Friday, October 06, 2006

defining leadership

A Blogger friend emailed me the following and I thought it might strike up a good discussion:

Hey Christine,

I was sort of thinking that it might be really helpful for lots of us if you might write a post on your definition of leadership. I think that through your various posts on men taking the leadership role and dating and all this … I’ve never quite figured out what you mean by “lead.” Does that mean “take initiative” or does it mean “move forward intellectually” or … there are a million possibilities, so I guess maybe if we all sort of nailed down what we mean by “leadership” (can you, for instance, be a leader without a group of people who follow you?), the discussion might ratchet up a notch.

My friend Beth and I were discussing it today (a discussion provoked from reading some of your writing) and came up with this: “a leader is one who accepts responsibility to act with integrity and direct others towards a common goal.

Perhaps you might write a post or two on the subject? Just a humble suggestion from someone struggling with the whole thing …



Lorie said...

What a great question. Because I think a lot of us are all about men "stepping up" and being "spiritual leaders" in theory, but few of us (ESPECIALLY the poor guys) really know what that means or looks like, in a concrete sense...

Sharon said...

i found your blog thru a close friend's site, and like what you have to say. i love skirts too.
keep on keepin' on!!

simone said...

Great discussion point.

We talk alot about 'leadership' but it doesn't seem to me that it's a particularly biblical term - 'leaders' is only used 8 times in NT (NASB) (many of these are not positive) and none refer to male-female relationships.

Maybe we should be trying to define 'headship' instead.

'Leadership' is an idea very important in western culture at the moment - just listen to any school principal or politician. I wonder if sometimes we import secular ideas of leadership onto the biblical terms - headship and eldership.

Just a thought.

But I'd be interested to know what people think. My suspicion is that when we start expecting our husbands to be 'leaders' in the secular sense of the word we set them up for failure and ourselves up for unnecesary frustration - because alot of current leadership theory is based on personality types.

Can you imagine a man who is not a 'leader' but is exercising godly headship in his home?

Am I splitting hairs here?

Christina said...

I am going to refer another book for reading IF it hasn't been read already by the masses... Bryan Chappell's book Each for the Other is a great reference to what biblical male leadership and the complementary marriage relationship should/could look like. Our church gives this book to all the couples in premarital counseling and it's one that I am not hesitant to give alongside all the pretties at a bridal shower.
Bryan's language is full of grace and his examples are based in reality.

Chris said...

Simone - I LOVE your distinction between "headship" and "leadership"! I'm curious as to how you define the two - especially how are the two different. I'd wager that "headship" is a quality that's supposed to be intrinsic to males in the context of the family, while "leadership" is a non-gender quality. But in what context do we find "leadership" and how are the two honestly different from each other?

ckhnat said...

be careful about equating "headship" with something that is inherently male.

One may say that one has certain personality qualities that lend themselves to leadership. And view that as an "out" for not leading. Sure enough.

However, to say that headship is in your genes? ...

hmm ... I think instead it ought to be viewed as a *responsibility* ... not part of a man's genetic make-up.

From this perspective it takes away from blame-shifting or slacking-off. "I don't have what it takes" etc.

Instead ...

"This is something that i'm MEANT to do. I may be timid and doubt my own abilities, but it is my responsibility to guide/shepherd/minister to my family in love/safety/holiness. Not because I necessarily have the 'gift' to lead, not because that's the way God made me, but because it's the right thing to do."

simone said...


Lately I've been lookng at the specific NT passages that talk about male and females roles in marriage. I've been struck by what they say.

1 Peter 2:7 urges husbands to be CONSIDERATE towards their wives - aware that they are weaker and RESPECTING them for it (not taking advantage of their weakness) and also RESPECTING them as they are fellow hiers of eternal life.

Colossians 3:19 instructs husbands to LOVE their wives and not to be harsh with them.

Ephesians 5 says that husbands ought to LOVE their wives as themselves.

Looking at them side by side the main things that they all seem to be saying is love. Love - being considerate and respectful of weakness. Love - not being harsh. Love - like you love yourself (after all, who would hate their own body?).

Paul and Peter don't seem to spend much time talking about all the 'leadership' stuff that we do. Taking responsibility in dating, family devotions etc. These are good things, but I wonder if they are more our interpretations of God's word, rather than what he directly says. Kind of like the 'hedge' that the pharisees built around the law.

