Friday, December 10, 2010

leadership wisdom from the hymnal

In my faith tradition (Lutheran), our worship structure is more formal and traditional, and we use many older hymns in our worship services. We also follow a church year calendar, which began anew several weeks ago with the season of Advent (4 weeks prior to Christmas Day). Two Sundays ago, we sang a hymn with which I grew up entitled Prepare the Royal Highway, a reference to the writings of Isaiah the prophet who foretold the birth of Jesus Christ. As we came to the final stanza of the hymn, I came across this particular line:

His (Christ's) rule is peace and freedom and justice, truth and love.

I was immediately struck that this is what leaders should be doing in their organizations and for the people whom they lead. It is a reflection of servant leadership as defined by Robert Greenleaf. Each of the words defines a place - or state of being - in which one can become completely whom they are meant to be and work at their highest level of effectiveness. Rather than being beaten down, cajoled, or manipulated, people might be able to become something more than they even imagine they could be.

A quick look at each of the words:

PEACE: to be at peace means that I am in harmony with myself and others. It creates a sense of well-being in which I can approach my life - and my work - with a sense of wholeness and being in a relaxed state. This allows for one to think and dream at a higher level. It may not completely serve all professions well, but for those who have to think in their jobs, it provides a place where a higher level of creative thinking can occur.

FREEDOM: I believe there is no higher calling that to help others be "free" - free from having to worry about basic needs as well as free to engage in higher level needs. Greenleaf uses this term extensively in his writings on servant leadership - those who would serve so that others might be more free. A place where people are free to be whom they were meant to be and use the gifts with which they have been endowed by their Creator is a place where amazing work can be done.

JUSTICE: I see this word as describing a place that is fair - and that holds people accountable for acting in a way that is fair to all. Too many times in organizations certain people are allowed to do things that seem to go against the norms and values that have been established (either written or unwritten). The leader who brings about justice brings about a place where people know that they are to treat others for the environment...uphold all that is good and right...and do things that bring about the best for the organization.

TRUTH: It would be difficult to work in an environment where one is constnatly wondering what is the truth. Having to look over one's shoulder...having to wonder if what I am being told is the truth...having to second guess decisions...these all harm the organization and its ability to deliver on its mission and goals. I think this begins with the leader being a "truth teller," being transparent and calling things what they are. This is a value that is often missing within organizations.

LOVE; I use this word often to describe the ideal leader and organization. Many people wonder if I am being too soft, and if work will actully get done where love prevails. For me, this is nothing short of being one of the hardest things to do, and when done well creates an outstanding organization. The leader must love their people - their organziation - their customers - their clients - their mission - and what they do on a day to day basis. That translates very quickly to the organization as a whole and can quite literally TRANSFORM the organization.

In the Christian church, there is often talk about "the kingdom of God." In the Gospels, Jesus often uses the phrase, "the kingdom of God is like..." It is my belief that leaders can bring about the kingdom of God in their organziations when they create an environment in which peace, freedom, justice, truth and love are prevalent and pervasive. It is my hope and prayer that more and more leaders will find ways to do this for their organizations and the people who work with that a for-profit company, a not-for-profit, a school, a goverment organization, a community, a church, or a home.

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