I just interviewed the top U.S. leader of a very well-known international ministry who, in one sentence, almost made me want to stop the conversation. All he did was tell me the organization’s first core value statement. And I’ll tell you that what he said next convinced me of the four things every leader needs to hear to sharpen their Christian character.
Doug Nuenke is U.S. president of The Navigators, which for 80 years, has effectively worked “to know Christ and to make him known” – and help others do the same. With a U.S. staff of 2,500 and thousands more around the world, The Navigators serves in cities, college campuses and local churches in 100 countries.
Just a few years into his new executive role, Doug’s leadership really began to shine. It was 2009, when in the shadow of the Great Recession, the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey revealed gaps in the organization’s demonstrated strength of inspirational leadership. In the face of fiscal austerity, a silo mentality was uncovered.
Said Doug, “How were we going to develop our leadership with a high premium on Christian character?”
Here’s where Doug made sure each leader reclaimed the organization’s riveting and irresistible first core value: The passion to know, love and become like Jesus Christ.
Doug realized that, to sustain and grow the Navigators’ number one strength of inspirational leadership, four things needed to continue:
1. Open up the Scripture.
Every leadership team meeting began with disciplined prayer and time in the Scriptures. “We needed to bring our agenda, our issues, and most of all ourselves before the Lord. If our number one goal is to help others walk with Christ and live like Christ, we simply needed to be more of that ourselves.”
2. Ask questions and learn what others are experiencing.
“The survey affirmed we were strong in healthy communication. We took this to heart and made sure every leader engaged with and supported his or her peers.” This meant far more than just tracking lists. It meant learning to ask questions and be raw with one another and learn what others are experiencing. It meant valuing person-to-person communication as much as the valuable all-organization email, “Nav Weekly,” that helps keep the ministry on the same page.
3. Take the microphone!
“Our culture is entrepreneurial, and we don’t want to get a process in place to where we squelch innovation. God has given us the grace to ‘give the microphone’ to people who are thinking on the fringes. We want to continue to be a learning organization. We realize our world is changing so fast that advancing the gospel depends on our ability to be flexible and innovative.”
4. Stay sharp.
“Inspirational leadership means we’re identifying people at The Navigators who could well have national roles in the years ahead. Our approach is right there in Scripture: If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed. (Ecclesiastes 10:10)”
If the iron is blunt and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.
“At The Navigators, leadership is a spiritual work. We can put some processes in place to reach designated outcomes, but in truth, it’s how we do the work of making disciples that will impact us as much (if not more) than what we do – and that will determine how fruitful we are for Jesus and his Kingdom on earth.
It’s how we do the work of making disciples that will determine how fruitful we are for the Kingdom.
“At the end of the day, I can only lead out of the overflow of my deep walk with Christ. As Howard Hendricks, the legendary professor at Dallas Seminary said, ‘You can not impart what you do not possess.’”