Here is a synopsis of material on leadership found at the Barna Group website that was published this last April and June. If you'd like to read the full reports, go to these links at Barna.org:
Report on leadership survey
Joseph Cavanaugh interview
The Crisis in Leadership is Genuine.
According to a recent online survey by the Barna Group over a sample group of 1,116 adults, randomly chosen from the U.S., who consider themselves Christian*, more than half of Christians in this country identify themselves as leaders (58%). (Hmm.)
And yet, more than eight in 10 (82%) of the same survey participants indicate that they believe the United States is facing a crisis in leadership because there aren’t enough leaders.
What’s more, the leadership characteristics that participants identified in themselves fail to line up with the leadership qualities they expect in others.
So where are the disconnects? Where is this crisis coming from if so many Christians already see themselves as leaders? What are the missing links?
Joseph Cavanaugh, president of Ephesians 4 Leadership and author of a new book on leadership, traces it back to a lack of self-awareness. This cultural problem contributes to a warped sense of calling, and why the first step to leading others well is to gain a realistic understanding of ourselves. His new book: The Language of Blessing.
This supports the concept for launching our current study.
In his book, Cavanaugh suggests that we embrace the Genesis 12 principle of accepting God’s blessing in order to be a blessing to others.
Interesting concept! Does "blessing someone" sound a little like "servant-leadership"?
"Leadership is one of those 'if you see it, you know it' kind of qualities. It’s something Americans clearly value, all the way from their immediate employer to their minister to their president," Barna reports.
The organization's survey shows that more than 8 in 10 (82%) Christian adults believe the United States faces a crisis of leadership because there aren’t enough leaders.
That begs the questions:
- What makes a person a leader?
- What do people value in a leader?
- What do Christians value in leaders?
- What is the Christian perspective of leadership?
- Is the younger generation looking for a different type of leader?
For the purposes of Barna's research, the following short descriptions on 10 leadership characteristics were given to respondents.
- Courage – being willing to take risks
- Vision – knowing where you are going
- Competence – being good at what you do
- Humility – giving credit to others
- Collaboration – working well with others
- Passion for God – loving God more than anything else
- Integrity – doing the right thing
- Authenticity – being truthful and reliable
- Purpose – being made for or “called” to the job
- Discipline – the ability to stay focused and get things done
(These 10 differ slightly from the characteristics in our current study. We're pursuing 8 character traits that manifest effective leadership behavior. Look ahead to weeks 3-6, and you'll find these: Integrity, Courage, Discipline, Loyalty, Diligence, Humility, Optimism, Conviction, all of which are based on moral absolutes that can be found in a person's core beliefs — something we talked briefly about last Wednesday when discussing followers.)
So, What Do Christians Look for in a Leader?
The survey bore out a few answers.
• More than half (64%) of Christians say integrity is one of the most important traits a leader must have.
• Other traits Christians say are important include authenticity (40% listed this as a vital characteristic) and discipline (38%).
• Christian adults chose all three of these qualities above “passion for God”. Less than one-third (31%) listed that as a necessary trait.
• The traits Christian adults were least likely to select as most important are humility (7%) and purpose (5%).
• Younger Christians — those aged 18-39 — are slightly more interested in collaboration and purpose than are Christians who are 40 and older. They are also much more likely than older adults to look for bosses who are humble, with nearly one-third (32%) of 18-39 year-olds listing humility as a key trait in a potential boss.
Room for Improvement
Since 58 percent of the respondents identified themselves as leaders, the survey asked what they would most like to improve about their leadership, using the same list of traits.
The area where they said they want the most help is courage (27%), followed by a desire to grow in terms of discipline (17%), vision (15%) and passion for God (13%).
Evangelical leaders are most similar to the broader Christian market in terms of their aspirations to improve as leaders: they want to grow in courage (27%), discipline (25%), passion for God (14%) and vision (9%).
Here are Barna's conclusions:
"1. Christians perceive a significant leadership crisis in America caused by a distinct lack of leaders. Most feel they are leaders, but many of them aren’t confident that their leadership abilities are the most important traits in a leader. This suggests many of them are still striving to meet even their own leadership expectations and it means many Christians may not think of their own leadership as helping to fill the leadership gap they experience. Perhaps this is why they are most interested in growing in terms of courage.
"2. Evangelicals are far more likely than all self-described Christians to say passion for God is an essential leadership quality. That suggests evangelicals are much more comfortable working for people who share their beliefs and may not believe non-Christian bosses they work for are great leaders.
"3. It’s illuminating to learn how few Christians believe they’re called to do what they do. This data presents a challenge to the popular Christian understanding of career as calling since most Christians in the U.S. don’t seem to be thinking about their jobs in terms of calling. Most of the data suggests the concept of calling is not on their radar. If people don’t feel as if they’re being called to their job, does that really matter to the quality of the work they do or the lives they maintain? It is worth noting the trend that younger Christians feel more of a desire to see their career as a calling—and are more discontent when they feel a disconnect between their career and calling. However, is this perceived disconnect simply the reality of finding a fulfilling job when you’re young and inexperienced—especially in a bad economy? Is it the common angst of young people trying to figure out the purpose of their life? Or is it a sign of a growing trend among Christians to connect their faith more holistically with their life—a desire not to compartmentalize faith, life and work? Additional research and study is needed to clarify the connection between calling, leadership and faith."
Does this suggest that more Christians should turn to the Bible to discover and learn the characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors that manifest in servant leadership?
So, who might you and I be able to influence today?
* That kind of a sample selection delivers a sampling error of +2.8 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.
IBG / JF