When I first did the Wagner-Modified Houts Spiritual Gifts Questionnaire, a questionnaire that helped one discover one’s spiritual gifts, I was surprised to discover that my primary gift was teaching. I thought it would be leadership. But leadership came in second or third. I thought that leadership would be my primary gift. After all, I had been elected head prefect of my high school by my fellow prefects. I had received the Brother Director’s medal for outstanding leadership, though truth be told this was always given to the head prefect of the particular year. I had led various societies and organisations and was editor of both the school annual magazine and the school newsletter. Ok, leadership did appear in the list of gifts but it was nowhere near the top. I was surprised and my ego took a little hit. Those were the days when I thought that being a leader meant you were somehow better that your peers. But no, I was primarily a teacher.
The years since, and it has been more than 30 years, I have come to realise that the results of the questionnaire were right. Of course I no longer believe a leader is in any way more important than his or her peers. Note that Paul put leadership as the second last gift in this list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:3–8. I think he is trying to say that all gifts are important. But if I were to take a long hard look at my life, I obviously invest the largest proportion of my time in teaching and preaching.
The teaching cycle includes: preparation of the talk, delivering it, leading any discussions associated with it, and recovering from it. I am most alive when I am teaching and preaching. People tell me they are blessed by my preaching and teaching and I get many invitations to do so. By comparison, I hardly spend time thinking of Graceworks, our ministry organisation. It has experienced significant growth in recent times and deserves more of my attention but if I do not become more intentional about it, it won’t happen. My wife and partner, Bernice, carries most of the load of leading and managing Graceworks. I thank God that her faithful and sacrificial leadership has moved Graceworks from strength to strength. I feel she deserves much more support from me. But am I a leader at all?
In his book, Strengths Based Leadership (New York, NY: Gallup Press 2008), Tom Rath reports that studies have shown that there are actually four kinds of leadership competencies. He calls them domains and they are: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. After extensive research, the Gallup organisation discovered that all great teams had members that contributed the four strengths. Their research dismantled the common belief that organisations did great things because of one super leader. Great things happen because leadership is provided by teams that have people providing all four leadership competencies.
I bought Rath’s book and did their test. I wasn’t surprised that my main leadership competency was Influencing. This was closest to preaching. It involved getting people excited by a vision. I was surprised that I had Strategic Thinking as a minor strength. But I struck out on Execution and Team Building. I guess I can help provide leadership by coming up with ideas to a degree, and then I do what I do best — sell the idea and excite people about it. But I would not have the patience to execute the idea, and all good ideas take time to actualise. And I may not have the patience needed to build a team, something that also needs lots of time and empathy. I think of the Headstart ministry for new graduates that I started when I was with the Graduates Christian Fellowship (GCF), Malaysia. The Lord gave me the idea, and I ran one cycle of Headstart, which was well received. The Headstart ministry could have died there if not for Alvin Ung and James Daniel who developed the ministry and helped turn it into a GCF core ministry that continues to run today.
The point, of course, is that none of us is meant to go it alone. All of us have something to contribute but none of us has all the strengths needed. Still, whatever your competencies, leadership requires that one takes responsibility for a group and, in partnership with others, help that group move towards God’s purpose for that group. So, while I don’t think I will ever stop preaching and teaching, I believe that going forward I need to pay more attention not just to the work of Graceworks, but Graceworks itself. It has helped that since I reached 60, my energy levels have not been the same as before. So I clearly have to be more intentional as to how I apply my time and energy. I sense that it is time that I give more attention to Graceworks and my leadership partnership with Bernice.