Leadership matters

Rev’d Gill Newton, President of the Methodist Conference, shares this blog about the importance of leadership within the Church.

The extent to which the style and quality of leadership offered in any group or organisation matters or makes a difference, is a question that has often been posed and discussed in the life of the Church over the years. Leadership is also a topic or even a word that we have shied away from using in the church on occasions, as if it was somehow a questionable attribute that we shouldn’t be looking for amongst those called to serve!

This has been at the forefront of my mind again recently, because of the experiences I’ve had on some of the visits made by me and the Vice President during the year so far. What we have seen, heard and encountered in various settings has reinforced and underlined what I have always believed. The leadership offered by deacons and presbyters and by lay people is both vital and valued. Leadership matters! How we lead matters! Who we are as leaders matters! The culture we create as leaders really matters!

We have found ourselves in gatherings of circuit or district staff, amongst members of the armed forces, at schools, universities and theological institutions, with ecumenical partners, at the Central Finance Board, at warm space gatherings, in the Houses of Parliament, at Church House, with partner organisations and amongst our own colleagues in districts and the Learning Network.

In each and every context, leadership is exercised, and cultures have developed. We have quickly sensed the various cultures as we have spent time in the company of those who have invited us to be amongst them. Sometimes that culture is obvious, at other times it is more subtle, but it is always significant and full of impact.

What have I noticed?

I’ve noticed and been reminded of several things as I have observed and engaged in conversation:

  • Listening is vital. Staff or group members feel far more committed to the organisation or project when their contribution, feedback or idea is heard, validated and valued.
  • Offering encouragement and acknowledging progress or success helps to boost morale.
  • Generating an environment where people feel able to admit mistakes or say they are struggling without fear, enables learning and development and ultimately improves performance.
  • Creating spaces where team members can simply be together and get to know each other pays dividends. Knowing others well aids understanding and being known by others gives a sense of safety and security within a team.
  • Gatherings around food are helpful in enabling the development of good working relationships and a sense of value for team members.
  • Coherence between what leaders say and how they behave is crucial.
  • Praying and reflecting theologically together is helpful even where all team members are not necessarily people of faith but where there is an understanding that faith plays a critical part in the culture being established.

There is nothing new here, the practice of good leadership is crucial to the establishment of a healthy and motivational culture. Perhaps it is worth repeating some of these values and encouraging all of us to reflect on our own leadership and how well we are modelling the qualities we see in the person of Jesus Christ.

As we read the gospels, we see how much time Jesus spent with his disciples, his team, listening to their questions, affirming them in their calling but also challenging them to be and do more than they ever thought possible. He ate with them, set them an example and forgave their mistakes.

How is the leadership you are offering, reflecting the actions and qualities of Christ? How is the team that you lead benefitting from the leadership being offered? What culture is being developed because of the leadership where you are? What hidden treasures are being revealed or left uncovered because of the culture in your church, community or workplace?

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