Leading a faith-based nonprofit organization requires a unique set of circumstances and skills. Competent management skills, effective leadership skills, and a biblically-based spiritual foundation comprise key ingredients to an executive leadership assignment and outcome. To be transformed is yet another thing, beyond effective management and leadership.
Personal transformation is a matter of the heart, a by-product of spiritual formation, theological understanding and biblical insight. A thematic verse for this article might be: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” (Psalm 78:72)
A Transformed Heart
The Psalmist wrote these words, prior to the phrase quoted above: “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.” (Psalm 78:70-71)
I share the conviction that serving through Buckner is more than a job or a career; rather, it is a calling. If you follow your calling, your career will take care of itself. I emphasize a sense of calling for all who consider working at Buckner because we are a ministry. I come to my work as president and CEO with a sense of calling.
A calling emerges from the word vocation, vocare in Latin, meaning “to call.” I believe a leader’s calling (vocation) is embedded within his or her salvation. Our vocation is an expression of our salvation.
The Apostle Paul clearly states, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10) This sense of calling presupposes a personal faith relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Transformed people approach their work as a sacred call.
Transformed people approach their work as a sacred call. We approach our work as though we are working for the Lord. Paul also wrote: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col. 3:23-24)
A transformed leader understands his or her calling as the leader of a faith-based, nonprofit organization. One of the best books on this subject is Summoned to Lead (Zondervan, 2009) by Leonard Sweet. In this book, Sweet argues that leaders are neither born nor made, but instead are summoned, called into existence by circumstances. A leader of a faith-based nonprofit must be transformed with integrity of heart in order to lead in a transformational way.
A Transformational Leader
A transformed leader in a faith-based, nonprofit organization will have a transformational impact on those he or she leads.
A transformed leader in a faith-based, nonprofit organization will have a transformational impact on those he or she leads. She or he will also have a transformational impact on the ministry, if led by the Holy Spirit.
Transformational leaders learn management skills. They also learn leadership skills. They learn how to do the right things, at the right time, with the right people, in the right way. Transformational leadership depends upon organizational context and culture.
A north star for me has been The First 90 Days (Harvard Business Review Press; Updated/Expanded, 2013) by Michael D. Watkins. In this book, Watkins outlines five organizational contexts and assigns a specific leadership approach for each one. A transformational leader understands the context and culture of his or her organization, and develops a leadership approach that best fits that situation.
Transforming from Here to There
All organizations go through a life cycle from birth, to growth, to death. The transformational leader guides the organization to more growth through a compelling vision.
Raising up a clear vision for who Buckner is, and will be, is essential to transforming this ministry to a place of kingdom impact. I wrote about the Buckner vision in The Jesus Agenda (Believers Press, 2015) and Hope Now (Iron Stream Books, 2019) to raise this vision. Buckner is in its 14th decade of ministry because it has never been afraid to change.
A transformational leader starts by telling the truth, positive and negative, about the organization in its current state and casting a vision toward a preferable future. Seek a kingdom vision as you lead. First develop vision, then provision follows. Socialize the vision with your leaders and followers. Let them speak into the future too. Develop a plan. Figure out the sequence of action; do first things first, then do the next thing. Transformation becomes contagious.
Dr. Albert L. Reyes is the 6th President and CEO of Buckner International, a multi-service, multi-national ministry based in Dallas, and founded in 1879 to serve children, families, and seniors. See www.albertlreyes.com for more information on his ministry, and see www.buckner.org for more information about the Buckner International ministry.