mrs. Bellamy tells me the dog died 27 years ago." "Yes Ma’am. What would you like me to do now?"1
WHAT KIND OF CLIMATE DEVELOPS LEADERS?
I am fully persuaded that the New Testament calls for team leadership. Team leadership is inseparably related to having mutually accepted goals. When all team members aim in the same direction, group goals are achieved and, generally, personal goals are fulfilled. When various members of the leadership team drive in different directions, we see: (a) a lack of team accomplishment; (b) a focus on personal goals which takes people further from each other rather than drawing them closer together; (c) an emphasis on a variety of priorities rather than the priorities that stem from mutually agreed-upon goals; (d) somewhat regular team conflict; and (e) skills of team members not being used.
Several heresies attack team leadership and seek once again to raise up "Lone Ranger" bosses who only keep Tonto around to hold Silver’s reins. In the midst of the prosperity gospel, the emphasis on assertiveness, and the plaudits for the political clout of evangelicals, we need to re-assert again the leadership style of the New Testament.
In addition to team leadership, the climate for leadership development emphasizes a decentralized institutional philosophy. Our goal is to push decision-making and authority as far down the ranks as possible so that the people who live with the actual implementation have a major voice in the decision. Once again we turn from what some commonly refer to as the "strong natural leader" to the work of corporals and privates whenever possible.
Decentralization means Barnabas in his first opportunity as a senior pastor rushing off to Tarsus to find Saul, probably knowing full well that the latter would outshine him in Messianic exegesis of the Old Testament at Antioch.
Decentralization means pulling together a group of leaders who share responsibility for decisions and the outcome of those decisions and who hold roles far more important than "advisors" in the mission.
Decentralization means getting those decisions off desks in Chicago (or Los Angeles or Carol Stream or Detroit) and moving them out to the field missionaries where they belong.
Decentralization means keeping administrators out of policy making and board members out of policy implementation.
Decentralization means crucifying personal rights and authority for the good of the mission and advancement of the body of Christ.
Finally, a leadership climate for developing young leaders emphasizes the biblical qualities for leaders. They are so well known that detailed explication would be redundant, but let me confine myself to a brief review. We must develop (a) a climate of respect focusing on individual worth and dignity and encouraging people to contribute their ideas; (b) a climate of trust in which people learn to trust their own abilities and those of others, unthreatened by constant changes in policy and program; (c) a climate of acceptance where, within the appropriate boundaries, people have room to think and move, to consider changes in their own belief systems, and more important, in methods of ministry; (d) a climate of discovery which recognizes that new leaders will make mistakes, that alternative solutions need to be explored without the pressures of immediate answers, and with tolerance for ambiguity in the tough problems; and (e) a climate of depth—depth of spiritual dimensions in individual and corporate leaders and also depth "on the bench."
In the late 1980s and 1990s we will test the "bench strength" of evangelical foreign missions. We will see whether the giants of the ’40s and ’50s, the ’60s and ’70s have developed teams, decentralized leadership roles and emphasized the development of biblical qualities in new leaders. The verdict is not in yet, but I already hear the jury door opening.
WHEN DO WE UNLEASH NEW LEADERS?
The answer can be simply stated: when they are ready. Getting them ready, of course, is what this article is all about. John Naisbitt, Cornucopian guru of the future, talks about megatrends that create such a megashift in our megaworld in this stirring mega-age. Some evangelicals have written him off as a new age dreamer. But in both Megatrends and his more recent Reinventing the Corporation, Naisbitt has a great deal of value to say to those of us who are struggling to produce new leaders. In addition to his 10 megatrends, for example, he offers 10 commandments for "business in the new age." Try reading the list substituting the word "missions" for "companies" or "corporations."
