Leadership Preparation Ministry


LEADERSHIP PREPARATION MINISTRY

Need for leadership preparation.


According to Blackaby and Blackaby 2001, "spiritual leadership is moving people on God's agenda" (p. 20). Likewise, Eugene H. Peterson's classic "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" provides an outstanding frame of reference for the study of godly living and leading. Blackaby accentuates this perspective, "spiritual leaders know they must give an  account of their leadership to God; therefore they are not satisfied merely moving toward the destination God has for them; they want to see God actually achieve his purposes through them for their generation" (p. 20). The principles and practices required to successfully apply godly living and leadership cannot be aptly understood in a vacuum.  One of the key foundational principles to godly living and leadership is a clear understanding of true repentance.  Peterson eloquently expressed it this way, "Repentance, the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light.  It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God." (p. 33).

 
Consequently, true repentance is a requisite to practicing godly living and leadership.  Furthermore, true repentance is not simply a one-time act that occurs at the time of regeneration, rather an intentional daily submission before God of our sins of omission and commission.  The Christian faith is a walk with a community!  As Apostle Paul indicates in Ephesians 4-6, this must be an intentional walk with God, through imitation of His Christ-like nature. Progressive imitation of the Christ-like nature of Jesus; empowers the believer to establish sustainable personal relationships with the Lord and humankind.  This walk is supernaturally spearheaded by the Holy Spirit through empowerment with the gifts of the Spirit.  "Ultimately, spiritual leaders cannot produce spiritual change in people; only the Holy Spirit can accomplish this" (Blackaby, 2001, p. 21).

Rebore implicates the leadership preparation process from an intentional and consciousness perspective, "the context within which the term consciousness is being used here refers to the process of reflection that is absolutely necessary if an individual is to develop a personal ethical approach to being an educational leader" (p. 19).  The secular worldview of leadership preparation and development places significant emphasis on ethical systematic and rational inquiry. Rebore articulates this worldview here, "human experience is dynamic and continually evolving, educational leaders can derive ethical norms primarily through inductive reasoning" (p. 45). This philosophical worldview of morality is synonymous with what is termed virtue. Surprenant 2010 asserts, that maxims are not adopted purely on moral inclination, but rather for "the correct reasons" (p. 166). Clearly, the spiritual and secular leadership principles are divergent. According to Kristjan Kristjansson (2006), "this paradox contains two distinct, but interrelated, paradoxes: a psychological paradox and a moral/political paradox" (p. 103).  

Pivotal to developing an astute worldview of leadership principles and ethics, is developing a framework from which morality and ethics can be conceptually understood.  There has been significant discussion on whether human morality is an innate characteristic (Wilson, 1995). From a leadership perspective, Blackaby & Blackaby 2001 assert, "there is little doubt that some people display an early aptitude for leadership" (p. 32). The authors further retort, "Contemporary leadership writing reveals that most scholars believe leaders are both born and made" (p. 33). Consequently, many of the philosophical elements articulated assume high relevance as it relates to whether morality is innate behavior or learned and reasoned behavior. Philosophically, it affirms Surprenant's argument of a "paradox of moral education" (p. 168).  In the context of a more astute, critical, and scholarly assessment, it is imperative to articulate the relationship between leadership preparation and the God-given vision.

Importance of a God-given vision.

In the Book of Proverbs King Solomon writes, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he" (Proverbs 29:18). Careful analysis of the first six chapters of Proverbs and the related scriptural and secular readings provide much insight to the aspiring leader.  Firstly, biblical leadership preparation needs be established on the principles of God's Word. These godly principles serve as the vehicle to ethical decision-making. Using this philosophy as the fulcrum of one's analysis, it becomes evident that the Christian leader, to be truly effective, needs to employ the spiritual components within his or her leadership style. Many claim to be exponents of visionary leadership. Blackaby 2001 identifies three fundamentals to authentic visionary leadership, "Vision is critical for organizations, so it stands to reason that leaders must be visionaries. Visionary leaders understand at least three fundamental issues: Where does the vision come from? How does vision inspire people? How do leaders communicate vision?" (p. 57).


    The importance of vision as a fundamental leadership principle is also embraced by Rebore, the importance of creating a vision and goals cannot be overstated.  History testifies to this importance in relation to how people achieve change in American society (p. 109). Rebore 2001, in keeping with his social-contract philosophy, predicates agreement and consensus in the process of establishing and creating a vision. He succinctly states, "in keeping with the social-contract concept, the board and the superintendent must acknowledge the necessity of involving all stakeholders in the process of developing the vision and goals" (p.109). 

