Over the last few months I have been reading a number of books on leadership, and one in particular has produced a number of ‘Aha’ moments. Walter Wright who has served at Regent and Fuller colleges authored this book called ‘Relational Leadership.’ He makes the following statement
“Leadership exists by the choice of followers. This important principal is often overlooked. I am regularly surprised by leaders who assume they are leaders because of their position or because they want to be leaders.”
He then goes on to tell the story of a young boy who was with his grandparents when they started to walk away while he was playing. He came running up to them saying, “Wait for me, I am the leader.” p51
The crux of this book is that leadership is not done in a vacuum. He observes that the majority of leadership books focus on the ‘Leader’ with little consideration for the followers; as if they have little to do with it. Instead he makes the point that real leadership is leadership that empowers others. Drawing on Burns book on leadership he argues that it inspires, transforms and releases others into their full potential. For great leadership not only gets a certain task done; it transforms and enlarges the vision, values and beliefs of those who follow, not only for the task at hand, but also beyond into other areas of life. All leadership has a risk of developing co-dependency and he helpfully acknowledges that a good leader will ensure and release each to be responsible for their own personal growth.
In other words the focus of the leader is to grow people. While organisational structure is important, those structures are of secondary importance to that of the primary focus on people. Therefore a good leader will understand people and make people their priority.
It’s no secret that I have been a critic of the current leadership movement in the church at large. I find much wrong with it as it treats people as cannon fodder to achieve the leaders goals. I have said often within my critique that I don’t ever want to be led at church, I want to be pastored. I don’t have any intentions to lead a church, though I maybe inclined to pastor people.
However, through reading Wright, I have had to modify my previous critique. He frames the book through the lens of the Epistle of Jude, which is thoroughly pastoral. Without going into any specific pastoral detail, the resultant work shows how leadership and pastoral ministry can and should be merged. This shouldn’t have surprised me as Eugene Peterson who is considered to be the pastor to pastors, writes one of the forewords.
I recommend this book to you.