Christian Leadership

I just finished reading Follow Me to Freedom: Leading and Following as an Ordinary Radical. I’ve said a number of times what a fan I am of Shane Claiborne, who can be described as someone who believes Jesus meant what He said and who tries to live his life accordingly. In this book he teams up with civil rights leader John Perkins for a series of conversations that explore what it means to be a good leader and a good follower.

Written in a conversational mode that preserves the individual voices of the two authors, the book offers neither “a new theory or prescription” nor a “comprehensive study.” Rather, in Shane’s words, it “submits our experiences, our lessons learned and our unresolved questions, in a a day and time that needs leaders and followers of integrity and action.”

There is much in the book I will go back to, but as I read it, I jotted down some of the qualities of leadership that come out of the authors’ discussion that seem to me key for those who would lead in the name of Christ.

First, integrity. To be a good leader, one’s life must give credibility to their words. It is easy to see through people who talk the talk without walking the walk.

Second, imagination. It is easy to tear down, to protest and criticize what exists. But what is necessary for effective leadership is to be able to imagine a world different from the one in which we live – to imagine the world to which we wish to help lead others. Good leaders don’t simply identify what is wrong; they point toward what is right.

Third, developing people rather than creating institutions. This is a tricky one because institutions can help. But it is also a temptation to start worrying more about the institution than about the people being served; the institution can too easily become the end rather than the means. As Perkins writes, we need to make sure we hang onto the “original vision,” and “we have to keep our focus on the people of God – reconciling them to God and each other.”

Fourth, a good leader works himself out of a job. He or she works with others, working as part of a community rather than as a lone ranger. I know myself that it is often far easier to just do something myself rather than invite others to participate. But a good leader empowers others and helps them develop their talents. That is the key to long term success. Success, suggests Shane, “has nothing to do with money or notoriety and everything to do with whether or not people will carry on the vision when we are dust.”

There are more but these offer some good suggestions both for those who would be leaders and for those who seek to discover those who are worthy of being followed.