Not long ago, I introduced a concept to our staff that has shaken me up a little bit. At first it was just a leadership principle, but lately I’ve found it seeping into other parts of my life; like my parenting, my spousing (is that a word?), my friendships…everything. This might seem like a good thing, and I suppose it is, but it’s made things uncomfortable in my already complicated psyche. And so, I share it with you here so I’m not alone.
I call this concept Radiant Leadership. And it stands at the other end of the spectrum from leadership styles like Compliant Leadership. Allow me to define each of these briefly. Compliant Leadership has, you guessed it, a leader. This leader stands in front of followers and tells them where they’re going and how they’re going to get there; while they lead the way. This is pretty standard practice in most classrooms, offices, families, and even friendships. It’s worked (sort of) for a very long time. It looks something like this:
The hardest part of this arrangement is it’s dependency on the followers being compliant. They have to actually respond and do what they’re being told they should do. This model hinges entirely on THEM. That makes for frustrating leadership. Have you ever tried to tell a four-year-old to eat their vegetables? How about a disgruntled employee that they need to have a better attitude? You might use every strategy from every book in the parenting or leadership section of Amazon and still find THEY don’t listen.
So what if we flipped the script? Here’s what I mean: instead of depending on THEM, let’s focus more on YOU. In order to do that, we need to change the model all together; this is where Radiant Leadership comes in. It looks like this:
In this model, the leader is at the center instead of at the front or on top of the proverbial organizational chart. And they function more like a pebble that’s thrown into a pond. Have you ever noticed the monumental effect a small stone can have on a still pond? The ripples it creates often make it all the way back to the shore. The leader (or parent, or friend, or life group leader) in this model focuses on themselves and how they are doing things. They do—as an example—and that doing affects those around them, who affect those around them, and so on and so on and so on.
The truth is, you and I cannot control anyone else, just ourselves. So why not lean into that instead of continue to bang our heads against the wall trying to move others? Let’s just move ourselves. Let’s be the people we want them to be. Instead of constantly telling others what they should do—show them what you do. Lead by example.
Like I said, this is uncomfortable. But I think there is something to it. After all, Jesus spent 3.5 years leading the disciples, and most of what we read in the gospels is Jesus showing his disciples and then explaining. When he said, “Come, follow me,” he didn’t stop there. He also said, “and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17, NLT). He showed them how to do what he wanted them to do. So this week, as you parent, or spouse (again, probably not a verb at all) or work, let’s be like Jesus and be radiant in our leadership.