Leadership, especially in these uncertain times, needs to be rooted in stillness and contemplation (January). It is more about being a good host – enabling others to flourish – than a great hero (February). And this month the focus is on leadership as a team game.
I have never met a great leader who hasn’t been surrounded by brilliant people who, in many ways, were much better (and more skilled) than they were. And conversely, I’ve encountered a reasonable number of people who have lost much of their ‘leadership magic’ as soon as they began to lose the support of people around them. If I am honest, which is another important attribute of leadership, I’ve also experienced a bit of that myself over the years.
The best leader, probably the finest human being, I have ever had the privilege of working alongside always spoke about the wisdom, skills and experiences of the other members of the team that he felt privileged to be a part of. Of how they enabled him to see and do things that otherwise he would have missed or been incapable of.
It was true. Without one of those people, he simply would not have understood the context in which he was operating. Without another, he would not have been free to exercise the leadership he has.
Irene, John, Evelyn, Karen and May. Lynn, Paul, Iain, Gayle, Alex and Pauline. Andrew, David, Chloe, Sally and Richard. Elaine, Catherine, Carron, Ann and George. Andrew, Julia, Sarah and Lucy. Julia, Jinty, Eildon, Catriona and Rachael. Robbie, Davie and Susan.
All these people, and a myriad of others too numerous to mention, have helped me to be the best version of me that I can be in national and local leadership roles. Sometimes that has been by telling me that I am right. And often, it has been forcing me to recognise my mistakes. Don’t get into leadership if you want to be right all the time.
There is a proverb. “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Think about the people who have helped us to go far. And consider the people that will be necessary for us, together, to go even further.
Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to those of us who are seeking to follow Jesus. We don’t need a leadership course or manual. The blueprint is there, in plain sight.
Jesus built a team around him, bringing together people with diverse skills and experiences, as well as very different views of what success would look like.
The apostle Paul, in the most celebrated metaphor of the Church, compares it to a body (I Corinthians 12). Within the body of the Church, we all take on different roles and functions. Were we all the same, we might end up being great at speaking but lousy at listening. Or fantastic at running but hopeless at making things.
For many years I have been intrigued by the understanding that the most vital parts of the body: those that keep the blood pumping; that work out what needs to happen; or help to create new life are hidden away and protected. Increasingly, I have wondered whether that symbolises the essentially hidden nature of leadership.
And finally, and perhaps most radically, God: Creator, Son and Spirit. In the outworking of that team, we glimpse leadership at its most awesome. And it is a team game.
This article first appeared in the March 2023 Issue of Life and Work, the magazine of the Church of Scotland. You can subscribe at https://www.lifeandwork.org/subscribe/subscribe.