The modern world is advancing at a remarkable rate of speed and most people are trying to desperately keep up with it. For the most part, technology is responsible for increasing the frantic nature many people go through life with, while at the same time providing many conveniences and provisions to day-to-day life. While technology has brought enrichment to modern life, it has also created new challenges. One such challenge is the leadership illusion of productivity through technological busyness without actually accomplishing organizational or personal goals through effective leadership practices. Bennis (1999) expressed such a concern about the advancement of technology by declaring leadership is at its end (p. 71). Though technology can bring efficient tools for leaders to use, it does not replace the values and principles of effective leadership.
Leadership is both an art and a science. There is a plethora of research on various aspects of leadership, as well as popular press material to aid in the development of a leader and speak into the science of leadership. But, when it comes to the art of leadership, the values and principles as well as the attitude and perspective of a leader, there is no greater resource than the passages found in the Holy Bible. Technology can provide tools of efficiency and organization, but it is not able to replace the ancient wisdom of God’s word.
Leadership is concerned with the development of the personhood of the leader, as well as the interactions between leader and followers (Ayers, 2006, p. 5). It is more than the accomplishment of tasks, but it is a “social influence exerted on individuals and/or groups to achieve goals” (Lewis, 1996, p.61) Leadership is more about the management of the relationships involved with accomplishing tasks, than it is about the tasks themselves. With leadership being primarily an endeavor in human interaction, it would seem beneficial to learn about it from Jesus, who is “arguably the most effective leader and change agent the world has ever known” (McCabe, 2008, p. 33) and the values and principles he used from the breadth of scripture. Through the use of biblical analysis, any leader can grow by applying biblical principles and values.
The body of exegetical research on strategic leadership provides modern leaders with a wealth of knowledge on practical application of biblical principles. It is a missed opportunity for many leaders globally, and its absence is evident throughout numerous scandals, improprieties, and moral breakdowns in business and government (Engstrom, 1978, p. 11). With just a little bit of work and attention, the treasure of moral instruction from the pages of the Bible could be available to leaders throughout the world. Through such methods of study as socio-rhetorical criticism, historical-cultural contextualization, and word studies the wealth of wisdom from the scriptures are readily made available to any leader.
Socio-rhetorical criticism begins, not in the meaning of a given passage, but with the textures of words and language of a given passage (Robbins, 1996, p. 1). This exploration of textures promises a “programmatic correlation of multiple textures of texts” (Robbins, 1996, p. 237) and a “systematic attention to individual textures, and resources” (Watson, 1998, p.76). In particular, the use of the social and cultural texture explores the world the texts creates (Czachesz, 1995, p. 23) and makes the leadership behavior of various individuals in scripture more understandable.
Moving from the textures of words and language, one next step would be to study the historical-cultural context. It is vital to remember the words of scripture are God’s words spoken through particular human writers to address real-life issues of particular people in a particular culture at a particular time (Duvall, 2012, p. 99). To dismiss this reality is to miss a large portion of God’s message. In order to unearth accurate truth for leadership application, interpreters must understand the historical and cultural context of the passages they are studying.
A third step in the process of biblical interpretation could be word studies. Word studies are the study of the particular words used by the biblical authors in the language used at the time of authorship to discover meaning rather than determine meaning (Duvall, 2012, p. 133). It is the endeavor to understand why a specific word was used in a specific context by the author as precisely as possible (Fee, 2002, p. 79). From a leadership viewpoint, understanding particular word usage can provide clarity in the attitude, heart, or demeanor particular leadership principles were conveyed or exercised by various individuals in scripture.
For this particular author, leadership models in scripture have always seemed apparent, however, the understanding of methods and practices as well as the reason biblical leaders led the way they did has begun to become clearer. It has become obvious the leadership understanding of this author, from a biblical perspective, has only just begun. Through the use of textures such as social and cultural texture and ideological texture there is greater depth to be explored in the biblical models of leadership practice, and a more intentional approach to exegetical study is needed.
The world is busy with technology and things, some of which are valuable tools. Though these tools can assist a leader in being more productive and efficient, it cannot shape who a leader is. In order to shape whom a leader is, there must a change in the heart, mind, attitude, and worldview of the leader, and such a change can most effectively occur through understanding the truth of God’s word. There are many effective tools available to leaders to explore scripture and learn the deep truths of leadership, if only leaders will take advantage of those tools and allow themselves to grow into an effective servant leaders.
Ayers, M. (2006). Towards a Theology of Leadership. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, 1(1), 3–27.
Bennis, W. (1999). The End of Leadership: Exemplary Leadership Is Impossible Without Full Inclusion, Initiatives, and Cooperation of Followers. Organizational Dynamics, 28(1), 71–79.
Czachesz, I. (1995). Socio-Rhetorical Exegesis of Acts 9:1-30. Communio Viatorum, 37(1), 5–32.
Duvall, J. S., Hays, J. D., & Strauss, K. J. V. and M. L. (2012). Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (3 edition.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Engstrom, T. W. (1978). The Making of a Christian Leader. Zondervan.
Fee, G. D. (2002). New Testament exegesis: a handbook for students and pastors (3rd ed.). Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.
Lewis, P. A. (1996). Transformational Leadership. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers.
McCabe, L. (2008). Jesus As Agent of Change: Tranformational and Authentic Leadership in John 21. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, Volume 2(No. 1), 32–43.
Robbins, V. K. (1996). Exploring the texture of texts: a guide to socio-rhetorical interpretation. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International.
Watson, D. F. (1998). Mapping the Textures of New Testament Criticism : A Response to Socio-Rhetorical Criticism. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, (70), 71–77.