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Christian Worldview of Leadership

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Christian Worldview of Leadership


The Christian worldview of leadership is distinctly different from most secular views on the subject. In the secular, leadership tends to be viewed primarily in terms of a company's bottom line and how well the leader can urge employees to produce more and better work. That view is profit-centered rather than person-centered, and it does not give much attention to employees' human needs and qualities nor on how developing excellent work relationships can promote productivity. In the Christian worldview, however, people are key, and their human needs are important. The leader in the Christian worldview understands how meeting employees' needs promotes the kind of productivity desired and how developing strong work relationships can do more for the company's success than micromanaging or other forms of harassment can achieve. This paper will discuss the characteristics of a leader and the keys of leadership, group behavior, and conflict management and resolution from the Christian perspective.


Today's business leaders often have difficult tasks to achieve in turning around failing companies and galvanizing an overworked workforce fearful of losing their jobs, but their tasks do not outweigh those of the great Biblical leaders, such as Moses, who led the Israelites out of bondage, or David, who had to slay the giant before becoming a leader. The characteristics of a leader in the Biblical context still differs to some extent from those generally attributed to leaders in the secular context. Biblical leaders are courageous and decisive, for example. Moses' leadership was marked by courage born of faith. Although his life was spared from Pharaoh's decree that all firstborn sons would be killed, Hebrews 11:24 states, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." In other words, he did not try to live a lie to protect himself from the decree but acknowledged his Hebrew heritage, trusting God to protect him. David likewise did not hesitate at all to fight Goliath, reasoning that the same God that had delivered him "out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear" that he had previously slain would "deliver [him] out of the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37). David's faith is in his covenant with God rather than in his own strength, and he is so sure of victory that he does not even wear armor for the battle. Courage based on faith is not something that can be determined from a company's balance sheet or the situation at hand. Both Moses and David were in what seemed like impossible circumstances, yet they triumphed.

Transactional leadership is a traditional leadership method that has long been used in secular circles. It is characterized by both active and passive management by exception and contingent reward (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, & Yang, 2012, p. 192). Transactional leadership focuses on addressing problems rather than on promoting employee engagement. By contrast, transformational leadership strives to inspire, intellectually stimulate, and motivate employees by treating them as individuals and leveraging their talents and insight (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, & Yang, 2012, p. 192).

Although both forms of leadership occur in the Bible, the greatest leaders are transformational leaders who cast the vision for their followers that inspires them to achieve great things. In some cases, the transformational leader is also a servant leader. This is true of Jesus, who insisted on washing the feet of His disciples. Matthew 20:26 states, "...whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant." Hannay (2009) contrasts the traditional leader with the servant leader, citing Greenleaf, who developed the concept of the latter: "Greenleaf identified the principal motive of the traditional leader as being the desire to lead followers to achieve organizational objectives...[while] the driving motivation of a servant-leader is to serve others to be all that they are capable of becoming" (p. 2). The transformational leader induces employees to perform beyond expectations by empowering and motivating them, and sometimes by leading by example.

Becoming a transformational leader can occur either because the leader has a model or mentor that is a transformational leader, because he/she is a born transformational leader, or through reflection. Senge (1990) wrote that "Learning through reflection is about finding the creative tension...between an understanding of current reality and a vision of desirable practice" (as cited in Johns, 2004, p. 24). In addition, Schuster (1994) noted that one who desires to become a transformational leader can cultivate certain qualities that are characteristic of such a leader: a stimulating vision for the organization, honesty, empathy, authenticity, the ability to defer self-interest to ensure that others are recognized, a holistic concern for the organization, the ability to share power with others, and the ability to develop others (as cited in Johns, 2004, p. 25). The transformational leader is also an effective communicator who persists during hard times and still has the courage to continue to move ahead even when fatigued and encountering difficulties (Schuster, 1994, as cited in Johns, 2004, p. 25).

Group Behavior

Great leaders generally have to lead more than one person. They have a group or team that needs to collaborate and cooperate in order to get the work done, and this means that the leader needs to be adept at managing multiple people to gain good performance. At issue is how the leader with a Christian worldview can lead and influence a group or team to produce the behaviors and products needed. Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, and Salvador (2009) report that their research using a sample of 904 employees and 195 managers in 195 departments indicates that "ethical leadership flows from one organizational level to the next" (p. 1). The authors found that top management ethical leadership leads to supervisors being ethical leaders and that the ethical leadership style then "cascades" from one leadership level to the other as the next lower level of management mimics the leadership of the level above it (Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2009, p. 2). Therefore, it is not just the influence of an isolated leader that matters but the leadership throughout the organization, especially that at the top. The Biblical principle that this finding is predicated upon is found in Romans 13:1, which states, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing



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