I’m grateful to teach in an area of study I thoroughly enjoy. My primary role is serving as Professor of Ministry Leadership at Bethel Seminary. While every job has aspects that require work that is not explicitly enjoyable, I’m thankful that a majority of what I get to do also is personally enjoyable and fulfilling.
When I consider the core of what I teach about leadership, the focus of my teaching revolves around four leadership priorities. Here is an overview of these priorities.
1 – Servant Leadership and Follower Focus
How do your prioritize your commitments and practices as a leader? Servant leadership is an approach to leadership that prioritizes followers over leader self-interest. While many leadership thinkers would argue a commitment to organizational goals must be prioritized over the people of the organization, a servant leadership perspective argues that the most effective way to accomplish organizational commitments is through focus on followers. By focusing on followers, these followers are then able to deliver exceptional products or services to those the organization as a whole serves.
While the organization as a whole needs to be externally focused (serving its customers, constituents, or mission), the primary focus of the leader must be on serving and caring for the followers who are directly responsible for fulfilling the organization’s mission. I point my students to the importance of servant leadership practice and follower-focus in their leadership work. This leadership commitment is about prioritizing follower-focus and empowering followers for service of the mission.
2 – Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation
Complementing the follower-focus of servant leadership, transformational leadership is about creating broad and intrinsic ownership of the organization’s mission by leaders and followers alike. Transactional leadership is primarily based on a leader-follower exchange that incentivizes followers through extrinsic motivators. In contrast, transformational leadership is based on a leader-follower engagement that motivates followers intrinsically. Transformational leadership is about engaging followers in such a way that leaders and followers are mutually committed the organization’s mission and are willing to undergo transformational change with organizational goals in view.
3 – Team Leadership and Collaborative Orientation
In addition to servant and transformational leadership principles, I also advocate for collaborative and team-oriented approaches to leadership. Collaborative approaches to leadership and the use of teams recognizes and affirms that great wisdom exists within the people of organizations. Rather than providing an overly directive or top-down approach to leadership, collaborative and team-oriented approaches to leadership harnesses the wisdom and insights of the people on teams. This leadership commitment is about leveraging team wisdom and utilizing collaboration toward the end of decentralizing authority and empowering people to effectively carry out local work.
4 – Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living
Finally, I point students to the importance of meaning and purpose in their approach to leadership. On this point, Eisenberg and Goodall write that, “employees want to feel that the work they do is worthwhile, rather than just a way to draw a paycheck,” and to see work as, “a transformation of its meaning—from drudgery to a source of personal significance and fulfillment.” While employees bear responsibility for personally engaging their work with purpose, leaders play an important role in helping organizational members understand why the work they do matters. This leadership commitment is about being purpose-motivated and infusing both our personal work and the work of others with whom we work with meaning and significance.
In both my masters and doctoral level classes, my leadership courses are infused with each of these threads. This provides an overview of each, and I intend to take up each one in a bit more detail in future posts.
What are your leadership priorities? How do your priorities and commitments line up with these four principles? Take some time to share your priorities and thoughts below.