A few years ago, I interviewed Dennis Bakke, co-founder and longtime CEO of the worldwide energy giant AES Corporation. Dennis told me how he helped create a company where each employee was encouraged to dream, work hard, and make important decisions. He chronicled his leadership journey in his best-selling book Joy at Work.
I have thought of Dennis’ words often as I interact with leaders of ministries desiring to empower their staff to fulfill their individual calling. I especially remember Dennis telling me that his goal and passion was to try to create the most fun workplace in the history of the world. He said that with a straight face. Well, even though he retired several years ago, I checked out the AES corporate values on their web site…and there it was:
Have Fun Through Work: We work because work can be fun, fulfilling and exciting. We enjoy our work and appreciate the fun of being part of a team that is making a difference. And when it stops being that way, we will
change what or how we do things.
Hey, we can do that in Christian ministry! Everyday can be exciting when the staff makes it a priority to identify how God’s work through us is making a specific difference in the lives of those we serve. We are a small team compared to other businesses in our region but we can be the most unified team because of our calling. By the way, there is a great Bible Study Companion book that walks you through how to create such a workplace environment by treating staff with respect, giving them unprecedented responsibility, and holding them strictly accountable.
Since that time, I have made it a point to ask staff at Christian ministries, “What characteristic of your leaders do you feel motivates you to excellence and creates an engaging atmosphere?”
Staff consistently offered three characteristics:
- The leader communicated an exciting vision for the potential influence of the ministry and told them how they might fit in the plan.
- The leader demonstrated availability when staff needed assistance or counsel.
- The leader displayed faithfulness to God in their daily habits and faithfulness to staff in helping to provide opportunities for personal, vocational and spiritual growth.
Makes sense to focus on these traits as a leader. President George H.W. Bush called this “the vision thing.” What a challenge to communicate a clear vision of the future that is simple to grasp, highly desirable and motivational for current and prospective staff. Seems like we’d rarely lack for quality team members.
Reminds me of the story of Walt Disney heading to Orlando to create Disney World. Unfortunately he died before the dream was completed. During the dedication ceremonies one of the Disney execs leaned over to Walt’s widow and whispered, “it’s a shame Walt wasn’t hear to see all this.” Mrs. Disney responded, “Well, you don’t understand, Walt did see all of this and that’s why it’s here!”
Today, fast growing Christian ministries are built on visionary leadership— empowering staff to invent entirely new ways of responding to community needs.
What do you think about when I mention the term “visionary leadership?” How have you seen it practiced? Why don’t you weigh in and post your comment?