But we must!

David had felt “but we must!” have conflict resolution with Z___, and was not given that opportunity. God worked in wonderful ways, however, and we are reminded of how good He is.

Recently we taught class sessions on Cross-cultural Communication and Biculturalism, and I had the opportunity to remember and appreciate the bigger story.

The teammate who stayed, the young Japanese pastor, grew and kept growing. More than ten years later, he is still pastor and the church continues as a creative witness in its community.

Communication, understanding and trust were strengthened between the mother church elders/pastor and the younger pastor over the years we worked together, and David played a key role in that. All of this took place in Japanese, with its nuances of respect, honor, and varying degrees of indirectness. Ironically, the gaikokujin (literally “outside country person”) who was operating outside of his native culture and language, was used by God to aid their communication with each other.

The book hadn’t been written yet, but David was following principles described by Duane Elmer in Cross-cultural Servanthood (2006). Openness, acceptance, trust, learning, and understanding are what “must be” modeled and pursued in ministry teams, if we are to thrive and succeed. I am honored to have seen that in action, especially in a multi-cultural setting with its extra challenges.

confidence = competence?

Someone who read my post last week sent me a provocative article that observes the tendency of many people in my culture to confuse confidence with competence. Those with the most passionate voices and most compelling vision are not necessarily those with the ideal leadership profile. In fact, this author notes that “most of the character traits that are truly advantageous for effective leadership are predominantly found in those who fail to impress others about their talent for management.”

In case you are wondering, this is not some outrageous claim nor a random comment from the edge of the internet.  This is the Harvard Business Review, and it’s substantiated by a significant body of social science research. There is a strong consensus among leadership scholars that humility is a core quality of effective leadership.

Of course, we don’t need social scientists to prove this to us.  2,000 years ago, Jesus taught and modeled how to lead effectively: The meek shall inherit the earth . . . I have come not to be served, but to serve . . . The greatest among you should be like the youngest . . . Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.  His disciples echoed these teachings over and over again: Be completely humble and gentle . . . Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others . . . All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another . . . Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

So I don’t need scientific research or modern case studies to convince me that leaders need to clothe themselves with humility and make every effort to be good listeners of those they serve.  But scholarship, empirical studies and even modern management publications can open our eyes to our blind spots.  They are just one more thing that we need to listen to.

Question: In the past few days, who or what have you listened to?  How is it helping you to become a better leader?