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God's Design: The Complex Relationship Between Leadership Style, Organizational Culture, and Lea

The world will always be in need of leadership. Kindergarteners will always need a line leader, the Girl Scouts will always need volunteer leaders, high school graduates will always need a class president, churches will always need pastors and hospitals will always need medical professionals. The need for leadership is not limited to human interaction. Extraterrestrial beings, in heaven and/or hell exhibit leadership and, are led by a leader. On this terrestrial plane, leadership is a desire to be transformed into the deity worshiped. In Christian leadership, leaders live, move, and breathe by the leadership of the Holy Spirit in hopes to be given the nature of Christ. The beauty of the individuality of Christian leadership is that the global church is able to experience the multifaceted nature of God through his human creation. The complex relationship between leadership style, organizational culture, and leadership development is all apart of God’s grand design.

Culture: The Leader’s Training Ground

Culture is the foundation of every leader’s leadership style. An individual’s culture gives them a distinction that sets them apart in a talent pool. Consider the uniqueness of a southern woman’s charm or the distinctiveness of an Italian man’s love for family. Both individuals are products of a culture that has influenced their dialect and personal values. To many people, these distinctions are nothing more than a personality trait, but in the area of leadership, these are strengths. The ability to connect and be “likable” is a strength defined as “woo”. Likewise, the ability to nurture relationships can be utilized as a strength in areas of conflict resolution and organizational culture development. Culture develops the leader and in turn, the leader must develop the culture.

Churches across the world are struggling with assimilating into different cultural environments, especially in the area of church planting. Church planters have a difficult time purchasing buildings, but the process of choosing leaders for the church plant can be equally as strenuous. Consider Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston of Hillsong Church. They have a large ministry network that extends from Australia all the way to New York City. Moreover, church planting is beautiful because it fulfills the command of the great commission, but selecting leaders to maintain the expansion can be tireless. Pastor Brian Houston’s upbringing and skill set makes him the perfect leader to led Hillsong Australia, but he may experience difficulty if he became the senior leader of Hillsong New York City. Is there a different gospel preached in Australia than in New York City? Absolutely Not. The gospel of Jesus Christ never changes. However, different environmental cultures require leaders to have a variety of skill sets.

Despite the divinity that Jesus possesses, he is still able to emphasize with our earthly weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). The Apostle Paul understood the importance of being all things to all men to save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). While this is a mentality that all Christian leaders should possess, it is imperative that Christian leaders be aware of the necessity of the utilization of their innate strengths influenced by their cultural background. Oftentimes, Christian leaders view their cultural background as a place in need of improvement. Oddly enough, it is the inconsistency, the poverty, the instability, the standard associated with their cultural background that makes them unique. For example: a pastor that was a former drug dealer has a different perspective concerning the application of their cultural background than a Pastor who was homeschooled in the suburbs. Based on this example, should we, as Christian leaders, be ashamed of our background and culture? Should we dim the power of our individuality to appease a system of hierarchical status that does not exist in the kingdom of God? Absolutely not. God planned every intricate detail of our life, from who our birth parents are to where we went to college. God knew that the culture he placed us in would form us into Christian leaders who will change the world by the leadership of the Holy Spirit – all over the world.

Leadership Approaches

Cleanne is a 25-year-old girl that has a passion for evangelism. She was raised in two-parent household in Norfolk, Virginia where both parents are active duty in the military. She is obsessed with organization and vigorously updates her five-year plan every few months. Recently, Cleanne moved to Greensboro, North Carolina and has been frequently visiting a churched named First Baptist Church of Carolina. She loves the young adult ministry because of their emphasis on missions, but she is having a difficult time relating to the leader’s style of leadership. The Pastor of First Baptist Church of Carolina leads with a Laissez-faire leadership style, which is not ideal for Cleanne. Is the Pastor of First Baptist Church wrong for the leadership style he demonstrates at the church? Moreover, should Cleanne be shamed for desiring a leader that takes a more authoritative approach in leadership? The answer to both of these questions is “no”. Certain leadership styles are a perfect fit for particular organizations. Some congregations function with laissez-faire leadership while other congregations would dwindle under that leadership style. Moreover, a leader’s approach is not only contingent upon the leader’s culture, but also organizational culture.

Individuals who are oppressed and are in spiritual bondage need a transformational leader. In times of war and chaos, the world is in need of military leadership. In the midst of a heated discussion concerning theological values, an intellectual leader is needed. In a pluralistic democracy, a political leader is necessary. In a church where membership is rapidly declining, a visionary is needed. In sum, every culture demands another leadership style/approach. Often times, Christian leaders make the mistake of trying to perfect all of the leadership styles, which is unnecessary. Christian leaders must learn to perfect the traits that God gave them to better serve the people they are assigned to. Here are four common leadership styles that are used to lead God’s people:

1. Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership style is centered on the boss and can be likened unto tyranny. In this leadership style, the leader has all authority and power. Decisions are made by the leader without follower consultations. There is no flexibility within this leadership style, which can weaken its effectiveness.

2. Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is based on the leader’s ability to initiate change within individuals and organizations. Transformational leaders are known for their ability to empower others.

3. Laissez-faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leadership gives authority to employees. In many cases, employees are able to work with minimal to no interference from the leader. Unfortunately, this is perceived as the least effective leadership style.

4. Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is a category of transformational leadership where the leader’s charisma provokes a transformation in the life of the follower. Jesus was not only a transformational, he was a charismatic leadership that attracted followers. Jesus was so popular that even when he withdrew to desolate places outside the city, he drew a crowd in every direction (Mark 1:45). The glory of God in him attracted the masses, likewise, charismatic leaders will attractive people based on personality, anointing, and countenance.

Organizational Design and Leadership Development

Organizational design is a methodology which identifies functional and dysfunctional aspects of an organization’s workflow, systems, procedures. Many leaders define organizational design as a continuous process. Just as organizational systems change, so must the leaders that lead the organization – which is why leadership development and organizational design cannot be separated. Leadership development is bigger than the leader, it involves maturing the followers as well as developing the organization.

Organizations involve systems and structures, but they would all be meaningless without people mature enough to abide by them. Consider the Apostle Paul’s teachings on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To an atheist, these “fruits” are nothing more than kind gestures. However, to a Christian who is actively seeking a closer relationship with God, these “fruits” are commandments to live by. Spiritual maturity and devotion are the two things that taint the perspective of the fruits of the spirit between an atheist and a devout Christian. It is the role of pastoral leadership to mature Christians to place that they can positively transform an organizational design simply by transforming individuals. According to Acts 17:6, the Apostles had the reputation of turning the world upside down. Likewise, Christian leaders should have the reputation of turning the religious systems, structures, attitudes, and perspectives upside down!


Leadership that is cutting edge, transformative, charismatic and authentic are needed in sacred and secular organizational designs. This is how the whole earth is filled with the glory of God: Sons and daughters, from diverse cultural backgrounds, create space in the hearts of individuals, through various leadership styles and organizational entities, to glorify him.

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