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The four priorities of a leader


‘Coming out of COVID-19, we’ve all been through a massive learning curve. There’s been a lot of pressure on leaders to manage both emotional well-being and challenging circumstances. But now most teams are asking “what’s next”?,’ says executive head of the Mergon Foundation, Neil Hart.

During a recent Elevate Leadership webinar, Neil focussed on four priorities that will help leaders to move their organisations forward.

1. Create (apostolic) vision

‘“Apostolic” is the call to go, to move forward in God’s kingdom. We know that we are all sent, no matter what gifting you carry as a leader. Creating an apostolic vision within our teams is embedded into all of our spiritual leadership mandates,’ says Neil.

‘A recent Gallup study that looked at learnings from past crises revealed that people need leaders to provide a clear path forward. I’ve found that vision is a fairly linear path: firstly, there has to be a clear Godly revelation. As leaders, we simply have to hear from God. No textbook, no degree, nothing can supersede hearing from God and casting that vision for your team. Next, a Godly revelation produces clear vision, clear vision creates action, and that action establishes God’s kingdom,’ he notes.

Vision works like the rudder on a ship – it determines the direction of the team. A ship can still sail without a rudder, but it won’t necessarily go in the right direction. With a rudder (vision) the ship moves forward and in the right direction. A vision focuses teamwork and connects and unifies people towards a common goal.

From the many vision speeches he’s deconstructed over the years, Neil has found that there are four important and common aspects to casting vision:

1. A clear values connect: what do we stand for or against?

2. Direction: what are we moving towards?

3. Actions: what must we overcome to get there? What will you regret if you don’t act

4. Reward: what is the reward that is in store?

‘Vision can be powerful. It unifies, inspires action, creates hope and it settles fears. If you have a group of people that you’re leading that have these things in common, you can move mountains,’ notes Neil.

2. Create a people-centred culture

‘A healthy organisational culture is a goal in itself. The fingerprints and purposes of God are first woven into your people before they are woven into your mission. We don’t achieve anything significant from the Lord except through people. This is a team game that God has called us to’ Neil says.

‘Culture comes out of a set of common behaviours, behaviours come out of values, and leaders espouse values. As a leader, the value of valuing people is what will create a people-centred culture in your organisation. Jesus seemed to be able to see each person for who God had made them to be and it’s our role as leaders to make sure each person is intricately tied into the organisation and into relationship.

According to Neil, there are five types of toxic cultures leaders need to be aware of:

1. Works-based culture: all about performance, things are never quite good enough.

2. Ego-based culture: a charismatic personality can often become overly personality orientated and ego driven.

3. Money-driven culture: money or the lack thereof is the focus.

4. Weak accountability culture: misplaced pastoral gift where you want to love everybody and keep them happy but don’t hold them accountable. As a result, we may well underachieve.

5. Fear-based culture: Trust deficit, lack of love, fear of failure. Not motivated by love but motivated by fear.

On the flip-side, the characteristics of a people-centred culture:

– It’s a safe space where people experience both mental and psychological peace. It’s a space where people can be vulnerable and free to take risks.
– It’s a culture where people are prioritised over performance.
– It’s a culture where there’s dependability – meaning we keep our promises and we do what we say we’re going to do.
– It’s a culture where there’s a shared sense of purpose for meaningful work.
– It’s a culture that results in impact so we can celebrate victories together.

3. Create organisational clarity

‘God weaves us into the narrative of who He is and who we are in Him. A Jewish Rabbi once said the greatest gift of the Isrealites to the world is that law is connected into narrative. ‘What that means,’ says Neil ‘is that when you look at constitutions around the world, every constitution has a law or a judicial system but we don’t always know why those laws were made. However, the Jewish system wove the law into the narrative’.

Neil says that in any healthy organisation we know what the narrative is – the history, stories and what God called us to. But the ‘law’ part refers to organisational clarity. Organisational clarity is all about why we have to do what we do and weaving people into that structure. It’s also about having the right people in the right places, having clarity of purpose, structure and accountability. Leaders need to learn how to creatively over-communicate these three things over and over again to create clarity in organisational processes:

– Why we exist (mission / purpose statement)
– Our values
– Our key milestone for the year

‘If you find that there is a lack of clarity about who is responsible for what, there are unclear decision-making processes or rationale behind the things that you are doing, or that teams have poor visibility into project priorities or progress, it is a sign that you need to improve organisational clarity for your team. Ask yourself if team members know what the mission or project goals are and how to get there. Do team members feel like they have autonomy, ownership and concrete projects?’.

‘God is a God of order and infinite detail and we see that throughout all creation. This plays into how we lead – we should lead with order and infinite detail. God delights in the creativity that removes chaos,’ says Neil.

4. Create a new generation of leaders

We are in a constant generational transition. A rising tide brings in all the boats. In the same way, when leaders grow other leaders around them, the whole organisation rises up. God has one purpose throughout history that He has expressed through many leaders and many generations, so everything we do should carry this idea of God being a generational leader.

‘God’s vision for us as leaders is to think generationally,’ says Neil. ‘Succession is already happening whether we like it or not. The reality is that through priorities, attitudes, actions, memories, language etc, leader-shaping is happening all the time. Leader development is also not limited to a programme. Rather, it’s what God has built into the natural life of communities and organisations.’

He says that in the future someone will build on what you have done but the question is how will they build and how well have you prepared them? The next generation must understand the past, honour the past and build on the past while the older generation must share the past, trust God for the future and build and empower the next generation.

In closing, Neil highlighted some things we need to look for when we select future leaders:

1. Character: Are they a servant leader? Are they reliable? Do they have integrity?

2. Competence: Do they have the necessary skills?

3. Chemistry: Are they likeable, how well do they connect with the team?

4. Core values: Are their core values in line with the rest of the team?

5. Courage: Do they take faith risks and rise to challenges?

6. Capacity: Will their work ethic enable them to manage tasks well and do they have  emotional capacity for leadership?

7. Courtesy: Do they show respect for other team members and are they collaborative in their approach?

Watch the full webinar here.

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