‘Why don’t you write the November blog?’
said Tim at my first Reader training day.
‘You can include something about what Readers do and it can go into your training portfolio.’
Flushed with the enthusiasm of a newbie, I agreed.
So here I am! But what on earth should I write about? Well, coincidentally, I finished my two years theological study by writing an essay on business ethics and leadership, and the first thing I have been asked to do in Reader training is to compare and contrast my leadership style with my training incumbent’s, aka Tim.
So, leadership it is, and that little exchange does illustrate certain differences between Tim and me. Tim has a charming, persuasive manner and takes a hands-off approach, trusting people to get on with tasks independently. I love intellectual stimulation and teamwork. Mmm, I think I understand why the Lay Ministries Enabler suggested the first thing we looked at with our training incumbents was BOTH our leadership styles and how they interact with each other.
Leadership style examples
We see examples of leadership style around us all the time. Theresa May played her cards close to her chest and liked to be completely in control – an autocratic leader. Boris Johnson uses the force of his personality to carry the day – a charismatic leader, which has nothing to do with likeability.
Meanwhile, over the last few decades, servant leadership has become a rather trendy concept in the business world, as shown by the increasing number of companies calling their staff ‘partners’ or ‘associates’. Whole books have been written on it. A servant leader operates within a flat, rather than a hierarchical, structure, listens to their staff and shows empathy while simultaneously refusing to accept inadequate effort or performance. Apparently, it’s very effective at boosting profits.
The ultimate model
The ultimate model of servant leadership is Jesus, of course. Jesus, son of God, creator and Lord, laid down his life for others. But, unlike the business leader following the latest trend, Jesus is not profit or performance oriented – he just desires what is best for us. And when he laid down his life, it was to rise again as King.
What does following the Servant King look like? When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, he told them, ‘do as I have done for you.’ But he also said, ‘I no longer call you servants… instead I call you friends.’ And in that contrast, we find our role in the world as Christians: friends of King Jesus, leaders in service.
So, back to what Readers do – my favourite description is a Lay Theologian, someone who is a bridge between the Church and society. Their voluntary ministry is different from but complementary to the parish priest’s. I might also need a bit of help. Apparently, I need people to fill in comment forms every time I preach or lead a service… wait a moment, those words have suddenly taken on a whole new meaning!