Growth in Faith and Leadership
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:5-8)
As Christian leaders, our priority, as exhorted by Peter, is first to grow in the knowledge of God.
Growth, both personally and professionally is essential for every leader aspiring to lead with excellence in today’s uncertain world. As Christian leaders, our priority, as exhorted by Peter, is first to grow in the knowledge of God. From this knowledge we develop (grow) our unique and special calling to lead – the measure of success being increased effectiveness and productivity in leading our organizations, and those who choose to follow us.
Growth, specifically personal growth implies positive change in our lives, married to continuous reflection on what success in God’s eyes looks like as we journey in our call to lead. The challenge for today’s leader in a disruptive world is the intent and areas on which to focus. This is especially true for the leader who is a Christ-follower, as there is an integrated path of growth in both faith and leadership.
Integrating Spiritual and Professional Development
Growing in your faith-journey is a necessary discipline for all Christian leaders. However, it is never easy to prioritize with the intensity, busyness and demand of the leadership role. Spiritual growth occurs through quality time with the Lord, enjoying time with our loved ones, fellowship with colleagues, and seeing God at work through meaningful life experiences. It is at the core of who we are as followers of Christ.
Growing is essential in developing both who we are, and our ability to care for those whom we lead.
Growing our professional leadership, by contrast, is for many leaders more laissez-faire. After all, who has the time? Developing a personal strategy to integrate spiritual and professional leadership development is not always natural. It requires intentional focus and priority, with accountability.
Growing is essential in developing both who we are, and our ability to care for those whom we lead. The Christian leader’s goal is to be a leader who honors God with excellence in leadership.
How do we integrate our spiritual and professional development?
Growth in Character
Almost every leadership theory identifies self-awareness as an essential attribute for successful leaders. Self-awareness is generally described as the conscious self-knowledge of one’s character, emotions, passion, and purpose. A leader's character refers to the ethical values or moral compass followers see in the leader's behavior and actions. It is generally the first lens through which others assess leaders. This assessment often determines their commitment and loyalty to that leader.
As a Christian leader, character must be of the highest standard. Christian leaders are expected to reflect the character of Christ. Leaders who show congruence between their personal walk with Christ and their character, are reputed to be authentic leaders. They are leaders who “walk the talk.”
Growing in character as a leader demands a dynamic and growing relationship with Christ, visibly aligned with scriptural values. Although the world today does not necessarily see good character as a measure of success, Christian leaders, excellent leaders, are held to a much higher standard.
Growth in Chemistry
Chemistry in leadership refers to the relationships leaders enjoy with others. All leaders, including Christian leaders, need to be able to build strong relationships with their team or congregation.
Excellent leaders recognize the importance of utilizing the strengths, talents, and gifts of those with whom they work. Being conscious of relationships, connecting, communicating, and sharing meaning and purpose for the mission of the organization is not an easy or static process. Chemistry with the team and organization does not occur without learning and change. Personal growth of how we are and how we relate triggers learning and change.
For growth in a leader’s chemistry, the primary focus is on building relationships with others. This may involve spending planned and unplanned time with your team or congregation, attending social events, or engaging in meaningful one-on-one conversations. One excellent strategy for nurturing chemistry in the organization, and the leader’s relational role, is identifying “touch points” for constructive feedback on the relational dynamics in the organization. This can include listening tours and town hall events.
Growth in Courage
Courage refers to the leader’s willingness to take risks and to stand up for what is right, even in the face of opposition. Courageous leaders are visibly convicted of their future, and tenacious in achieving this future with integrity and passion. As a Christian leader, you may face challenges or opposition as you seek to fulfill your calling, and you need to have the courage to stand firm in your faith.
So how does one develop or grow in courage? To grow in courage draws first on your relationship with God. Developing conviction, passion, and integrity through the Word of God and time in prayer, is the foundation of Godly courage. Submitting to his will in your day, actions, and conversations will grow courage in his sovereignty and your dependence on him. A leader who grows in their trust in God will courageously submit decisions and direction to him, even when they are difficult. This will grow the leader’s courage in leading others.
Excellent leaders lead from who they are, manifested in their character and their chemistry with those they lead. They are also courageous in becoming better from what they are learning. The leader’s super power is learning!
There is no simple formula to personal growth for a leader, but there are strategies that can “increase our measure.”
Three Strategies for Christian Leaders
Three simple strategies Christian leaders might consider in their goal to grow in their God-given calling might be:
- QT before IT – Prioritize quality time with God before technology. Every Christian leader knows that spending time alone with God each day is essential for developing a strong sense of consciousness. However, the luring call of email often draws the leader into worldly activity before Godly activity, or time with the Lord. Consider your first tithe of the day to be for the Lord and not the smartphone.
- Journaling - Journaling can be a powerful tool for developing a strong sense of growth and reflection. Writing down your thoughts and emotions (not your activities) can help you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your motivations. It can also help you to identify patterns in your behavior that may need to change. Don’t journal for others, journal for you to learn and change.
- Accountability - Seeking accountability from other believers can help you to stay consistent in your actions and behavior. This could involve working with a mentor, joining a network of peers, or simply finding a friend who can hold you accountable. Honest, constructive critique is a necessary instrument of change and growth.
As a Christian leader, personal growth must be a top priority in your life. Growth reflects change and learning, empowering you to not only become a better leader, but more importantly enabling you to grow in your intimate walk with God and fulfill your unique calling to lead with the standard of excellence our God deserves.
Dr. John C. Reynolds is President of Los Angeles Pacific University. John writes and teaches in his research interests of leadership, board governance, organizational psychology, and strategic thinking.
Listen to Dr. John C. Reynolds on The Outcomes Conference Podcast as he discusses “Leadership Lessons Along the Way”
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