Leading from the Inside Out
Set in the beautiful Lake District, Keswick Ministries’ ‘Influential Leadership Workshop’ is a week long course for Christian leaders, helping them to be refocused and recharged. Andy Hunter recently attended and we asked him to share his reflections.
The Workshop began with the problem of meritocracy.
That is, for all its virtues, the message of meritocracy can easily become – ‘you get what you deserve.’ So, if you’re a success it must be because you have earned it. Conversely if you aren’t successful then you’ve only got yourself to blame. In such a society, a sense of self-worth and value becomes highly dependent on achievement. ‘Success’, however, tends to be narrowly defined – usually in terms of money, status or career advancement (rather than being a good parent, for example).
For the Christian leader – success (and thus their sense of self-worth) can all too readily become based on ‘ministry titles’, speaking invites, Facebook likes, or even salary levels. In such a scenario leadership can become a ‘cycle of un-grace’ – where self-worth becomes dependent on being seen to be successful, which in turn drives how and why we work.
The antidote for Christian leaders has be to an identity in Christ which transcends the need for such approval. This was the starting point of the week-long course and which shaped all its subsequent content.
No quick fix
Anyone attending in order to get a quick fix of tips on how to control others had come to the wrong place! This wasn’t a week for ‘would-be high-powered Christian A-Listers’ but for ordinary Christian workers seeking to lead their ministries in more godly and effective ways. Those attending included pastors, youth workers, para-church workers and missionaries – some on furlough, some on Sabbatical and some just taking the week to refocus and learn.
The course was led by Simon Barrington (Forge Leadership Consultancy, with previous experience of management in BT and leading Samaritans Purse UK), Naomi Partridge (Charity Founder, HR specialist and business woman), and James Robson (Old Testament Scholar and Ministry Director of Keswick Ministries).
Each brought their experiences and expertise of leading in a range of environments (both Christian and secular) – in doing so we worked through five ‘I’s of Christian Leadership:
- Identity (in Christ)
- Intimacy (with Christ)
- Inner Strength (resilience)
The result was a week crammed with Biblical wisdom and over 400 PowerPoint slides!
Our time together wasn’t just listening, but included time for personal reflection and group discussions. Its aim being to emphasise Christ-likeness and the need for a godly perspective on leadership. A practical outcome of which was the development of a personal action plan (covering all aspects of life and ministry) to take away.
The wisdom of Proverbs
One highlight of the week was an after-dinner talk from David Gascoigne, a partner at KPMG and a Trustee of Keswick Ministries. His reflections on 35 years of leadership experience in business were a reminder that godly character and Biblical wisdom just give the best outcomes.
He noted those management exercises where a group has to chose four items to keep when ‘stranded on a desert island’ – and how when the lists were compared against the ‘official SAS list’, the group lists were always better than any individual’s list. In other words, consultation and group working is a real strength – it just gets better results. See Proverbs 15:22.
Another major take-home from the course was the reminder that our ‘behaviour, mood, attitude’ at any given point will have a major impact on those around us – we all have blind-spots and the danger is all the greater for those in leadership to adversely affect others without realising it.
We were encouraged that one way to mitigate such a danger is to model vulnerability. Not necessarily in the sense of sharing secrets but acknowledging our times of stress, asking for help, being the first to say sorry, or being the first to take a risk. Such vulnerability is essential for connection with others – the alternative being perfectionism, defensiveness and isolation.
Good leaders will show vulnerability because vulnerability requires real courage.
Further wisdom was shared by all the leaders on topics such as crisis management, giving and receiving criticism, perseverance, understanding our modes of working, and setting priorities. The practical advice being underpinned each morning with devotions led by Peter Maiden.
The seminar format and smaller numbers enabled attendees to get to know each other and being together for a week allowed time for deeper conversations and relationships to form. Being in the Lake District, a few hardy souls even fitted in a bit of hill-walking!
This was a week for anyone who would benefit from a time to take stock on their leadership situation and to reboot it in the light of the Biblical call to ‘lead from the inside out’.