Day two and I have almost concluded the task of evaluating Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges’ book ‘Lead like Jesus’. In fact I’d say I am pretty much done. Frankly, after having squeezed every ounce of relevance from this theological morsel, I am unlikely to revisit ‘Lead like Jesus’ again anytime soon. Therefore allow me to share one last insight with you before I close the book on this one.
According to Blanchard and Hodges there are four learning stages. These are ‘novice, apprentice, journeyman and master’. In unpacking the relevance of this for a 21st century understanding of leadership, I found it helpful to employ the online gamer term, “noob”. For the non-gamer: the term “noob” essentially means “new”. It is also a pejorative term, slung like cow dung at gaming veterans, from other gaming veterans, in what can only be described as an alpha contest between time-rich buffoons. Yet, in spite of these negative connotations, the term “noob” is useful. This is because it helps us identify the importance of vulnerability, trust and humility in a leadership paradigm that is modelled on Jesus the Christ.
When a leader and follower acknowledge that they are “noobs” in certain areas of their lives, it motivates humility, compassion and empathy for the people around them. Blanchard and Hodges concur with this assessment when they say that ‘at any one time in our work life or in one of our life role relationships, we could be at all four learning stages’ (2005, p.139). With this understanding we can properly frame the ‘response and responsibility’ (Blanchard & Hodges), by which a servant-leader introspectively acknowledges where they are at, in regards to each of the four stages of learning. For example:
‘Getting things right is simply part of the learning process that precedes getting things exactly right on a consistent basis. Leaders, seeking to grow and develop people as an end goal of equal importance to results, need a healthy capacity to forgive, correct and move on’ (2005, p.77).
The benefits of applying such a perspective – minus the pejorative use of the word “noob” – are numerous. One area of potential effectiveness is that it energizes conflict resolution. This is because it calms conflicting emotions and opens up a world of communication and understanding, as opposed to a world of hurt. For instance: this type of leadership sees the value of holistic reviewing procedures, such as making better use of critical incident reports. A feature of this could be that it acts as a preventative by minimising conflict.
Alignment is an important consideration here (KayWee Sim, 2013). This is because alignment evidences the divergence between a leader who ‘judges and discounts vs. one who forgives and redirects’ (2005, p.77 & p.94). In brief, the idea of alignment converges with Blanchard and Hodges’ statement: ‘leaders set course and direction, they serve by empowering and supporting others in implementation’ (2005, p.84). In other words leaders are aligned towards an ethos that views vulnerability, humility and ‘grace as the currency of all true relationships’ (citing Fr. Joseph Fox 2005, p.79).
Clearly humble ground becomes Holy ground, when this is played out “on the field”. In short, humility wins. A servant leader aims to bless, rather than impress. The grand finale for Blanchard and Hodges is that a servant leader knows when to follow, who to follow, when to lead and ‘how to stay aligned’.