By Wilhelmine “Willow” Bellevue, author.
Part two of two. See part one here.
In this series we are considering different leadership styles in light of biblical examples, including some styles that leadership theologians often reject, to equip Christian leaders to serve those they lead more effectively.
Though independent and self-regulated followers can flourish in the absence of a cheerleader or leader micromanaging them, other followers may need extrinsic motivation to succeed. Extrinsic motivation entails outside factors such as incentives, tangible rewards or bonuses for goal attainment (Miao, 2007). These may include technological devices, trips, paid time off, choosing one’s work shift, weekly or monthly bonuses, dinner, theater or movie tickets, and more (BountiXP, 2022). On the other hand, intrinsic motivation comes from self-gratification obtained through achieving deadlines, meeting criteria or exceeding expectations (Mia, 2007). Because of the problems associated with extrinsic rewards, leadership theologians have frowned upon transactional leadership, even arguing it constitutes unfair treatment (You-De et al., 2013). Additionally, underperforming workers may feel further discouraged and unable to perform their best (You-De et al., 2013).
However, extrinsic rewards can be linked to higher meaning. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), a man gave his slaves money (talents) before heading out on his journey. Upon returning, he checked in with the slaves to see what they did with the money he gave them (Matthew 14:15-20). The slaves who doubled what they were given were rewarded with more wealth and higher positions (Matthew 25:19-23). However, the slave who did not invest his money or duplicate what he was given was punished (Matthew 14:26). Moreover, the master called the overly cautious slave lazy and wicked (Matthew 14:26-27). The master proclaimed he was worthless, took the money away, and banished him from sight (Matthew 14:28-20).
The lesson in this parable is that human beings are expected to connect their own lives to the things that make those lives meaningful. Each person is given a talent, something valuable, and the Lord wants us to put these talents, gifts and abilities to effective use. Moreover, the parable shows that the kingdom of God also operates with currency as good behaviors are weighed and rewarded (I Corinthians 3:13). While transactional leadership, like laissez-faire leadership, can be harmful when poorly done – as anything can – within the principles of the kingdom of God transactional leadership need not always be detrimental.
Successful transactional leaders use resources as a means of motivating their followers. With transactional leadership, rewards are contingent upon exemplary performance and behavior. Promises of rewards can improve production as followers become inspired by personal motivations and gratification. Think of a time when you received a bonus or reward for achieving a goal. It felt good, didn’t it? Such experiences are typical within the workplace. People often complain about the lack of compensation. However, their confidence in the company and in themselves increases when leaders reward them.
Transformational leaders engage with employees both inside and outside the organization’s professional setting. Instead of adhering strictly to boss-oriented tasks, they function as coaches, mentoring employees on personal goals and supporting them through their personal, social and work journeys (Mangat, 2019). Though transformational leadership may include some transactional aspects, it is the opposite of laissez-faire. Transformational leaders are cheerleaders. They exude a form of charisma that inspires and provides hope to their followers.
One unfortunate side-effect of the transformational leadership style is that leaders may give too much of themselves. Acting as a constant mentor and support system can become overwhelming and result in burnout, which is a high degree of physical, cognitive, emotional or spiritual stress (Swider & Zimmerman, 2010). Have you ever had an employee who always has a problem they need to discuss? Do you constantly need to provide motivational pep talks or be there for them? Constant attentiveness can cause excess stress and burnout, leading to decreased overall health.
But my own experience with transformational leadership has been positive. A past operational director of mine was an exemplary model of what a transformational leader can accomplish. Not only did she attend my book signing, but she also purchased a few copies and continued to follow up with me regarding upcoming books and my doctoral program. She also encouraged my fellow directors to support each other in their personal endeavors. One colleague qualified for the Olympics and trained on the weekends, while another pursued a second master’s degree. Others tried their hand at deejaying and motherhood. We also had gratitude journal challenges and held meaningful meetings. The list goes on, but we were a group of directors who supported each other because our leader wanted to ensure we provided the same mentoring, coaching, and support to one another.
The Bible depicts several examples of transformational leadership. Jesus used a form of transformational leadership when he spoke to Peter. He called Peter a rock and gave him power and authority before he was able to function in such a capacity (Matthew 16:18). Likewise, Paul was a transformational leader, as his heart was intricately woven with Timothy, even referring to him as his son (I Timothy 1:18).
Transformational leadership should be unbiased and nonjudgmental, looking at everyone’s complete self. Such leaders see the potential in their followers and use a heart-to-heart connection to motivate them. They support them outside of work, providing a balance of support, independence and care. For example, they may attend a church event, support the follower’s special project, or even provide hands-on assistance. When wielded appropriately, transformational leadership can propel followers to achieve their professional and personal goals.
The best way to lead is to embrace flexibility. One form of leadership is not a cure-all. We live in a day and age where people are increasingly vocal and demanding. So even though a particular leadership style may not suit you, you would be remiss to withhold your followers’ needs. In the era of Reshuffling, when 48 percent of employees leave their jobs to go to another employer; of Reinventing, when employees are quitting their jobs for part-time or freelance work; and of Re-assessing, when individuals are considering leaving their jobs, leaders must re-evaluate their tactics. As the world and cultural climate shift, leaders must also shift their mindset, adapting and pivoting to overcome leadership hurdles.
Overall, leaders must respect the fact that employees now have more options and are taking them. As a leader, self-awareness is an essential cognitive tool. Understanding your own level of emotional intelligence can help you self-govern and become more informed of your environment. Leaders are visionaries who lead the pack. Learning to identify followers’ needs and providing them with the appropriate resources, rules and regulations will significantly increase your chances of motivating them to willfully follow and put forward their best efforts to achieve organizational goals.
Below are a few resources you may find helpful for assessing your emotional intelligence, spiritual gifts and discernment, and organizational and personal leadership development. As a leader, it is imperative to remain evergreen regarding leadership education as well as self and spiritual awareness. The tests below are available free. The links also provide articles that further explain the reasoning behind each quiz. They also cover the importance of each subject and how to increase the benefits.
- Emotional Intelligence Test — https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/ei-quiz.htm
- Leadership Style Test — https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/leadership-style-quiz.htm
- Organizational Culture Quiz — https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2016/03/21/take-the-quiz-how-up-to-date-is-your-company-culture/?sh=43908d0731a9
- Personal Leadership Development Plan — https://cdn.ymaws.com/hpaapta.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/LAMP_CSM15_101/PerDevPlan.pdf
- The Spiritual Gifts Quiz — https://giftstest.com/
- The Book of Proverbs — https://www.biblegateway.com/
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Swider, B. W., & Zimmerman, R. D. (2010). Born to burnout: A meta-analytic path model of personality, job burnout, and work outcomes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 76(3), 487–506. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2010.01.003
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