22 Jun MODEL THE WAY
By Stephen Scott, The HuD Group, Australia
As part of his early childhood learning, my son will often list 3-4 objects and ask what they have in common. The answer generally being that they rhyme, or are the colour blue etc… The simple game is meant to help children recognize patterns and similarities in the world around them. While true for toddlers, the same ‘game’ can be applied to life and leadership – are there certain things that we see to be true across the board? If so we can draw a principle from what we observe and apply it to all areas of life.
For this blog, I will ask you: What do student ministry, corporate leadership, Jesus’ way of teaching and parenting have in common? While one might be able to draw up a list of several commonalities between the four, I’ve found is that they all prove true the principle that we must model what we desire in those we lead.
Perhaps we will begin with Jesus.
Recently, I was doing a Discovery Bible Study[i] on Luke 11:1-13 where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. Luke begins his account by nonchalantly mentioning that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place…[ii]” It is as if Luke wants us to notice that Jesus’ prayer life wasn’t reserved for special occasions, but rather something that occurred every day and anywhere. One of my mentors taught me that when it comes to understanding Biblical text, context is king. And so, we see that the context for Jesus’ subsequent teaching on prayer (and most probably the reason the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray) was that Jesus modelled a life of prayer. In fact, a read through the book of Luke one cannot help but notice how much Jesus’ prayer life is mentioned!
This principle of modelling the way can be applied to all areas of life and leadership.
When I moved 13,000km away from my home in Canada to take up residence in Australia as a Global Catalyst for International Student Ministries Canada, my mission was clear: catalyse mission among international students by modelling ministry among international students. My strategy was simple, first begin modelling ministry among international students and as I do so, to equip others to do likewise. Model and mobilize. As part of my work here I’ve partnered with the local chapter of the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students who hold as one of their organisational values “Training by Modelling”[iii]. So we see when it comes to direct student ministry the same principle applies, we model how we hope our students will follow. The Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth says “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”[iv]. In other words, I am modelling what I am teaching you. I could go on but I think you get the point: Model the way.
Of course, we should expect that biblical principles, especially those lived out by Jesus, will prove to be true in other areas of life. This is true with this leadership principle that we must model the way. The international bestseller “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner uses years of research to identify 5 practices of exemplary leadership. Number 1 on their list is that exemplary leaders model the way.[v] The further break this down into two action points of first clarifying your values and then setting the example by aligning your actions with your shared values.
Finally, this principle is most apparent when you are a parent. So often when I watch my children I see my behaviours, more so than my instructions, being carried out in the way they behave and interact. In my children’s eyes, the way I model my values speaks more to them than my words ever will. This brings us to the crux of the matter, good or bad the way you live out (or don’t live out) your values is what others will follow.
So how are you applying this leadership principle? Do you know your values or those you wish to see in those you lead? If not I suggest you take time to reflect on what they are! And if so, take an honest look in the mirror and ask if you are modelling the way by living out your values.
[i] The particular method I was using can be found at www.m28global.org
[ii] Luke 11:1
[iv] 1 Corinthians 11:1
[v] The Leadership Challenge (Sixth Edition), Kouzes & Posner p.14