The Christian worldview of leadership is distinctly different from most secular views on the subject. In the secular, leadership tends to be viewed primarily in terms of a company’s bottom line and how well the leader can urge employees to produce more and better work. That view is profit-centered rather than person-centered, and it does not give much attention to employees’ human needs and qualities nor on how developing excellent work relationships can promote productivity.In the Christian worldview, however, people are key, and their human needs are important. The leader in the Christian worldview understands how meeting employees’ needs promotes the kind of productivity desired and how developing strong work relationships can do more for the company’s success than micromanaging or other forms of harassment can achieve.
This paper will discuss the characteristics of a leader and the keys of leadership, group behavior, and conflict management and resolution from the Christian perspective.Leadership Today’s business leaders often have difficult tasks to achieve in turning around failing companies and galvanizing an overworked workforce fearful of losing their jobs, but their tasks do not outweigh those of the great Biblical leaders, such as Moses, who led the Israelites out of bondage, or David, who had to slay the giant before becoming a leader. The characteristics of a leader in the Biblical context still differs to some extent from those generally attributed to leaders in the secular context.Biblical leaders are courageous and decisive, for example.
Moses’ leadership was marked by courage born of faith. Although his life was spared from Pharaoh’s decree that all firstborn sons would be killed, Hebrews 11:24 states, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. ” In other words, he did not try to live a lie to protect himself from the decree but acknowledged his Hebrew heritage, trusting God to protect him.David likewise did not hesitate at all to fight Goliath, reasoning that the same God that had delivered him “out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear” that he had previously slain would “deliver [him] out of the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). David’s faith is in his covenant with God rather than in his own strength, and he is so sure of victory that he does not even wear armor for the battle. Courage based on faith is not something that can be determined from a company’s balance sheet or the situation at hand.
Both Moses and David were in what seemed like impossible circumstances, yet they triumphed. Transactional leadership is a traditional leadership method that has long been used in secular circles. It is characterized by both active and passive management by exception and contingent reward (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, & Yang, 2012, p. 192). Transactional leadership focuses on addressing problems rather than on promoting employee engagement.
By contrast, transformational leadership strives to inspire, intellectually stimulate, and motivate employees by treating them as individuals and leveraging their talents and insight (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, & Yang, 2012, p. 192). Although both forms of leadership occur in the Bible, the greatest leaders are transformational leaders who cast the vision for their followers that inspires them to achieve great things. In some cases, the transformational leader is also a servant leader.
This is true of Jesus, who insisted on washing the feet of His disciples. Matthew 20:26 states, “... hoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. ”Hannay (2009) contrasts the traditional leader with the servant leader, citing Greenleaf, who developed the concept of the latter: “Greenleaf identified the principal motive of the traditional leader as being the desire to lead followers to achieve organizational objectives.
.. [while] the driving motivation of a servant-leader is to serve others to be all that they are capable of becoming” (p. 2). The transformational leader induces employees to perform beyond expectations by empowering and motivating them, and sometimes by leading by example.Becoming a transformational leader can occur either because the leader has a model or mentor that is a transformational leader, because he/she is a born transformational leader, or through reflection.
Senge (1990) wrote that “Learning through reflection is about finding the creative tension... between an understanding of current reality and a vision of desirable practice” (as cited in Johns, 2004, p. 24).
In addition, Schuster (1994) noted that one who desires to become a transformational leader can cultivate certain qualities that are characteristic of such a leader: a stimulating vision for the organization, onesty, empathy, authenticity, the ability to defer self-interest to ensure that others are recognized, a holistic concern for the organization, the ability to share power with others, and the ability to develop others (as cited in Johns, 2004, p. 25). The transformational leader is also an effective communicator who persists during hard times and still has the courage to continue to move ahead even when fatigued and encountering difficulties (Schuster, 1994, as cited in Johns, 2004, p. 25). Group Behavior Great leaders generally have to lead more than one person.They have a group or team that needs to collaborate and cooperate in order to get the work done, and this means that the leader needs to be adept at managing multiple people to gain good performance.
