Ethics: Leadership

“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.”
Sophocles

We as leaders can set an ethical example in the Church. Our leadership sets the pace and culture for others, for better or worse. As leaders we are responsible for role-modelling the kind of culture we have and which we want to see in the future.

I have many times seen the personal values and attitudes of a leader filter down through their group. Churches can take on the beliefs of their leader. Churches can also be affected by the leadership style of their leader; people’s behavior, speech and even thoughts can be shaped by the way the leader approaches and reacts to issues within the group.

I have seen the perfectionism of a leader resulting in anxiety and burnout in their church.

I have seen tactics of intimidation leading to silence and passivity, which produces isolation and disconnection.

I have seen excellence elevated to a status higher than participation and sharing.

And I have seen favouritism exercised at the expense and exclusion of members of the body of Christ.

All of these I have witnessed in the context of church life. It saddens me that as the family of God, we still get caught up in our own way of running things. We can be misled by our own preferences, thinking that our style is God’s way too.

As leaders, we can and should be opinionated. This trait gives us conviction in our leadership and a clear vision of where we are going. But it has its down side too. If we are opinionated to the point where we can no longer hear what others have to say, we run the risk of silencing others and losing out on what they have to offer.

Sometimes as leaders we want to be independent. We want to prove that we can do something or we believe we are the only ones who can do it right. Again, it is the church that misses out when our tunnel vision excludes others.

The ability to accept fair criticism is a crucial skill in effective leadership. As a leader, I have to be open to feedback from peers and leaders around me. As much as I want to head in a particular direction, I have to accept the fact that I have blind spots and need others to help me see what I have missed. I also need to appreciate the capacity of others to be creative and to contribute to where we are going. Being in the Church is not about flying solo.

Consider this quote by Bear Grylls (Man vs. Wild): “Accidents on big mountains happen when people’s ambitions cloud their good judgment. Good climbing is about climbing with heart and with instinct, not ambition and pride.”

Humility is key. If we can strike a balance between pursuing what we believe God has asked us to do and remaining open to having our minds changed, we can receive correction where it is needed. This openness to feedback is our spiritual and ethical responsibility.

How much more could we love one another if we were open to being corrected. How much more could we lead by vulnerability in worship, in service, in resolving conflicts and in raising up future leaders.

Servant leadership is counter-cultural. Humility and vulnerability in leadership is not what the world promotes. However it is Christ’s role model to us, and therefore one worth pursuing.

I have seen churches ruled by love and gratitude. They treat one another like family.

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