Stroll down the aisles of any of the few remaining bookstore and you will see a litany of books on leadership. Some will address the personality of a leader. Others will offer leadership development processes. Many of these works are extremely important to understand how to wield influence in the workplace, ministry, and community settings. Without effective leadership, goals are rarely achieved. We get it. The question, however, remains as to why with all of this focus on leadership development that we end up with some many ineffective organizations. I would like to suggest these institutions were bereft of an effective leadership posture. Without it, ethical lapses are a predictable eventuality.
There are plenty of examples of leadership lapses in corporate, faith-based, and not-for-profit settings. We can certainly blame several factors for the scandals, exploitation, and greed from Enron to Bear Sterns to the United States Congress.
I have written before on the notion of posture in advancing our spiritual purposes on earth. Check that post out HERE. In this post, I talk about how my first visit to a chiropractor enlightened me about the consequences of poor posture.
I have thought a lot about posture since then, particularly as it pertains to leadership and influence.
Like the chiropractor teaching me to improve my posture through proper shoulder and head placement, improved posture in leadership is about proper placement as well. It requires proper placement of one’s ego, self-centeredness, and motivations.
I’d like to suggest three domains where it is vital that we have a leadership posture to have the great influence for which we exist.
Leadership Posture at Home
In my training and experience as a relationship educator, here are some real life examples of demonstrations of good posture. An Atlanta-area pastor takes a leave of absence from work despite the personal and financial consequences to stay consistently by his wife’s side in prayer until she is healed from the cancer that had stricken her body. God honored his smallness in her healing.
Just this week, I was speaking with a group of couples about the premises around good posture in marriage. One of the wives astutely commented, “I know that we are talking about marriage. But, what is really convicting me right now is how this informs my interaction with my children.” She is exactly right. Often in our parent-child relationships, we parents deliberately exert our power over our children to convince them to behave in a desirable manner. Obviously, this is often a necessary and expected component of parenting. The point, however, is that there are times when effective parenting necessitates that we maintain a good posture to get on the level of our children in order to best relate and motivate them. Some parents are leery to do this because of fear that they will lose their parental authority.
Leadership Posture at Work
For others, God challenges us to better posture in our workplace. Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work often surrounded by people from a variety of backgrounds, belief systems, and life challenges. From an early age, I have had a profound sense that God places us in our respective jobs to be witnesses for him both by performing our jobs with technical excellence and by cultivating positive relationships.
The workplace presents a number of ways for modeling good posture. For example, it can be accomplished through your ability to stay centered when those around you are in flux, when you allow a colleague to get the credit rather than seek glory for yourself, when others see you as a safe haven to share their life concerns, and when you refuse to compromise ethics despite pressure. Yes, good posture at work is often fraught with political and possibly even financial consequences.
Leadership Posture in Ministry
Good posture is also a prerequisite to effective personal ministry. How many prominent examples have we seen of public figures who have been disgraced because their largesse became the focus of their ministry? I believe that one of the greatest examples of good posture in ministry that I have personally witnessed is that of my deceased grandmother, Mrs. Minnie H. Penn.
As a youth, I watched her serve other people through her gift of baking. And, bake she did—cakes, pies, cupcakes, turnovers, and much more. And she made it clear to her grandson (me) and others who criticized her for not charging more money for her goods, that she did it “to make people happy”.
I did not fully appreciate it during her lifetime. But, I came to realize that my grandmother baked as a ministry. She was powerful not because of her gift but because of her humble posture. And, at her funeral civil and religious dignitaries from around the country honored this “uneducated” woman for her lifetime of influence. Thousands were blessed (not to mention well fed) by her posture.
Ultimately, maintaining a healthy posture is about encouragement–defined as “inspiring one with courage, spirit, or confidence”. It is here that you will find your innate identity as a leader. But, it only happens as you honestly commit to that posture.