Here's why I think it matters. We (wives) are called on to respect and submit to our husbands, not because of any leadership qualities that they have, but simply because they are our husbands. Our heads. I think that by raising women's expectations of what a godly husband looks like - this incredible, initiative taking, household leader - we actually make it increasingly difficult for women to respect the good husbands that God has placed over them. We encourage women to respect their husbands because of 'leadership' qualities, rather than simply because of their position as our heads.

Paul and Peter's checklist:
1. Is your husbands considerate of you, particularly in the weaknesses of your female frame? Is he kind to you when you are not feeling well? Is he always gentle with you physically and not violent? YES? Good.

2. Is your husband harsh with you? NO? Good.

3. Does he take as good care of your body as he does his own? YES? Good.

4. Does your husband love you? YES? Good.

I think these are the questions we need to be asking about our husbands. And if we get all the right answers we should be praising God for the husbands he has given us.

When I speak to women about marriage I prefer to speak about 'headship' than 'leadership'. 'Headship' is more about the position that God has given the man in marriage and the respect that we should show him simply because of his position.

Do you understand what I'm getting at? Do you agree?

mike said...

You'll find that the term "headship" isn't one that crops up in the NASB or the NIV at all.
The word "head" however appears often.

1 Cor 11 Order of headship… God=>Christ=>Man=>Woman.
Eph 1 Christ is head over all things in heaven and earth.
Eph 1:22 Christ over Church and everything.
Eph 4 Christ head over the church.
Eph 5 Christ is head over church as the husband is the head over his wife.
Col 1 Christ is head over church
Col 2:10 Christ is head over every power
Col 2:19 I’m not sure Christ or church?

However I think it's important to realise that "headship" (I think) implies that the "head" should exercise leadership in the relationship (whether or not they are particularly gifted in this way).

Simone (if I'm understanding) you are saying that Women should respect their husbands becasue of their position as "head" rather than because of any inherent gifts in leadership. If so I'd agree.

Christine my sweet I think I agree with most (shock horror) of what you say however here would be my definition.

"This is something that i'm MEANT to do. I may be timid and doubt my own abilities, but it is my responsibility to guide/shepherd/minister to my family/wife in love/safety/holiness. Not because I necessarily have the 'gift' to lead, because God made me the "head", and therefore it's the right thing to do."

ckhnat said...

hmm, you're right, sweetheart, i prefer your statement over the one i made.

Chris said...

So ... wait, are we saying that there isn't such a thing as "headship" but there IS such a thing as leadership? If so, are we indeed saying that leadership is not actually connected to gender, though it is to be used by the men in the marriage relationship? If so, what IS leadership, exactly?

Anonymous said...

How did Christ love the church? By dying. What is the basis of the Christian life as a whole? An everyday death to self. Perhaps a wife experiences that death through submitting graciously and kindly, while a man tastes death by putting his family before his own natural desires.

(This is Melissa, but I've misplaced my password. Peace <><)

Lorie said...

I think Simone makes some good points. And I think the idea of positional headship (in terms of God-ordained responsibility) is a valid and desirable alternative to the nebulous idea of leadership. I TOTALLY agree that "by raising women's expectations of what a godly husband looks like - this incredible, initiative taking, household leader - we actually make it increasingly difficult for women to respect the good husbands that God has placed over them"---and this applies to single women as well. It places SO much pressure on us to find a guy with all the "right" leadership qualities and skills.

adjoines said...

Good thought, all. However, I believe that everyone is overdoing this entire topic. Often we make things out to be more complicated than they really are. The Gospel is a great example: The Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to the Scriptures (I Cor. 15:1-4). We run around trying to define words that are already defined for us in the scriptures.

Simply speaking, leadership is influence (whether good or evil). We are all leaders, because we all have some influence over others. You cannot make anyone do anything, but you can influence their decision.

God hasn't given men more ability, intelligence, etc. than women. He has simply placed an order in the church and in the home (God is a God of order!). God has placed men in a position of accountability in the home. Wives, you are not accountable to God for your husbands behavior. BUT, husbands are accountable to God for their wife's behavior. God would never give someone accountability for something in which he doesn't empower them to complete it. All men who are called by God to lead a family (meaning those who wed for scriptural reasons) are also empowered by God to love their wife and serve as leaders (servant leadership is the example given by Christ). Also, ALL women who are called by God to wed are also empowered by God to respect their husband and submit to their OWN husband (Eph. 5). Improperly defining roles is where our society began to swerve from the path of righteousness...