Spiritual Leadership...What It Is and Who It Is!

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Spiritual leadership, as well as leadership in general, is often hard to define. We think we know what it is but it's often hard to put into words. I think that sometimes we know more of what it is not than what it is. And yes, sometimes that is half the battle in understanding something, but let's try to understand it completely.

We tend to confuse leadership with management and with style of operation (management methods). Leadership, especially Spiritual leadership, certainly includes management and style of operation but is not totally defined by them. Theorists who have difficulty defining leadership sometimes try to explain it in terms of style or methods, but style and method can only explain what the leader does not who he is.

A manager may consistently manage, but that doesn't mean he is a good leader. A person may have a consistent style of operation, but that doesn't mean he or she is a good leader. However, a good leader manages and operates in a style that works. What makes the difference?

Ted Engstrom in his book, "The Making of a Christian Leader" said, "Though leadership may be hard to define, the one characteristic common to all leaders is the ability to make things happen--to act in order to help others work in an environment within which each individual serving under him finds himself encouraged and stimulated to a point where he is helped to realize his fullest potential to contribute meaningfully."

We tend to think of people as leaders who have position, skill, knowledge, prestige, social status, or a great personality. But they are not great leaders if they cannot motivate people and if they do not have the attitude and action necessary to move themselves and others to accomplish the goal at hand.

This is especially true for Spiritual leadership because men and women of faith have always been people of action. Spiritual Leadership action requires faith because setting and securing goals is certainly an act of faith.

Richard Wolfe in his book, "Man at the Top", said that when God creates a leader he is given a volition for action. It is in this way that God works in people according to Philippians 2:13. Wolfe goes on to say that prayer is not a substitute for action which flows from decision.

Someone once said, "Either lead, follow or get out of the way." Nicholas Murray Butler, former president of Columbia University said, "There are three kinds of people in the world--those who don't know what's happening, those who watch what's happening, and those who make things happen."

Christianity needs more true Spiritual leadership. We need leadership that doesn't just manage what we have but leads us to greater accomplishments for the Kingdom of our Lord. So, let's look at the various aspects of leadership with a view to strengthening our own Spiritual leadership abilities and also with a view to helping the next generation of leaders come on board.

Leadership Theories
Leadership is a developmental process of growing one's skills in leading others with an awareness and knowledge of our own honesty and integrity. Past and current leadership theory includes social responsibility, personal growth, and setting, as well as implementing and reaching personal and organizational goals.

With knowledge comes expectation by oneself and others. The study of leadership is vast and crosses many disciplines. More on Leadership Theories here.

Leadership Styles
The role of leadership in management is largely determined by the organizational culture of the company. It has been argued that leaders' beliefs, values and assumptions are of critical importance to the overall style of leadership that they adopt.

There are several different leadership styles that can be identified within each of the following Management techniques. Each technique has its own set of good and not-so-good characteristics, and each uses leadership in a different way. More on Leadership Styles here.

Leadership Qualities
Leaders must have a wide range of skills, techniques and strategies. These include planning, communication skills, organization, and awareness of the wider environment in which the team operates.

There is much debate about whether leadership should be confined to one person or distributed among members of the team.

Traditionally, a permanent team leader would be appointed by more senior levels of management or elected by the group. This technique relies on the assumption that one single person has all the strengths required.

However, it has been argued that "on the best teams, different individuals provide occasional leadership, taking charge in areas where they have particular strengths. No one is the permanent leader, because that person would then cease to be a peer and the team interaction would begin to break down".

This approach would eliminate the problem of a leader being isolated from his or her group.

It must be emphasized, however, that continuity and focus of the group must not be lost. Thus, in our opinion, the best compromise may be to have a permanent leader who is flexible enough not only to delegate responsibility for individual tasks, but also to let others take leadership of the team as required.

John Maxwell, in his book "The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader" lists what he thinks are the qualities of Spiritual leadership. He says the leader must have character, charisma, commitment, communication, competence, courage, discernment, focus, generosity, initiative, listening, passion, positive attitude, problem solving, relationships, responsibility, security, self-discipline, servanthood, teachability, and vision. You need to get this book.

So what is leadership and what are the qualities that make a leader a leader? Yes, leaders lead, but what makes the real leader? More on Leadership Qualities here.

Leadership Traits
Groups are often more loyal to a leader than a manager. This loyalty is created by the leader taking responsibility in areas such as taking the blame when things go wrong, Celebrating group achievements, even minor ones and giving credit where it is due.

The leader must take a point of highlighting the successes within a team, using charts or graphs, with little presentations and fun ideas. Leaders are observant and sensitive people. They know their team and develop mutual confidence within it.

One function that a leader of a team must perform is holding the team together. A leader is responsible for ensuring project goals are met, ensuring a full team effort and keeping the team happy.

Motivation is the key to holding the team together. To motivate is to cause a person to act in a particular way; it is to stimulate interest of a person in activity.

In simple terms, motivation can be considered as the amount of effort an individual is willing to put into their work. Therefore, it is important to ensure that any team is highly motivated toward their work. A lack of motivation in any member of a team can have a negative affect, reducing the group's effectiveness and possibly leading to the de-motivation of others.

Given the fact that different people are motivated in different ways, the problem facing someone in the role of leader is to create an environment in which each individual fulfils their potential.

It is important to highlight the major influences in the motivation of people. According to the influential motivator-hygiene theory, motivation occurs when people have job satisfaction. Job satisfaction can be improved by increasing opportunities for various things like achievement, recognition, responsibility, and career advancement

While not increasing job satisfaction, improvements in the following areas can lessen job dissatisfaction: supervision, salary and working conditions .

The following steps can be taken to help achieve and maintain group motivation: Provide opportunities for group members to become acquainted, indicate the importance or value of the group, make people feel they are important, clarify goals, identify progress and acknowledge achievements.

Inevitably, disputes ranging from minor differences in opinion, to fundamental differences in ideology, will arise. The role of the leader, even in Spiritual Leadership, is to handle such disagreements constructively, ensuring that the team remains focused on achieving its goal.

The leader, especially in Spiritual Leadership, must encourage team members to stand back from any disagreements and look at things objectively. By doing this, any differences between group members will be resolved and possible conflicts avoided.

The most important point for a leader, even in Spiritual Leadership, to remember is that each individual needs to think that they are working with the best people - to feel proud to be part of the team. By getting people into this state of mind a leader will instill a high level of group morale; people will work harder and achieve more. More on Leadership Traits here.

Leadership Activities
When directing a team it is important to structure the tasks to be performed. Goals should be easily understood by everyone and tasks broken down so that they appear achievable.

Break down the task. Nothing will be more demoralizing for your team than setting them a task which seems impossible (the brick wall approach). Therefore it is important to define a task as a series of small but significant steps which seem realistic.

As the person performs these broken-down steps he/she will still feel that something tangible has been accomplished, and the next step toward finishing will become clear. The brick wall approach will usually result in the task not being accomplished.

It is probable that as a team leader you will want to set goals for your team and its projects. One such goal may be "to improve communications among the team". Clearly there will be many different interpretations of this goal by different team members. Goal analysis seeks to remove this ambiguity. More on Leadership Activities here.

Leadership Articles
Various articles on leadership and especially Spiritual Leadership may help to inspire us and others to be better Spiritual Leaders as well. More Leadership Articles later.

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