Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 28, 2005
Leaders nurture others' talents
Light One Candle
The March 2005 issue of our Christopher News Notes, Learning to Lead, has a quote from former pro-football player, Dr. Jamie Williams, which I love: "Leadership is like gravity. You know it exists, but how do you define it?"
I like Williams' quote because for a long time I have thought that the word "leadership" is used too freely. We apply it to many accomplished people in fields like politics, business and religion - but we also talk about a "gang leader." So the questions I ask are: Who is a leader? And how do we define leadership?
Peter Drucker, often described as the founder of the study of management, says that, "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations."
If you like Drucker's definition, and I do, then it raises some other questions about how we use "leader." If an executive boosts the stock value of a corporation by laying off thousands of people to cut costs and is praised as a real business leader, does that fit Drucker's definition?
That's a challenging question and when I have raised it in a group it usually starts a pretty lively conversation. Ultimately, that discussion will raise another question, that being, when do good stewardship and good leadership . . . la Peter Drucker, coexist?
My own opinion is that a good leader recognizes that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made, but makes them for the right reasons. A business leader might truly have to eliminate jobs to cut costs and save the company, but in doing so, the good leader makes every effort to be as compassionate as humanly possible.
The News Note also points out that most real leadership takes place in everyday life. We all lead at times, whether by example as a parent; by maintaining high standards at work; by improving the community. We may not think we are leading, but we can inspire and encourage others with both our words and our deeds.
One Christopher activity is a Leadership Course. It emphasizes leadership is an opportunity to serve. That creates an interesting approach, especially when you put it together with the Gospel quote, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). If we are really servant-leaders then our role model is Jesus.
Being a good leader requires that we recognize the talents of others and nurture them. Joel Barker, a scholar and futurist, says, "A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn't go by yourself." A good leader will motivate others to believe in themselves and to stretch themselves.
For me, one of the most essential things a good leader can do is summed up in the closing of the News Note: "Every leader, no matter how gifted, always seeks, in prayer, strength from the Source of all good things - God."
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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