What Does Gospel – Centred Leadership Look Like?

A great article by Greg Breazeale

The Gospel gives us a new heart filled with love and affection. It is not one more weapon in our leadership utility belt. The phrase Gospel centred gets much use these days. Books, blogs, and articles on what it means to be Gospel centred seem to pop up every day. My aim here is to wrestle a bit with what Gospel – centre leadership looks like when it comes to leading an organization such as a church, a bank, a school, etc.

What does the Gospel – centred leader (GCL) look like? How do they function day to day? How does the Gospel bear weight on how leaders make decisions, hire and fire, and cast vision? Here are a few qualities of a Gospel – centred leader.

They Love the Gospel.

How do we glorify God

GCL’s love the Gospel. They love to talk about it, sing about it, and tell it to others. The death and resurrection of Jesus, and their union with Him moves their heart like nothing else. They never tire of hearing the Gospel or preaching it to themselves. The Word of Christ (Colossians 3:16) dwells deeply and richly in them. They define themselves as people loved by God in and through the Person and Work of their Lord Jesus Christ. Their identity, value, worth, and significance their life is found in Him. Everything must begin here. If you miss this, you will end up using the Gospel to make a name for yourself rather than using the Gospel to spread the fame of Jesus.

They Invite Critique

GCL’s know that it took God in the flesh dying and rising again to save them. Therefore, they know they are not beyond critique and error. They find ways to receive feedback and critique from their friends, spouse, staff, or co-workers. If their identity rests only Christ and if they are convinced that God is for them, as the Gospel clearly reminds them (Romans 8:32), then no amount of negative or positive feedback can shake their foundation. GCL’s work into their life and schedule other eyes and ears to help them lead as effectively as possible.

They Are Bold and Humble.

The Gospel has shattered the pride of GCL’s, and yet empowered them to boldly trust in the grace and goodness of God when it comes to how they lead. They can make hard decisions without fearing the opinions of others but also admit their mistakes and seek restitution. They don’t slump their shoulders or puff out their chests. They are humble and strong, bold and gentle, confident and self – deprecating. Only by trusting the Gospel can one become this kind of leader.

They Bear More Affliction than They Give Out.

The great mystery of the Gospel is that the one who owed us nothing gave us everything. The one who knew no sin was made to be sin to make us righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). The one who was rich became poor to make us rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). The blessed one became the Curse to lift the Curse from us (Galatians 3:18). Therefore, the GCL will look and listen for ways to absorb affliction when he has every right to dish it out.

Every leader has to bring affliction. They have to discipline, fire, lay-off, cutback, reprimand, etc. But the Gospel shines brightly when leaders winsomely bear the bulk of the pain and blame, especially when they don’t have to. I am not suggesting that performance standards in the workplace or the church be lowered because of the Gospel. I am suggesting however that the Gospel calls us to, at times, shower undeserved grace (and all grace is undeserved) on those we lead.

The Best Leaders Allow Themselves to Be Persuaded

A very insightful article in Inc. by Al Pittampalli, author of Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World (HarperBusiness, 2016).

The Transformational Leadership Style of Elon Musk

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors

When we think of great leaders, certain characteristics come to mind: They have confidence in their abilities and conviction in their beliefs. They “trust their gut,” “stay the course,” and “prove others wrong.” They aren’t “pushovers,” and they certainly don’t “flip-flop.” But this archetype is terribly outdated. Having spent three years studying many of the world’s most successful leaders for my new book, Persuadable, I’ve learned one surprising thing they have in common: a willingness to be persuaded.

Alan Mulally, the vaunted CEO who saved Ford Motor Company, is, for example, exceptionally sceptical of his own opinions. Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful hedge fund managers, insists that his team ruthlessly second-guess his thinking. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, seeks out information that might disprove her beliefs about the world and herself. In our increasingly complex world, these leaders have realized that the ability to consider emerging evidence and change their minds accordingly provides extraordinary advantages.

One of the benefits of being persuadable is improved accuracy in forecasting the future. When University of Pennsylvania professor Philip Tetlock famously conducted a comprehensive study on this issue, tracking 82,361 predictions from over 284 experts, he found that accuracy has more to do with how forecasters think than with what they know. The winners didn’t abide by grand theories of the world, so they were more willing to listen to new information and adjust their predictions accordingly.

Another benefit is accelerated growth. When Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson studied what separates the masters from the mediocre in a wide range of cognitively complex skills (from chess to violin), he discovered that the quality of practice determined performance. Masters were obsessive about identifying and improving on their weaknesses; that means they were able to overcome the natural human bias toward illusory superiority (i.e., the tendency to overestimate our strengths and overlook our faults) by staying open to critical feedback from others. As Cornell psychologist David Dunning says, “The road to self-insight runs through other people.”

Of course, leaders shouldn’t be persuadable on every issue. At some point, you have to stop considering new information and opinions, make a decision, and move forward. When time is scarce or the matter at hand isn’t very consequential, it’s often okay to trust your gut and independently choose a course based on previous convictions. But for higher-stakes decisions, it’s important to adopt a more persuadable mindset. How can you do this, particularly on issues where you are far from objective?

Recall a moment of opacity. Everyone knows what a moment of clarity is: the experience of finally understanding a situation and knowing just what to do. A moment of opacity is the opposite: it’s when you can’t see a situation clearly, or when something you were so sure was right turned out to be wrong. Can you remember such a time? Persuadable leaders make sure they do. Whenever they’re feeling a little too confident or certain, they remind themselves about past moments of opacity, which motivates them to seek outside counsel and consider other points of view even when they don’t feel naturally inclined to do so.

Keep your hand on the dial, not on the gun. There is no better way to edge closer to the truth than to argue with people who disagree with you. But usually, when we engage in this way, we focus on defending our positions. It’s as if we’re skeet shooting and our counterparts’ points are the clay targets we’re trying to shoot down. We do this because we’re prone to black-and-white thinking: positions and decisions are either 100% right or 100% wrong, and if one can’t be perfectly defended, it must be the latter. But arguments don’t have to be winner-take-all; in fact, the best ones often end in compromise. So instead of imagining your hand on a shotgun, envision it turning a dial that represents the confidence you have in your opinion: all the way to the right means absolute certainty, and all the way to the left signifies none. When your debating partner makes a good point, turn the dial slightly to the left. When evidence that supports your position surfaces, turn the dial a bit to the right.

Kill your darlings. Once you’ve opened the door to feedback and debate, you may find that the evidence is piling up against your previously held view. The next step is to actually be willing to change your mind. That can be difficult when it comes to beliefs to which we’ve become attached, whether it’s a new project idea, an opinion on a long time vendor, or the assumption that you’re a succinct communicator. Writers know a lot about this fear of letting go. We have this terrible habit of falling in love with our own work and picking fights with editors who try to change our words. That’s why writers are advised to “kill their darlings” before anyone else has a chance to. The same applies to leaders. The quicker you recognize and acknowledge that an idea (even a beloved one) is unworkable, the quicker you can move on to the right course of action.