Welcome to the College of Transfiguration, NPC - a provincial centre for the training of Anglican clergy.

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP

Friday, 29 April 2016 

 
What is effective leadership? I assume that some of us, if not all, attended seminars, workshops and lectures on leadership, even here at College. We have people from our own communities, who we would describe as leaders – effective leaders. So we all have some experience of effective leadership. We also come across definitions on leadership/effective leadership, regularly. Let us remind ourselves: “Effective leaders lead by example with honesty, confidence, compassion, intelligence and humour. Ineffective leaders really mislead themselves..." Sharon Rhea Ford. “There is a difference between a boss and a leader. A boss says ‘Go!’ and a leader says ‘Let's go’” Unknown Author. “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by the results not attributes” Peter Drucker. “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others” John Maxwell. “Outstanding leaders become a fine balance between traits, abilities, behaviours, sources of power and aspects of the situation” Marilyn Vojta. “Leadership qualities is that you're a hard worker, a pupil and a strong communicator” Mark Zuckerberg. “Leadership is a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, the behaviour or the development of other people, you are in a leadership role” Blanchard & Hodges. I prefer the last one, which refers to leadership as a process of influence. 
 
Today, I will attempt to answer the question about “effective leadership” by looking at the praxis of effective leadership. In the words of a well-known Anglican theologian of praxis, Denise Ackermann, I will be looking “from the bottom up”. What practices of leaders identify them as effective leaders? Let me start by asking you, “Please put up your hand if you are a leader”. Some hands are up, some are down… There seems to be knowledge about what leadership is, but there seem to be some confusion about whether I am a leader? Let me put it differently. There is knowledge and information about effective leadership, however the awareness of whether we are indeed leaders seem to be absent. We need to remember that we are viewed as leaders by our dioceses. Anthony de Mello says there is a difference between analysis and awareness, between information and insight. “Information is not insight, analysis is not awareness, knowledge is not awareness” (de Mello 1990:166). Let me explain. Many of us smoke although we know about the dangers of smoking. We have the knowledge and the information, but continue to smoke, as there is not yet an awareness of what my smoking is doing to my body. A few years ago, we were sitting in a cell group meeting. One of the group members, an elderly person and a church warden, was a heavy smoker. I said to him “I am very worried about you and about your smoking”. He had all the information about smoking but the old man was adamant he will continue smoking, because he was fine and he named many well-known people who smoked till their old age and died of natural causes. Their lungs were fine. A few years later, the same man’s body developed cancer. The same man who said he will never, ever stop smoking, who had all that information he was carrying with him all these years, stopped smoking the moment when he became aware of what was happening in his body and became aware what the smoking was doing to his lungs (he had lung cancer). He never smoked again. Unfortunately he died soon after. I am using this as an example to show the difference between awareness, knowledge and information. If I am not aware of my leadership and do not believe that I am a leader, I will not be able to lead, even if I have knowledge and information about leadership. 
 
Blancherd & Hodges (2005:20) explains that “effective leadership starts from the inside”. Effective leadership starts from the person we are at the core of our being. The first question is therefore, Who am I? How do I view/see myself? Do I see myself as somebody created by God? Because God made me, I am amazing! God loves me and accepts me as I am! Or do I see myself as somebody who has many short comings and therefore is not good enough? Whatever is on the inside of me – my thoughts and beliefs will come to the outside. John O’Donohue (1998:73) writes: “All of inner life and intimacy of soul, longs to find an outer mirror”. All the stuff that is inside of us longs to go outside and be outside. “The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression”(O’ Donohue 1998:73). Our bodies carry our emotions and experiences and share with others what is happening to us. It tells the truth O’ Donohue says. We know from our own experiences that our bodies rarely lie. We cannot hide the fact that something we eat is spicy, or sweet, or sour – our faces will give some indication. Often we think we can hide what is on the inside because people do not know our feelings. We believe that people have no clue of what is happening on the inside. However, the body has a way of expressing on the outside, what is happening on the inside. Our hands shake and tremble when we are nervous. Our voice and the tight muscles show when we are angry. This is something important to remember, because if we work with people and are in a leadership role, we sometimes think we are hiding what we are feeling about the person or the task, and we are often unaware that people can read us like an open book. 
 
I am saying these things today, to challenge us that it should not just be knowledge or information, but that it would stir within us, so that we will become aware of what is happening around us and inside our own bodies – be aware of whether we are practicing as effective leaders or not. If I see myself as created by God – imperfect with weaknesses, but still called to be of service, I will live my life in that way. I will also be willing to accept other people's weaknesses. But if I see myself as the golden child of God saying, “God called me! I am special. I am amazing. There is nobody better than me to do what God wants me to do!”, it will have an impact on the way I lead other people. I need to know what my strengths are, because I need to continue to work at them so I can consistently improve on them. But I also need to know my weaknesses. If I am not very good at chairing a meeting, I need to check and see who is there in my team who is able to chair a meeting well, then invite that person to chair the meeting. Then I can do other things that I am better at. 'Who are the people in my team that I have with me? Who are the people in the church council? Who are the people in the committee here? What are the people's strengths, and how can we use those strengths? Also if we know of weaknesses in others, how can we encourage and support each other? Sometimes we think we need to hide our weaknesses. All of us have weaknesses - every single one of us. We are human and we have weaknesses. If I am afraid of my weakness, there is a problem. I need to acknowledge my weaknesses in order to work at it and become a better leader. If I have discovered I have a problem with money, I need to deal with that problem because that is my weakness, my challenge in life. If my challenge in life is that I like to please other people, then I need to deal with that. I need to be honest with myself and say to myself, “you cannot say no”. It is a good thing to be willing to help people, but it can also be a challenge. If you are a people’s pleaser, you are like a magnet to people who enjoy others to doing things for them. We are often tired because we are running around to please everybody. Why? Maybe we do it because we want people to like us? Maybe it helps us to feel good about ourselves? We need to be aware of ourselves. We need to know ourselves. We are not supposed to work ourselves into the ground, in order to please others. We are called to serve God.  
 