At issue is how the leader with a Christian worldview can lead and influence a group or team to produce the behaviors and products needed. Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, and Salvador (2009) report that their research using a sample of 904 employees and 195 managers in 195 departments indicates that “ethical leadership flows from one organizational level to the next” (p. ).The authors found that top management ethical leadership leads to supervisors being ethical leaders and that the ethical leadership style then “cascades” from one leadership level to the other as the next lower level of management mimics the leadership of the level above it (Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2009, p.
2). Therefore, it is not just the influence of an isolated leader that matters but the leadership throughout the organization, especially that at the top.The Biblical principle that this finding is predicated upon is found in Romans 13:1, which states, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. ” This scripture establishes an organizational authority structure in which those at the top are to be recognized as chosen by God and therefore to be followed. Group behavior operates according to a complex dynamic, but if everyone in the group views the leader as one ordained by God to be followed, managing group behavior becomes simpler.
One reason is that if the leader is the “hinge” by which the team changes its direction, then when threats to team performance arise, the team can be flexible and effective in responding to them (Stachowski, Kaplan, & Waller, 2009, p. 1536). Even in a crisis, a team that is flexible can respond to “dynamic and complex situations” that are fraught with ambiguity and difficult to anticipate, particularly if established systematic patterns of interaction among group members are abandoned and the team adapts to the situation at hand (Stachowski, Kaplan, & Waller, 2009, p. 1541).This is a response that can be galvanized through the leader.
Diversity is another aspect of team dynamics that can impact team effectiveness. Knight et al. (1999) found that in top management teams, strategic consensus, or “the degree to which individual mental models of strategy overlap,” demographic diversity had little effect on strategic consensus (p. 445). Rather, the authors found that leadership practices make a greater difference; when such practices discourage conflict among team members and encourage them to seek agreement, this promotes strategic consensus (Knight et al.
1999, p. 460).Creativity in teams can still flourish under the leader’s leadership, and effective team interventions can take place by virtue of the team’s being cohesive and not conflicted. In virtual teams, the effects of asynchronous communication can be overcome through the use of emoticons and additional explanation to clarify what is being said and guard against misunderstandings. Great team members are enthusiastic about the leader and the team and open to sharing their ideas to attain synergy that produces better results than individual efforts alone can produce.Conflict Management and Resolution Conflict management and resolution under a leader with a Christian worldview can become less problematic as the leader fosters a more cooperative workplace.
Research by Somech, Desivilya, and Lidogoster (2009) indicates that when teams have a high level of team identity, they also experience task interdependence that correlates to a cooperative conflict management style that also promotes team performance (p. 359).Zhang, Cao, and Tsovold (2010) developed a team conflict management model that incorporates transformational leadership in a large Chinese enterprise to bolster the coordination and performance of a team using team members’ conflict management approaches (p. 1586). They found that transformational leadership led to a cooperative versus a competitive conflict management approach and suggested that transformational leadership “may help team members manage conflicts for their mutual benefit” (Zhang, Cao, & Tsovold, 2010, p. 586).
The Christian worldview demands that conflict resolution and negotiations be fair. Murithi and Murphy (2011) describe the Tiv approach to conflict resolution, which includes five key elements—a commitment to the maintenance of order and peaceful coexistence, the desire for a cohesive community, leadership’s role to encourage the conflicted parties to reconcile themselves rather than as a decider of issues, a consensual process, and an emphasis on resolution for all sides through a dispute mediation session (p. 1). Effective negotiations and conflict resolution embody the spirit of Proverbs 31:8-9, which states, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
” In fair negotiations, mediation, and conflict resolution, the needs of all concerned are considered, and no group or individual is favored over another.Moreover, everyone in the group is involved in settling the dispute. Conclusion The Christian worldview of leadership embraces the concept of the transformational leader, collaborative group behavior that is flexible but that hinges upon the linchpin of the leader’s influence, and conflict management and resolution that take into consideration the needs and input of all members of the group and the desire to maintain a cohesive group.For the Christian leader, people are the key issue, and by meeting the needs of people he or she can better meet the needs of the organization as well. This form of leadership promotes cooperation rather than competition and context rather than the letter of the law. In the last analysis, it is a type of leadership that embodies Biblical principles and demonstrates that they are effective in business organizations as they are in every other context.