Weekly Thoughts

Sacred Trust

By Rick James

It is a privilege and responsibility to intervene in an organisation – whether as leader, as Organisational Development consultant or as a funder. When we step in we are treading on people’s lives – their identity, their sense of self. What we do and say can have a profound and personal impact on them. It can influence their relationships with those around them and even their relationship with God. We have the potential to do good, but we also have the potential to do harm. To intervene in any organisation involves a sacred trust.

Every now and then I wonder, do I really have any inkling of the responsibility I carry? If so, would I not do my work with more effort, more diligence, perhaps even with ‘fear and trembling’? It makes me ask myself lots of questions:

This week:
Do I really try to bring the very best of myself to my work each day ?
Do I ensure I am mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared when I intervene in an organisation’s life?
Am I being a steward of grace in my relationship with this organisation?

Acting with kindness

By Elaine Vitikainen

Small acts of kindness meant a lot to me last year. As I navigated through changes in my life, many people supported me.

What surprised me was that the people who helped me most were in some sense my competitors in the field. Instead of criticising or keeping to themselves their knowledge to get ahead of the game, they willingly shared what they have. They were quick to give advice when asked and generously provided me with any resources they thought I was lacking. They gave me encouragement, appreciation and love. Interestingly, these are not people who say they love the Lord or that they will pray for me. They were initially more like distant acquaintances than friends. But they still acted out of kindness.

It made me think, how easy is it to say “I’ll pray for you” without really thinking or bothering to grasp how the other person feels or needs. Many times I respond too superficially without showing real love and compassion. I think that I care, but without really showing care.

This week, how can we act in kindness towards those we work with?
How can we make kindness an act instead of just a concept?

Shaped by grace?

By Rick James

Grace is at the core of my faith. But is it at the core of the way I live? Does it really affect how I behave at work? I don’t think grace has even been used to describe my contribution or performance in any annual appraisal. And yet I believe we are called to be ‘stewards of grace’ (1 Pet 4:10) at work.

Grace is the distinctive feature of our faith. As Desmond Tutu wrote: ‘I preached my only sermon – that God loves us freely as an act of grace’. Grace is what sets Christianity apart from other religions. It is what should set Christian organisations apart from all others.

Yet grace does not fit easily with our current approaches to management. It’s counter-cultural, even scandalous. It’s often misunderstood and misused. Grace should not be an excuse for sweeping important stuff under the carpet. It is about dealing with openly and honestly and honestly with the human condition. Grace is radical and transforming.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if grace characterised our organisational cultures? Our leadership? The ways we relate to partners? Our theories of change? Our office culture?

It starts with you and me. This week think about:

  • How are you being shaped by grace at the moment?
  • What opportunities do you have to be a steward of radical grace?


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Encouraging words

By Elaine Vitikainen

“This was not a good year for me” a colleague said as we sat together for dinner a few weeks ago. We began to console each other on the many challenges of being freelance consultants – until another friend interrupted. She started telling my colleague the many ways in which he’d done well in the past year. I saw how his face suddenly lit up with her encouraging words. And that was just a single time – imagine what a difference it makes to hear such words regularly.

Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down. It made me stop and think about the words I speak into my own life and others. My well-intended criticisms may actually discourage. But my positive words build someone’s courage. Romans 12 talks about love in action. In verse 10, it reminds us to ‘devote to one another in love, honouring one another’. What does this mean in practical terms? I think it includes regularly speaking words of encouragement.

This week:

  • Think of those who are struggling at work. How can we encourage them? How can we show that we genuinely care for them?
  • Think of those who you work with? How can we be a blessing to them?

Cultivating honest feedback

By Elaine Vitikainen

Recently, I have been disturbed by reading about the life of Saul. Saul entered kingship with a humble spirit. As he became more experienced as a leader, he let his position
go to his head. When pride and disobedience replaced his humility, he rejected God and His presence left him. Although Saul clung to his leadership position for another 15 years, he did so in his own strength and faced increasing difficulties.

All of us in any position of leadership face the real danger of pride – particularly when we are surrounded by people who want us to like them. We find it more difficult to see our faults and admit our mistakes. We begin to blame others more and more. Pride grows like a weed. Leading by human inclination alone can never replace leading by the spirit of God. It takes God’s wisdom to lead in a Godly manner.

There are practical steps we can take to avoid this. We need to actively seek out people who are honest enough to speak truthfully to us. Feedback, however painful, is a vital way to root out pride.

This week:

  • Who do you have at work who will give you honest feedback?
  • How can you make sure you hear honest feedback on a regular basis?

What about prestige?

By Elaine Vitikainen

A secular client I was working for recently kept mentioning the word ‘prestige’. She said that there is no pressure and no prestige involved. I found prestige a strange word. I’d never really thought about prestige in relation to my work. I had never seen myself aiming for prestige.

I like to think that prestige is not really an issue for me. I know I can only do what I do because God has enabled me to do it. Everything is only made possible with God. Am I too naïve? It made me ponder the verse: “But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

As I reflected on this verse, I realised that I was not immune from the trap of prestige. After all, do I not really look for prestige when I show people my graphic art work? Do I not aim for prestige when I talk about my work to others?

This week, think about the work that we do. How much of our identity, our sense of self, is tied up in what we do? At what points does a desire for prestige quietly creep in?

For whose benefit?

By Jes Bates

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.’

Uncompromising words from Philippians 2:3-4. What does it mean for us in practical terms? I suppose it is that we are not leaders for our own benefit, our own status, our own reputation. We are not doctors for our own benefit, our own status, our own reputation. We are not building houses, palaces or kingdoms for our own benefit. It is only our insecurities that make us seek these things. We do what we do; we are what we are; we have what we have for others, for service, for love, for compassion, for healing, for justice…for others.

We need to learn true humility, practice self-denial, sacrifice, giving and mercy. We will not lack anything except pride. As we realise that our real security is only found hidden in Christ, we will find that to be valued by God alone all we really need.

As we look ahead to this week, how can we create space for stillness to know peace beyond understanding? What do we need to do to take captive our human fears and know every day that God is with us and in us? What choices about how we live our lives this week will give God pleasure?

Weekly Thoughts to inspire your leadership

Leadership is really difficult. Chances are it may be the costliest thing you will ever do. Leaders in the Bible all seemed to have a pretty hard time too. Leading with grace is a daunting calling.

To survive and even thrive in this demanding calling, we have to cultivate a vibrant relationship with God. We need to be able to say, like Peter, ‘Follow me, as I follow Christ’. (1 Cor 11). We believe God calls each of us to be ‘stewards of grace’ (1 Pet 4). We can only pass on what we have received.

We hope this Leading with Grace booklet will help you cultivate your character and your relationship with God. Not in the comparative safety of Sunday services, but in the messy frustrations of organisational life. Use them how you wish, each day, each week, on your own, in your team, at home, in the office… We pray that these thoughts leave you inspired, supported and challenged to become the leader God wants you to be.