During a recent meeting with Dr Jeannie Trudel, Fiona Simpson MP shared her views on leadership.
As I waited to board my plane to Sydney out of the Sunshine Coast, a fellow traveler struck up a conversation about a new cancer facility his company was bringing to my region.
It was exciting news I connected to this personally after losing my Dad to cancer last year following a bitter sweet time of caring for him through his palliative chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
As I heard about one of this company’s proposed treatments, which was the use of radioactive isotopes to targets certain types of cancer, I got thinking about a leadership parallel.
Healing takes many forms but so does leadership. There is the highly visible positional leadership with strong authority that no one can miss, a bit like the powerful cancer treatments that zap the whole body.
There is also a leadership that comes by influencing with targeted interventions, working through relationships and people.
There is a case for different leadership styles for different situations. After spending many years in State Parliament in varying roles and many in opposition, I’m well acquainted with the “101” of situational and contingency leadership theory and the need to engage strong networks and relationships to get things done, rather than rely on a title and positional power.
Furthermore as a Christian in politics, I’ve also been influenced by the complementary biblical philosophy of “salt and light” — of being called to live out our faith in everyday life rather than confining it to a private place or within the walls of a church.
Taking these two highly relational concepts together, I believe you have the leadership style as modeled by Christ—focused on people, not just outcomes, and certainly on hearts transformed. It’s a good yard stick to follow.
However, I am very aware that many view success as gaining the top job with the title, resources and influence. How many times have I seen people hang all their identity, purpose and effort on that goal alone, finding it doesn’t satisfy or last. The exception is if they have built value into relationships—into other people—along the way.
Leadership is not a title. It’s an action. Positions can come and go but purpose doesn’t. People matter and unlocking their potential is a high call of leadership.
I’ve learned that relational leadership isn’t just about hanging out at the coffee pot but, when there are goals to be met and causes to be won, it’s strategic and lateral.
A wise mentor of mine once said to me to never under estimate the power of facilitation—to use your ability to bring people to the table, to use networks to build creative solutions and then leverage group buy-in in a coalition of support.
I have used this technique to bring teams together for projects in my local area, such as a youth justice project we built a few years ago. It proved that you can do good things with diverse people, even people who disagree on many things, if you tap the common goal.
As a Christian, I also know that we have a creator God who is very much in the business of strategic placement and “salt and light” positioning for influence.
There are seasons and causes where God requires us to navigate across organisational boundaries and even outside of the walls to achieve an outcome. Allies to a shared cause can defy traditional boxes. A lesson I have learned along the way is not to write off the unlikely collaborative heroes – those who on first blush you would think impossible allies for a worthy cause but on scratching beneath the surface and putting side personal comfort zones you find share a common cause.
As we face an increasingly secular society with changing social values, I am reminded that nothing is new under the sun. Hostility to Christ-focused life—affirming values certainly isn’t new. As a first-world country with a Judeo-Christian heritage, we have just been a bit protected from the hottest battles that many Christians and people of faith face around the world, even until death.
Seeking to stand firm and be unwavering in our faith in these times, I realise we have to purposefully guard the anchor points of our faith. To do that requires keeping a healthy margin of time to breathe, pray and reflect for a fresh download of God’s wisdom and not to neglect the fellowship of believers in order to keep the flame alight and bright.
God knows the end game. He chose to put us here at this point in history and He will equip us for the challenges of our seasons and times.
That is an exciting place and time to be as a Christian leader in whatever our vocational environment.
Lifting up Jesus, lifts up people. Christ-centred leadership that loves people unlocks the seeds of destiny that he placed in their hearts.