Over the past several months I have been chewing on four critical leadership principles that I believe God showed me as I read through the book of Philemon. As you may know, the book of Philemon was written by Paul and in this book (which is just one chapter) Paul is appealing to Philemon on behalf of a dude named Onesimus (we’re just not very creative with names anymore, are we?). It’s out of Paul’s appeal to Philemon on how to care for Onesimus that the four leadership principles emerge.
(These principles are offered from the vantage point of leading in ministry, however, my experience leading outside the ministry supports the truth of these principles regardless of the type of organization. The second principle is specific to ministry, but if as leaders we execute the other three well, we may just lead someone in the most import direction… to Jesus.)
As I lead, I should…
1 – Share my Faith
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Anyone in leadership that is trying to lead well wants more knowledge. Leaders want to make good decisions that lead to team victories and increase team morale. Most of the time these victories come from the leaders effectiveness in creating the right environment or process that allows the individuals on the team to succeed. In this verse Paul say that if I am active in sharing my faith that I will “have full knowledge of every good thing…”.
How do I share my faith as I lead? I don’t think this means walking each team member down the “Romans Road” everyday, but do I think its as simple as leading by living out what I say I believe in as a follower of Christ. As a leader, I’m not one person at church and another at home and another at work. I walk the talk and as I instruct/challenge/discipline my team, I do it through the filter of my faith in Christ.
2 – Trust God
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.
If you are in the position of a leader (there is a difference between being a leader and being in the position of a leader – other posts address this issue) then you can demand actions from your team. What Paul is demonstrating to me in this verse is that although he could demand action (because of his position), he is choosing to appeal to the Spirit that lives inside of Philemon.
To me, the biggest win I can achieve as a leader is to cultivate an environment where each person on my team carries out his/her role not out of duty but out of faith (Colossians 3:23). The primary benefit of leading in ministry is that each person on your team is a follower of Jesus (at least in theory). If I am following God’s direction to lead “by sharing my faith” then I need to trust God’s work in the person I am leading. Over time if I find that the person I’m leading is not responding from their own faith, but begrudgingly out of duty or not at all, then I have someone who rightfully needs to be led off my team or out of my organization.
3 – Invest in the Person
But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.
Simply, in this verse Paul is seeking Philemon’s buy in before any decisions or actions take place. My own experience has shown me that if I invest time into my team by seeking their input on a particular decision or course of action, then I am more likely to get their best effort in the execution of that decision. If I choose to not invest this time into my team, then there will be unanswered questions or confusion or a process that isn’t as good as it could have been with their input. That’s just bad and egotistical leadership.
4 – Serve the Person
If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul… will pay it back.
My team needs to know that I will stand up for them no matter the personal cost to me. It is clear from this verse Paul is willing to go out on a personal limb for Onesimus. For me, if I don’t think my leader will take a bullet for me or seek to put himself out for me then I am slow to do the same for him. If I want to be led with that type of commitment, why would I not think I should lead with that type of commitment?
Leaders must first be servants of those they lead. Securing leadership equity (the need to call in and have something done with no questions asked by the team) will only happen if the leader earns it. I have found that the only way to earn that equity is through serving each individual on the team in a way that lets them know they are not on an island and that they are safe under my leadership. Leaders go first, take bullets, deflect criticism, and make sure the people on the team feel served… a guy named Jesus thought this was a good leadership principle too (John 13:1-17).
Leadership is as easy (and as challenging) as sharing our faith, trusting God, investing in our team and serving our team. And, its as easy (and challenging) as simply loving those you lead.
Four Essential Leadership Truths
From ShaneDuffey.com comes this excellent post on Four Essential Leadership Truths from (surprisingly enough) the New Testament book of Philemon: