Saturday, June 13, 2009

Leaders are learners

I have been very encouraged lately by the eagerness of my Chief Operations Officer’s passion to learn more about cross-cultural communications, conflict, and cultural sensitivity.  These are skills that I have valued and been so grateful to have learned before I joined The Voice of the Martyrs but which I have often found deficient in many of us who typically work with persecuted Christians. Few have theological or biblical education training; even fewer missiological education.  Many are have journalistic, human rights, or military background. Others have been businessmen. Few have lived for extended periods of times in cross-cultural settings actually interacting with the population and this is exacerbated as much of our work is of a short-term basis. The need for cultural intelligence is either not recognized or appreciated. I need not get into some of the consequences of this deficiency.

Floyd, however, has poured himself into a learning program for which I am grateful and will strongly encourage.  As I start to wind down my leadership role at VOMC due to my health, I plan to leave a good number of my books and files on the subject to the mission for future training of personnel.  I am hoping to do more formal and informal training of our staff on the subject because I am convinced that this passion for continual learning and serving with cultural sensitivities marks us, as a mission and as individuals, favourably and I hope and pray that it continues long after I am gone. 

John Maxwell speaks us of this in his devotional book, Leadership Promises for Every Day.


A wise man will hear and increase learning.

If you continually invest in your leadership development, the inevitable result is growth overtime. Although it's true that some people are born with natural gifts than others, the ability to lead is really a collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved. But that process doesn't happen overnight. Leadership is complicated. It has many facets: respect, experience, emotional strength, people skills, discipline, vision, momentum, timing - the list goes on. As you can see, many factors that come into play in leadership are intangible. That's why leaders require so much seasoning to be effective.

In a study of ninety top leaders from a variety of fields, leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus made a discovery about the relationship between growth and leadership: "It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers." Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day's progress. [p.113]

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