This secular philosophy is at variance with the Christian paradigm of leadership vision. Etymologically speaking, Blackaby and Blackaby prefer the term revelation to vision, "there is a significant difference between revelation and vision.  Vision is something people produce; revelation is something people receive" (p. 69).

Blackaby continues his discourse, "leaders can dream up a vision, but they cannot discover God's will. God must reveal it.  The secular world ignores God's will, so nonbelievers are left with one alternative- to project their own vision. Christians are called to a totally different approach" (p. 69).  Contextually speaking, Rebore rebuts this position, "establishing the vision and creating the goals of a school district are best carried out through a strategic planning process involving all stakeholders: parents, students, community members, teachers, staff members, and administrators" (p. 29). Yet, Blackaby & Blackaby identify secular support for their leader-based vision theory, "Warren Bennis notes: "Just as no great painting has ever been created by a committee, no great vision has ever emerged from the herd" (p. 65). Burt Nanus asks, "So where does a leader's vision come from? Vision is composed of one part foresight, one part insight, plenty of imagination and judgment, and often, a healthy dose of chutzpah" (p. 65). Kouzes and Posner claim that vision "flow from the reservoir of our knowledge and experience" (p. 65).

The controversy surrounding whether vision development should be consensus or leader based is also examined by well-known Christian author Aubrey Malphurs. Malphurs details seven steps that strategic planners must take to determine the staff readiness for the process.  He articulates these steps as follows:  "They are securing  the support of the church's empowered leadership, recruiting a strategic leadership team, communicating constantly with the congregation, assessing the church's readiness for change, conducting a ministry analysis, approaching with reasonable time expectations, and laying a spiritual foundation for the process" (p. 54). Evidently, this Christian writer advocates the consensus approach to creating a vision for the church.  Such highly opinionated views have led to much conflict and discussion both in spiritual and secular environments. For this reason, attention will now turn to conflict resolution.

Leadership influence as a catalyst for effective conflict resolution.

Conceptually speaking, there are definitive relationships between leadership influence, culture, values, power, pluralism, human social development, and effective conflict resolution. Rossi (2003) argues that international conflict stems from "the anarchy of international structure and power relations among members of the system" (p. 150). 


He suggests a societal-level analysis "better explains the origin of conflict in more recent years" (p. 150). Consequently, he identifies that "the sources of conflict lies in issues of culture, religion, ethnicity, and national identity" (p. 150).  He proposes a conceptual framework for reconciliation based on "bottom-up transformation" (p. 151). Moreover, he argues that reconciliation at the grass-root level rest on "four core concepts- truth, mercy, justice, and peace" (p. 151). The author's practical education solution focuses on "cross-cultural concepts" (p. 152) and "dialogue among students" (p. 152). 
Rossi's substratum segues into the spiritual worldview of leadership influence on conflict resolution. The Book of Proverbs provides a number of keys to godly leadership including such character traits as humility, love, faithfulness, loyalty, integrity and trust.

Leaders are also admonished to control their anger, and not to concern themselves with the insults of men (Proverbs 19:11, 19). Moreover, they are encouraged to use wisely the power that comes from their influence (Proverbs 19:12, 20), and not to be lazy. (Microsoft Power Point Presentation, 2010, Proverbs 19:15, 23). Consequently, pivotal to sound Christian leadership influence is vulnerability and the establishment of trusting relationships. According to Lencioni (2005), "when it comes to teams, trust is all about vulnerability" (p. 14). However, persons will not become vulnerable in the absences of human bonding; commonly referred to as relationship.  Consequently, relationships and trust are inseparable! Establishing this much-needed framework is imperative to understanding the intricate nuances involved between influence and conflict.

As a pastor, practicing certified clinical therapist and education psychologist, leadership preparation, a leader-driven vision, and conflict resolution are integral elements of one's daily vocation.  According to Sternberg (2008), "most school psychologists work in special education departments or psychological services departments for public and private schools school systems or in school-based and school-linked health centers" (p. 228). According to (Duckett, Sixsmith, & Kagan, 2008), "community psychologists seek multi-level interventions that promote individual, group-level, organizational, community, societal, and political change" (p. 91). Unmistakably, education is the common thread required to implement the intervention process. Contextually, all the specializations overlap at the point of betterment. According to (Zittoun, & Perret-Clermont, 2009), four lenses of learning and change highlight processes for educational development and change (p. 388).  In other words, this author's vocation involves significant integration of myriad skills sets aimed at positive change through achieving multi-level interventions. Conflict resolution represents one such intervention modality.

