Do as I do

RElational Leadership

Relational Leadership
Walter C. Wright
Paternoster Press, 2002, 230pp.

Walter Wright has collected a range of helpful leadership wisdom into this book on Christian leadership. The sources he draws upon include secular leadership material, his own experience (which includes over a decade as President of Regent College, Vancouver), and the Bible—in particular Jude, Philemon and Colossians.

Those seeking a thorough biblical exposition on leadership may be disappointed. Those after a good dose of wise insights into key areas of effective Christian leadership will be well pleased.

Wright uses the way Paul deals with the return of Onesimus to Philemon, the master he stole from and deserted, as an example of how relationships are used in leadership to bring about Gods’ purposes. Jude is used primarily as an outline of what leaders ought not be like … clouds without rain, caring only for themselves, holding out hope but have nothing to offer. They promise leadership but care only for themselves.

‘Leadership’ is defined by Wright as a “relationship of influence—a transforming relationship in which the leader invests in the growth and development of the followers, empowering them to become what God has gifted them to be”. A recurring theme is the need for the leader to be the model of behaviour for those he seeks to lead. It raises a good question for us : if the people you lead were each following your example (eg. in personal godliness, hospitality, in evangelism), would your organisation be on the path to the vision you have set? As the Americans say—leaders have to walk the talk!

I was impressed with the character of the man Wright reveals himself to be. His preparedness to engage in the hard work of making his organisation effective in a sinful world is a great encouragement. He is prepared to use himself as an example of the good and the bad in leadership, showing us his leadership tools in practice.

Wright has a passion for exercising good stewardship, and does not see this as being in conflict with the Spirit of God being in our midst. “I do not believe these are mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe that by definition a Christian organisations must be both”.

I also read recently Jim Collins’s new book, Good to Great. This is a secular business book about common factors that contribute to companies making the transition from being average to being highly successful. I was struck by the high degree of commonality between the key actions required for success outlined in the two books. The secular study of leadership is catching on to the principles God has laid down in the Bible—because they work.

Wright’s thoughtful analysis of what is key in leadership is a great challenge to all of us who are attempting to be godly leaders. It is not that it contains much that is new. More importantly, here is a mature Christian brother, well versed in the Bible and experienced in leadership, drawing together key insights in a very accessible 200-page read.

There are helpful outlines on everything from how to do strategic planning to how to work with a team. On the latter, Wright suggests there is essentially no principle difference between working with paid and unpaid staff. He asserts our ability to work with unpaid volunteers reflects our ability to lead and motivate all on our team. He is keen we care for them all. Of course, being a north American Management book, CARE is an acronym for : Clarify (the role), Agree (the objectives), Review (progress) and Equip (training)!

Wright has done us a great service collecting key biblical insights and his significant wisdom on leadership for those called to oversee God’s people. If you want to read just one book this year on leadership that covers a lot of good material briefly, this is a good one.

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