A second question challenging “my inside” is, Who am I living for? Who am I trying to please? What is my focus? Do I see my focus as being here to serve God or am I here to see what I can get out of it? Am I a servant leader or a self-serving leader? Who is the authority, or what is the authority in my life? Is it God? Is it the church? Is it somebody else that I want to please? When we work in a big community, with different people, there are always people who have money, who speak loud, who are educated and are able to articulate well. Then there are the poor, who may not have a good education and are unable to communicate well. There are children and there is the youth in the same community who often do not have a voice. Who are we going to please? Who is going to be our authority? Who is going to be the authority that we listen to and who will guide us? Sometimes we think that the things we do here and the way we live our lives here at College is not important because we will do things differently when we leave College. “One day when I go out there, I will be able to do all these things”. We however need to remember that the way we do things become habit; it becomes a part of who we are. It is difficult to change a habit, especially if I am not aware of it or unaware of what need it is satisfying. Some of us tend to live for other people all the time. I need to answer these questions and get to know who I am. If I have clarity about all of these questions and am grounded in God and no other person I want to please, then I will have trust in my abilities. Trust is a big thing, it is huge. Think of a leader that you know that has lost trust, and think of how long it took for them to gain that trust back. People will trust you because you are a leader, but if people lose trust in you, it is very difficult to gain it back because trust is earned. If I lose trust in my abilities, it is also a long journey to gain that trust again. If I lose trust in my ability to lead, it is difficult to get it back. Do not take it for granted. You might call it confidence. I like the word trust. We need to take care of that trust / confidence in our ability to lead. We need to nurture it and take care of it because it helps us to be grounded. 
 
Remember, I am asking these questions around the statement that says: “Leadership starts on the inside”. What is inside? The moment that I know what I believe, who I listen to, who the authority in my life is, what are the important things, what are my weaknesses and what are my strengths, I will not be afraid. I will know who I am and that I am grounded in God, who is my authority. I will then feel more grounded, and I will be able to take on the authority that's given to me as a leader. Not power over others, but rather authority within. I will be able to stand tall, make decisions and speak with confidence. People would be able to hear and see the authority that I carry within me, because I believe in the one whom I serve. 
 
This authority will enable you to talk to people with confidence. You will be an effective leader who also communicates effectively. Let us look at a few definitions on effective communication: “The art of communication is the language of leadership”- James Humes. “Say what you mean, and mean what you say, but don't say it mean!” (insiringshortstories.org). “Trust is the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships” -Stephen Covey. Again we find the word “trust”. How does trust have an impact on effective communication? If your yes is yes, and your no is no, people are going to trust that what you are communicating is what you mean and what you will do. If we today decide that we are going to do something, and tomorrow change our mind, just to change it again another day, it will have a huge impact on our leadership. We will not be trusted. People will say, “She is like a flag in the wind, going wherever the wind blows”. People will not have trust in my ability to lead, because today I say one thing and tomorrow another. Effective communication needs to happen. People want to be informed. The people need to know what the leader wants and the leader needs to know where the people are. Effective communication keeps the leader and the people connected. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”- George Bernard Shaw. It is important that our communication is clear. That is why leading worship in the chapel is such a good exercise. We are taught to speak clearly and audibly, so that everybody can hear us. Not all people have bibles at their seats when we read, so we need to read slowly and articulate well. Whether I whisper a word incorrectly, or I say it loudly, it will still be incorrect. Leading worship in chapel is an opportunity for us to practice our public speaking and control our nerves. It is furthermore important to be present when others communicate with us, to be aware. “The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said” -Dr Peter F. Drucker. If we are present and aware we might be able to get more than only the verbal message. 
 
Lastly, I want to add my opinion of the most important part of communication as a leader – it is encouragement. Often we first see all the negative – what is wrong and want to focus on, and highlight it. However, encouragement is extremely important. Listen what George Matthew Adams says: “Encouragement is oxygen to the soul”, and Mark Twain says: “One compliment can keep me going for a whole month”. Retired bishop of the Anglican Church, Michael Nuttall in his book, “number Two to Tutu”, tells the story of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu, calling each bishop individually into his office to check how they were doing, and encourage them through prayer. We all need encouragement. I have discovered if we have encouragement, we can do amazing things. It keeps us going. So my sisters and brothers, just imagine what you and I will be able to do if we remember to encourage each other – especially if we are in a leadership role. As effective leaders, we will love, we will accept, we communicate and we will encourage each other. We will be able to because we will be at peace with ourselves. Our effective leadership will start within ourselves and shine outward. 
 
 
Revd Melany Adonis 
Lecturer 
 
 
 
 
Bibliography 
 
Ackermann, D. 2003. After the Locusts – Letters from a Landscape of Faith. Grand Rapids. Michigan: William Eerdmans. 
Blanchard, K. & Hodges, P. 2005. Lead like Jesus. Nashville Tennesee:Thomas Nelson  
De Mello, A. 1997. Awareness - A de Mello Spirituality Conference in His Own Words. Glasgow: Omnia Books Ltd.  
Maxwell, J. 2008. Encouragement Changes Everything. Cape Town: Struik Christian Gifts. 
Nuttall, M. 2003. Number Two to Tutu A Memoir. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications. 
O’Donohue, J. 1998. Anam Cara Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World. London: Bantam Press.



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