Rebore notes, "conflict may shift from values to the means that will be used to reach the desired resolution" (p. 224).


 Contextually speaking, Sternberg asserts (2008), "scientific psychology applied to education is a significant discipline in its own right. Many in the field immerse themselves in laboratory studies of human learning and motivation" (p. 45). From this perspective, the key to optimizing client, student, patient, and community benefits lies in creating an environment of trust. This can only be achieved when the cognitive, social, and application elements of psychology are effectively integrated with organizational leadership.  Introspectively, is human conflict avoidable? Rebore concludes, "A more desirable approach to resolution of conflict is based on a mode of thinking that views conflicts as unavoidable, given that values are conditional, incommensurable, and incompatible" (p. 224).

Conclusion

The leadership principles identified, synthesized, and applied in this discourse were, the need for leadership preparation, the importance of a God-given vision, and leadership influence acts as a catalyst for effective conflict resolution. Educational and biblical leadership principles were explored, examined, and integrated with the author's ministerial, counseling, and developing psychological services vocation. Contextually speaking, the principles were critically examined from both secular and Christian worldviews. In this regard, Rebore reveals the significance of human experience to ethical considerations, "because human experience is dynamic and continually evolving, educational leaders can derive ethical norms primarily through inductive reasoning" (Rebore, 2001, p. 45). With respect to vision, Blackaby and Blackaby 2001 conclude, "vision is crucial for an organization. Its source is God's revelation of his activity. When leaders successfully communicate vision to their people, it will be God who sets the agenda for the organization, not the leader, and the people will know it is God" (Blackaby, 2001, p. 83).

In closing, many leadership principles pervade both secular and Christian worldviews. Moreover, the tensions and paradoxes encountered provided numerous opportunities for introspection, reflection, and critical thinking. This writer contends that this comprehensive quote adequately articulates his personal sentiments on spiritual leadership: "A world leader ascends the ladder of authority because of what he or she accomplishes. A godly leader is granted the privilege of leading God's people because he or she has the heart to know, love, and serve God by leading His people to fulfill His vision.  As a result of that burning desire to serve in this way, and to honor God at all times by modeling righteousness and holy living, people are motivated to follow such a leader" (Barna, 2001, pp. 87-88).

References

Barna G. (2001). The power of team leadership. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press.
Blackaby, H., & Blackaby, R. (2001). Spiritual leadership. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group.
Duckett, P., Sixsmith, J., & Kagan, C. (2008, February). Researching secondary schools: Community psychology and the politics of research pupil well-being in UK. In Childhood: A Global Journal of Child, 15 (1), 89-106.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B Z. (2008). The leadership challenge. (4th ed.). New York: Jossey-Bass.
 Kristjansson, K. (2006). Habituated reason: Aristotle and the 'paradox of moral education, Theory and Research in Education, 4, 101-122.
Lencioni, P. (2005). Overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Malphurs, A. (2005). Advanced strategic planning, ed. 2nd. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
Peterson, E. H. (2000). A long obedience in the same direction. Illinois: Inter Varsity Press.
Rebore, R. (2001). The ethics of educational leadership. New Jersey: Merrill Prentice-Hall.
Rossi, J. A., (2003). Teaching about international conflict and peacemaking at the grassroots level. Social Studies, 94(4), 149-157.
Sternberg, R. J. (2008). Career paths in psychology: Where your degree can take you. (2nd ed.). Washington: American Psychological Association.
Surprenant, C. W. (2010). Kant's contribution to moral education: the relevance of catechistics. Journal of Moral Education, 39 (2). Retrieved July 30, 2010, from http://ejournals.ebsco.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/Direct.asp?AccessToken=6VMVHLV89IKLZ2OZHJ92KZNV3JKK8F9KX&Show=Object
Wilson, J. (1995). The moral sense. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Zittoun, T., Perret-Clermont, A. (2009, September). Four social psychological lenses for developmental psychology.  European Journal of Psychology of Education, 24 (3), 387-403.