By Becky Klein
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The word “leadership” is used often, referring to many different people and circumstances. We refer to leadership when we read about courageous acts of our military in the Middle East. We speak of leadership when watching our visionary NASA astronauts work hard to push new frontiers. We think of leadership when we learn about CEOs transforming the business model or strategy of a company. We act with leadership when we set principled examples over a period of time that helps persuade our children to change their habits. We read about leadership (good and bad) when we learn about self-centered government leaders in our history books.
But what does “leadership” really mean? Everyone has a different leadership style. And the most successful leaders are those who practice leadership in alignment with their true nature and personality. The question then becomes, “What is your leadership personality?” And I’m sure you’re asking about now, “How do I go about figuring that out?”
To begin, we must first realize that each of us has multiple roles and responsibilities, whether at home, school, work, or play. We interact with people differently across these various contexts based on the diverse interests, needs and expectations of the people associated with each setting. Therefore, who you are in one setting may look and feel very different than who you are and how you act in another setting. Nonetheless, you carry deeply held values and cultural habits regardless of the setting. Identifying these values and cultural norms will help you understand your unique way of being a leader.
One way to help you do this is to develop a story of Self. Stories have multiple benefits and uses. For example, stories help define us. They also move others to action. They help build trust. They help us believe in ourselves. And they provide us, and others, an anchor in times of uncertainty.
The Bible provides a vivid opportunity to learn about different leadership styles. Through the use of stories, the Bible helps us identify best practices in thinking, talking and acting across various circumstances. It exemplifies how stories depict people with very different leadership signatures.
Let’s consider a few examples about different leadership styles from the stories of several characters in the Bible.
Moses was a transformational leader. He helped transition the Israelites from polytheistic habits to monotheistic life under God. Moses also transformed the governance structure of the Israelite community. Instead of a central decision-maker, he ensured capable people were delegated authority and vested them with the ability to participate in a decentralized decision process.
David was a charismatic leader. He was strong, handsome and fearless in battle. He was able to draw the obedience of people through his heroic actions. And when he sinned, he repented sincerely and confessed to God. He was a leader that infused people with the courage to accept responsibility and turn away from doing the wrong thing.
Daniel was a principled and loyal leader. Although he was in the service of Babylonian kings (Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus) he remained true to God’s laws in his daily habits. He refused to worship idols and eat “unclean” foods, at all costs. His steadfastness eventually caused Cyrus to realize that his god was little, and that Daniel’s god, the True God, was what was best for him and his people.
Nehemiah was a visionary leader. When Nehemiah learned that the wall of Jerusalem had been broken and destroyed by fire, he had a vision to go rebuild it. His passion for his people fueled his energy and actions. He planned diligently and in detail and remained resilient through adversity in order to accomplish his vision.
Jesus was a servant leader. Jesus places value in relationship and community. He encourages people to be open-system thinkers versus closed-system thinkers. He is a people-developer versus a process-developer. And he adapts his style to match the maturity level of the people so that everyone can understand him better.
And of course, there are numerous people in the Bible that have a style of an egotistical leader. Yet, they were leaders, as well. Take Saul, Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh, to name a few. They each wanted to command others to meet their own personal needs. They wanted to humiliate others to make themselves look strong, courageous and honorable. They were jealous and instilled fear.
I encourage you to read the stories of each of these Biblical figures. And after you do, try developing a story about who you are. Your story should relate how you got to be who you are; key turning points, and outcomes in your journey. Remember, to develop an effective story you should have the following elements: 1. A protagonist (a character the listener cares about in a setting); 2. An unexpected challenge that confronted you; 3. A choice that you had to make in response to the challenge; and 4. The outcome. Feel free to develop several stories based on different leadership styles that you feel you have portrayed at various times and in different contexts.
Now, the most important part is to GO, and TELL. Your story should tell the listener something about the leadership style with which you feel most comfortable. Experiment by finding opportunities to share your stories with different people and see which one(s) feel most natural to you. Through experimentation, you can discover not only the many leadership signatures you are capable of; but also, the primary leadership signature that encompasses your underlying values and cultural habits.
As you get to know yourself better by discovering and articulating your leadership signature, you will become a better equipped leader who is ready to serve God and your neighbor.
Becky Klein, MANSS, Esq. Attorney, Principal of Klein Energy, LLC. an energy consulting company based in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the CLLI faculty and a former CLLI board of director. Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s Law School, San Antonio, TX. Master of Arts in National Security Studies from Georgetown University, Bachelor of Arts in Human Biology from Stanford University, Stanford, CA.