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Defining Leadership the Hard Way

Recently I started my Doctoral program at Regent University in Virginia. We were required to do a two week residency to start things off. There were over 100 Doctoral students there studying leadership. All of them are leaders in their respective fields. When I saw the instructions for our first assignment at residency, I thought to myself, “This will be trouble”. Casting eight or nine doctoral leadership students who have never met into the crucible of expected productivity is a recipe for chaos…and chaos we had. Personalities clashed as these leaders rattled around the project. The real issue: who would lead and who would follow. As time moved on, we became a productive team and achieved our goals with excellence. I see this as a portrait that can help us define what characterizes both a follower and a leader. One component is key to success in both the leader and the follower. It is servanthood. Calvin Miller in his book “The Empowered Leader” pointed out the value of servanthood by pointing to the teaching of Christ in Matt. 20:27. Here Jesus inserts servanthood as a prerequisite to leadership. There was conflict yet we became productive as a group as each one began to serve others in order to achieve our goal. By the tenth day, the conflict had evolved into laughter and friendship. Bruce Winston, in his book” Be a Leader for God’s Sake”, points out that “peace is not the absence of conflict but it is the manner in which conflict is addressed”.

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