Christian Leader; Who, What or How is that? 2/2

24 Mar

How should culture affect the way we lead?

people and culture

Does it mean then that Christian LC should by all means remain indifferent to the culture surrounding it? In no way! In its very beginning church was founded on the structures of the Roman Empire and spread its functions over the Europe long after the empire collapsed. Hierarchy was the dominant organizational pattern over centuries which people understood and could easily relate to.[1] It does not mean that these patterns and structures are the only suitable structures for Christian leadership, just as much it does not mean that Aramaic is the only suitable language to be used in Christian fellowship because Jesus spoke it. The point being made is that when a firm biblical ground is established under our leadership, we can proceed to choose LC that is most appropriate to our context. While not all cultures are equally valuable[2] many aspects of cultures are not intrinsically evil or good, wrong or right, thus there is a wide variety to choose from.

Today we may encounter a good deal of styles and leaderships. They are called Transformational, Transactional, Entrepreneurial, Servant or Situational Leadership. Styles are Autocratic, Bureaucratic, Charismatic or Democratic.[3] Adding all the differentiations from the beginning of this paper, one needs to be very careful in assembling the proper LC. At this point it might be simply concluded that the appropriate LC is the one that will work in a given context.

Cross-Cultural Leadership

As we experience increasing fluctuation of people across the globe a new term in leadership is gaining attention, namely Cross-Cultural Leadership. Here admitting the lack of mutual understanding is the common ground for any further planning and cooperation. A great sensitivity in listening, sharing and identifying the differences is crucial. Here our deep-rooted expectations and attitudes must be left behind so as the new collective and functioning culture might ever be created.[4] Yet, it shouldn’t be a surprise that for the sake of co-operation one must never abandon the biblical standards.

True and Domineering

While it is difficult to concisely address the specific good and bad practices of leadership, Frank Damazio in his elaborate book “The Making of a leader” I believe succeeds to offer an elementary partition between the LCs that is true and godly to one which are false and solely domineering.[5]

True Leadership

Domineering Leadership

Concentrates on influence from WITHIN by encouraging, inspiring and motivating. Depends on external controls from WITHOUT, using restrictions, rules, regulations.
Enjoys a good relationship with co-workers, showing respect for the individual.

Works with co-workers toward long-range goals, with concern for the workers; development.

Relates to co-workers from an “I’m superior—you’re inferior” standpoint.

Demands immediate results, even if it damages the potential in the co-worker.

Aims to make himself unnecessary. Creates an atmosphere where the subordinate is permanently dependent on him.
Values individual workers; encourages input and feedback, shares credit for the results. Has a low opinion of workers; very critical of other’s mistakes.
Desires power WITH co-workers, encourages input and feedback, shares credit for the results. Desires power OVER co-workers, takes credit for all accomplishments, wants no constructive criticism.
Always willing to discuss decisions and reasons for the decisions, unless circumstances do not allow. Interprets questions as personal criticism or disloyalty.
Liberates the individual, encourages ideas and participation, equips people to produce definite results. Limits individual freedoms, prefers to make all decisions, does not train anyone else to function effectively.
Is a “hear” man, portraying a genuine concern for others. Is a “head” man, showing little or no human compassion.
Is considerate and concerned for others. Is concerned only with himself.

What about Denmark?


Here in Denmark, rather flat form of leadership is exercised with a room for debate and argumentation. Here most can express their view and opinion on a given issue for that reason most decisions are made through consensus. It is an individualistic society where most provide for themselves or at best their close family. Regarding equality of men and women, Denmark ranks as one of the top egalitarian states in the world.[6] Scot Wilson suggests that in Scandinavia are some people even put off by the very idea of leadership and authority in itself, for the widespread belief that more flat is better.[7]

The question is how in such a culture can we successfully perform any form of leadership? Think of discipleship, small groups, teaching, preaching, leading worship, correcting one another and ultimately being a follower of the highest authority and the head of the church our Lord Jesus Christ. In all of the above leadership and followership is required. Thus both Scott Wilson and Magnus Persson[8] expressed that their largest concern for leadership in Denmark is the excessive flattening of the structures resulting in ineffective, slow, weak and in long-term even nearly dysfunctional Christian LC.[9]

In his response Wilson offers 7 types of decision making processes which are all suitable for different state of affairs.

  1. Authority without Discussion
  2. Authority with Discussion
  3. Expert Decision Making
  4. Minority (Group appointed for certain task)
  5. Majority (51%)
  6. Consensus
  7. Unanimous Agreement[10]

If we attempt to always reach for the flat decision making process it is like a doctor who gives all the patients the same medicine. It might help somewhat, but there are surely better options on the market. So it is with the decision making processes. While a purchase of a new building could be a place for consensus, we might not need a public discussion regarding the new design of the churches website. The latter might be faster, better and easier solved through a minority that calls in an expert in the area of contemporary design.

Another threat identified in the consensual decision making is the lessening of the initial vision. If all participants view themselves as equal in the planning process and through discussion and mutual agreement they ultimately succeed in finding the common ground, it is often at cost of momentum and strength. In other words when a leader subjects his vision to a public discussion it undergoes many modifications and alterations (some might even be objectively good) in favor of the other members. Thereby the initial vision becomes a shared vision. However shared vision is in fact nobody’s vision. To be even clearer, if initial vision is altered overly, the shared vision might not spark enough zeal or passion in people to pursue it, since while it reminds them of their initial plan; it is nothing like it anymore. Such vision can often end up as a part of congregational paperwork that is only rarely eagerly followed. See Figure 1.Figure 1 – a) Initial Vision, b) Shared vision after adding 2 additional members, c) Shared vision after adding 5 additional members

Figure 1 – a) Initial Vision, b) Shared vision after adding 2 additional members, c) Shared vision after adding 5 additional members

At last Wilson suggests that a solution to this problem lies in leadership and followership as opposed to the all-time flat egalitarian way of thinking.[11]

[1] Drane, J. W. (2000). Introducing the New Testament (Completely rev. and updated.) (387). Oxford: Lion Publishing plc.

[2] e.g. a culture in which it is a custom to kill small babies is morally inferior to a culture that does not perform so.

[3] Wilson S. (2010) “The G Factor” Denmark, ApoNet. pp. 182-213
[4] Bryant B. (October, 2008). Cross-cultural leadership: How to run operations in markets we don’t understand. Inspired by (20th February 2013)
[5] Damazio F. (1988). The Making of a leader: Biblical Leadership Principles for Today’s Leaders. Portland, Oregon, City Bible Publishing. pp. 31-32
[6] The Hofstede Centre. Retrieved from (20th February 2013)
[7] Wilson S. (2010) The G Factor. Denmark, ApoNet. pp. 174-175.
[8] Scott Wilson is also a president of a leadership network called Eurolead with Magnus Persson as a board member who is a pastor and a founder of a church UNITED in Malmo, Sweden. Both have rich experience with Scandinavian countries. Inspired by (20th February 2013)
[9] Wilson S. (2011) Transformational Leadership. Mariager Bible College, Denmark. & Persson M. (2013) Leadership Saturday. SkyWalk, Randers, Denmark.
[10] Wilson S. (2011) Transformational Leadership. Mariager Bible College, Denmark.
[11] Wilson S. (2010) The G Factor. Denmark, ApoNet. pp. 174-182
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Mission, Theology


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