Philosophy of Leadership 

Organization charts are usually drawn with the president at the top, a row of deputies below and, after them, all the other staff fans out across the bottom. That model never felt quite right to me, especially for a ministry organization. Rather, I picture leadership as an inverted pyramid. The role of most senior leader is to enable everyone else to be effective. Ephesians 2:20 speaks of the Church being built on the apostles and prophets. These leaders are not on a pedestal. Instead they are described as the floor or foundation. I regard good leadership as a servanthood position rather than elevated. While every employee serves and supports someone, the president serves and supports them all.

One of the most forceful comments Jesus made about leadership is what he said in Matthew 20:

                  “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise

                          authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you 

                          must be your servant.”

What a strong warning about authority from Jesus! I hear him. That’s why I am committed to servant leadership. Robert Greenleaf is the one who coined the term “servant leader.” This is how he described its meaning:

"The difference [servant leadership] manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

These are sound principles. Jesus taught them first.

In my experience, the greatest burden of leadership has not been the multiple and widespread responsibilities. Of course, the work can be fatiguing at times. Rather, the greatest burden is staying sharp spiritually, cultivating discernment, and leading from moral authority rather than positional power. Yes, this can be a heavy load, but the Bible teaches that aspiring to such leadership is a good thing, a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1) This weight of responsibility compels me to live it out carefully. This is discipline that I welcome.

Sometimes the principles just described can become distorted. One twist is that an appearance of servanthood becomes an excuse for low performance. Christian organizations can easily turn inward and become politely self-serving. The servant leadership that both Jesus and Greenleaf taught isn’t about making employees happy. It is about bringing out the best in people and growing the impact from their lives. I believe that godly leadership, properly understood, fosters a culture of performance. God is on a mission. We are on his mission. That should make us highly motivated to accomplish something far beyond our own self-interests.

Jesus made a comment that burns in my soul. Not a week passes that I don’t meditate on it and pray it back. Jesus said that the Father is glorified when we bear much fruit (John 15:8).  He added that this “fruit” shows we are truly disciples. I regularly ask for God to show me how to become more fruitful and influence others to be more fruitful.  

A president, of course, manages the day-to-day affairs of the organization. Such duties are familiar to me, but even more important is building the culture of the organization. There is no tidy formula for how that is accomplished, but here are several of the component parts. Vision casting is essential. People rarely accomplish more than they dream. People need encouragement and at times coaxing.

An “imperial executive” is a poor alternative. Command and control have no place in missions work. Instead, a leader must rally people to action.  

Personal discovery is a good way to urge people to greater achievement. I like to use questions as a leadership technique. It helps people realize their needs and allows them to find their own solutions. This is far better than having policies dictated from above. 

In short, I am called by God to amplify the work of others. The principles I have just described are not merely theories. I actively try to practice them. I have learned, at times the hard way, how important humble, strong, and visionary leadership is. Those adjectives are rarely used together, but they do belong together.

© Eric Thurman 2015