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Handout 1: The 'What' and the 'Who' of Leadership

"The 'What' and the 'Who' of Leadership" by Jeffrey D. Jones is reprinted from Alban Weekly (No. 231, December 29, 2008), with permission from the Alban Institute. Adapted from Heart, Mind, and Strength: Theory and Practice for Congregational Leadership by Jeffrey D. Jones. Copyright (C) 2008 by The Alban Institute, Inc., Herndon, VA. All rights reserved.

The "who" aspect of leadership is based on the reality that not everything a leader needs can be learned from books or reduced to a step-by-step plan that can be universally applied; rather it must come from an internal sense of the situation and what the leader brings to it.

The "who" is often revealed under pressure. Your "who" is revealed in what comes out of your mouth when you need to respond instantly, without the benefit even of personal reflection. It also becomes evident in the long haul, perhaps when there's nothing dramatic going on at all—how you handle day-to-day interactions with members of the congregation, how the way you live your life outside the congregation reflects that which you value and believe as a member of a religious community.

The "who" of leadership has many dimensions. Our spiritual lives affect both our self-understanding and our relationships. The depth and strength of our faith and the way that faith is nurtured through spiritual disciplines shapes who we are and how we relate to others in profound ways. Without that depth, our "who" is something less that it can be.

Another dimension of the "who" of leadership is our own self-knowledge. Years of therapy aren't essential, but a good understanding of what makes us tick is. What issues tend to threaten us? What strengths can we rely on, what preconceived notions can get us into trouble? How has our past experience shaped the way we relate to people? What are the needs, the hopes, and the fears that drive us? All of this (and much more) influences our ability to lead. To lead effectively we need to be aware of these personal traits and the way they shape our leading. Given sufficient time, almost all of those traits will become apparent to those we lead, so we had best be honest with ourselves right from the beginning.

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Last updated on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

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