1. The best and brightest gravitate toward corporations that foster personal growth.
2. The manager’s new role is that of coach, teacher and mentor.
3. The best people want ownership — psychic and literal — in a company.
4. Companies are increasingly contracting or leasing employees for specific purposes and periods of time.
5. The top-down management is yielding to a networking, people-style of management.
6. Intra-preneurship (entrepreneurship within corporations) is revitalizing companies inside out.
7. In the new corporation, quality will be paramount.
8. Intuition and creativity are challenging the "It’s all in the numbers" school of philosophy.
9. The large corporations are emulating the personal and productive qualities of small business.
10. The information economy enables corporations to seek quality-of-life locations over industrial centers.
It seems to me that what we want most in these helmsmen of the future is maturity, both spiritual and professional. The Holy Spirit is clear in 1 Timothy 3 — an overseer must not be a recent convert, nor a neophyte, lest his rapid advancement to leadership fill him with pride and conceit. But what is "maturity?" As difficult as it is to define, we know that it comes not only from chronological age, but also from the sum total of life experiences. Spiritual maturity comes from spiritual experiences and ministerial maturity comes from ministry experience. To be very basic, leadership maturing comes from having hands on opportunity in leadership situations, not just from watching a model over a period of years.
A second factor we must take into consideration is motivation. Why does the potential leader want the leadership role? Is it his or her commitment to the mission? Is it personal advancement? Is it the driving inner force of a call from God? If we avoid the availability bias, we can pass over those whose motivation operates at the duty or obligation level and move upward on the scale toward expectation, desire and fulfillment of God’s gifts and calling.
We unleash new leaders after mentoring. I’m fascinated that a principle as old as Moses and Joshua has risen to new heights in the research of secular business and industry in the late 20th century.
A special reprint edition of the Harvard Business Review released in 1983 contained 15 of what the editors considered the top articles appearing in the pages of that prestigious journal over the past 30 years. One entry is entitled, "Everyone Who Makes It Has a Mentor." IN describing his experience at the Jewel Company, Donald S. Perkins attributes his managerial success to a close relationship he had with mentors Frand Lunding and George Clemens:
The greatest change, I think, came from learning how to relate to people, how to make sure that everyone knows that you want to get something done, without applying pressure or demanding something be done.
"…When I became president…I had matured enough to understand realistically what the problem might be, that there was no easy answer to many of the questions of the business, and that many goals can’t be reached in a year. If I’d understood what the problems turned out to be, I’d have been even less confident.3
Finally, those of us who currently hold leadership posts must unleash new leaders in those posts with meekness. We stretch the decision-making rectangle from authoritarian to consensus procedures. We recognize that our desire for our subordinates represents a level of achievement and effectiveness greater than that which we ourselves have attained.
We focus not on our past achievements, nor the tight grasp with which we hold on to our present leadership posts, but rather check the end results of our leadership. We ask crucial questions about our leadership effectiveness.
1. Have I been successful in retaining effective staff?
2. Have I discovered hidden talents and interests of staff?
3. Am I making maximum use of present professional and volunteer leadership?
4. Have I experienced the satisfaction of watching someone grow under my leadership?
5. Am I finding time to get daily relaxation?
6. Do I take the time to sit and think creatively?
7. Can I comfortably leave my leadership role for periods of time?
8. Do my subordinates delegate effectively?
9. Am I discovering new leaders?
10. Am I increasingly comfortable with the adequacy of goal achievement?
For those of us who move on (or out, or up) there ought to be a sense of both achievement and satisfaction as well as anticipation for the future. The work is not ours, but it is God’s. The mission belongs not to us but to him. Even founders must learn to say this truth fully, without choking or merely uttering Christian cliches.
1. Unger, James. UP Syndicate, quoted in Reader’s Digest, March 1987, p. 144.
2. Naisbitt, John. "The Megatrends Man," Newsweek, September 23, 1985, p. 59.
3. Lunding, F. J. et al., "Everyone Who Makes It Has A Mentor," Paths Toward Personal Progress: Leaders Are Made, Not Born. (Boston: Harvard Business School), 1983), p. 144 and 147.
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