Guest Post: This is a guest post from Pastor Dave Alford. His thinking and approach to leadership shapes and challenges much of my own approach. Look for more of Dave’s posts on Extraordinary Leadership here in the future.
Perfect leadership? Is that even possible? Perhaps not, but wouldn’t it be great to at least know what it looks like? Then we’d have a target to shoot for. Well, as it turns out, the Bible’s storyline begins with perfect leadership. It’s what God provided to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As their leader, God gave the first couple three things:
- He gave them . . . AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
God is perfect so obviously there’s no better example. But just as important as his example, God also made himself accessible to Adam and Eve so that they could see and experience his example. His perfection provided the example, but it was his presence that ensured that Adam and Eve could follow it. No one but God can provide a perfect example, but extraordinary leaders understand the importance of both being the best example they can be and being accessible to those they are leading. They don’t lower the bar on the standards they want to lead by. Instead they keep the standards high, admit it when they fall short of those standards, and stay close enough to those they are leading that they be seen and followed. Extraordinary leaders are visible role models. Conventional leaders keep their distance.
- He gave them . . . A PURPOSE TO LIVE FOR
God gave Adam and Eve something significant to do. He delegated responsibility for the world he had made to them (that’s really significant!), and the way he did it was very important. He didn’t give them a list of tasks. Instead he described the scope of their responsibilities, telling them that they were to manage creation, and then left it up to them to figure out how they were going to get it done. A set of tasks would have just been a list of things to do. Responsibility gave them purpose. Conventional leaders assign tasks. Extraordinary leaders define purpose.
- He gave them . . . VALUES TO LIVE BY
God gave Adam and Eve guidelines for their work. Rather than being limiting, the guidelines freed them to pursue their purpose. He told them they were free to manage creation any way that they wanted, with one small exception. Freedom without parameters is not freeing because it provides no guidance at all. It is the limitation that gives the freedom meaning. Extraordinary leaders understand this. They provide as much freedom as possible within the values that set the boundaries for that freedom. Conventional leaders focus on control, using policies and procedures to dictate how tasks are accomplished. Extraordinary leaders empower through values. Conventional leaders limit through rules.
These are the ingredients for perfect leadership, and they are what extraordinary leaders offer to those they are leading. God’s leadership was perfect but, unfortunately, people aren’t. Adam and Eve eventually rejected God’s leadership. God’s response was to let them and us learn what flawed leadership looks like so that we would be hungry for perfect leadership when it reappeared.