Rugby is a popular sport in many parts of the world, but one wouldn’t expect it to be showcased in a country like the USA. They have American football, after all. And still, it will be indeed! News agencies across the world recently reported that the men’s rugby world cup tournament in 2031 will be hosted there, with the women’s tournament scheduled to take place in the US in 2033. The reason is that rugby can “break new ground in the USA”. It shows vision on the part of the organisers and those promoting rugby. And vision is one of the essential principles of leadership. Effective leadership anticipates trends, rather than just responding to them; it peers into the future, foresees the big picture, and creates an environment for work (or ministry) that welcomes innovation. The Church is called to shape the future instead of playing catch-up in fields facilitating the preaching of the Gospel.
“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins —and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” — Mark 2:21-22
Effective leadership also zooms in on that which is essential. In other words, it masters the art of prioritising. Elon Musk calls it applying “the first principles method,” where innovation (again) and nonconformity (as in not allowing the status quo to dictate progress) take precedence over doing things ‘the way we have always done it’. Instead of labouring under the norm, “you boil things down to fundamental truths…and reason up from there.” Moreover, life is full of detours, and one needs to focus on what is critical intentionally. Steve Jobs suggested that this is most efficiently done when we learn to say ‘no’ to nonessentials, which can potentially derail us from our mission’s core values and practices.
“…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” — Mathew 6:33
And then there is the mundane reality of imperfection, which often translates into conflict. Conflict is not always detrimental as long as it is allowed to facilitate growth rather than division. For that to happen, leadership needs to be practised with transparency and integrity, for it isn’t what we say but what we do that defines us and our ability to lead. Crises come and go, but the way a leader responds to difficulties is observed and stored in the community’s psyche. A peacemaker is thus a leader after God’s heart as “reconciliation is the heartbeat of the gospel and God’s longing for humanity.”
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” — 1 Corinthians 5:18
Dr. Dan Serb is the President of the Irish Mission