Introduction of Self as Leader
As a leader, my background falls within the realm of religion and the not-for-profit sector. Since 2010, I have served in the United States Army Reserves as a Chaplain. This includes serving as a Detachment Chaplain, where I traveled and provided religious support when needed or requested. In this role, I was extremely independent and had no direct oversight or supervision and traveled widely to provide necessary religious support. I have also served as a Battalion Chaplain providing religious support for eight-hundred Soldiers as well as overseeing a unit ministry team of two Chaplains, two Chaplain Candidates (seminary students studying to be chaplains), and one Religious Affairs Specialist. Presently, I serve as a Brigade Chaplain overseeing religious support for four-thousand Soldiers and overseeing four unit ministry teams distributed over a multi-state area.
In addition to these responsibilities, I also serve as a civilian pastor and oversee a private Christian school of preschool through twelfth grade. The church currently averages one-hundred in weekly worship attendance and the school employs a staff of fifteen and a current student enrollment of one-hundred and seventy-five. These responsibilities require a balance of relational leadership in both the church and school as well as executing administrative duties as required by the private Christian school.
My own leadership style can best be described as servant leadership (Landis, 2014). My goal in any form or function of leadership – but especially in my role as a spiritual leader – is to inspire others to serve by first serving them. I tend to invest heavily in personal relationships with the hopes of inspiring followers to become better leaders themselves by personally experiencing the benefits of servant leadership. One consequence of my personal leadership style is that I tend to be weaker in areas of administration. For the proper exercise of these necessary administrative functions, I often rely on delegation to those who are stronger in these areas than myself. Most often, those gifts are discovered, encouraged, and developed through the personal relationships I seek to develop as a leader.
As a leader, my personal philosophy is to invest heavily – both relationally and professionally – in the area of leadership development. When those who have a desire or an inclination to lead begin to surface through my spending personal time with them, I want to see them grow and develop as people and leaders and, in the process, discover the satisfaction of servant leadership themselves. I make every effort to connect with them emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually in order to see them flourish. Once they are flourishing in their roles and begin to invest in others as well, I then seek to find another person to invest in in hopes of accomplishing that goal again.
Evaluation of Leader from Personal Experience
For the purposes of this paper, my leadership evaluation will focus on Dr. Scott Borderud. Dr. Borderud is a leader within my organization who serves simultaneously at multiple echelons of leadership. Dr. Borderud serves as a local pastor of a church of approximately 500 congregants as well as the treasurer of our district (three states and approximately one-hundred churches). Previously, I served for three years under Dr. Borderud as an Associate Pastor before departing in 2013 to lead my own congregation.
Dr. Borderud immediately stuck out to me because of his unique leadership behavior and traits which positively impacted my life. Dr. Borderud was a graduate of the Naval Academy and spent time as both a Marine Infantry Officer as well as an Army Chaplain. Consequently, he was thoroughly trained and well-versed in a variety of leadership styles. He always spoke very directly and easily commanded the room in which he was present. However, despite this training and presence, his leadership behavior and traits were consistent with two dominant leadership theories: spiritual leadership and servant leadership (Landis, 2014). He effortlessly combined these two theories to produce effective leadership.
Dr. Borderud’s spiritual leadership – a fitting characteristic for a pastor – was evident in his consistency in directing his followers to the Almighty and sacred texts for wisdom and guidance, not to himself. Rather than a dependence on himself and his strengths (which are more emphasized in transformational, charismatic, and strategic leadership theories), Dr. Borderud consistently directed his followers to look beyond him and to a greater and higher power. I remember once when I was facing a problem and looked to him for the answer. Rather than provide me with the answer, he directed me first to pray about it, search the Bible, and then come and talk to him again. I took his advice and, while he still guided my thoughts and actions, it was to a much lesser degree than if he were to immediately provide me with his solution to my problem. In this way, he exhibited great spiritual leadership.
Dr. Borderud’s other great leadership style was his embodiment of servant leadership. Washington, Sutton, and Sauser (2014) define servant leadership as a distinct leadership style in which the leader values the good of the follower above their own self-interest. He told me numerous times that while he valued my contributions to the team, that it would be self-serving of him not to acknowledge my strengths and the future potential available. He selflessly took time to develop my skills and talents and went out of his way to expose me to greater opportunities for service and leadership. One instance in which this was evident was when I confronted him about an opportunity to serve on my own as a pastor, and asked him again for guidance and wisdom. He then advocated for me to candidate for the position, which is a large part of the reason why I am in my present position. He selflessly placed my needs – and the needs of others – above his own for the betterment of the organization and the individuals comprising the organization.
Emotional Intelligence and Resonant Leadership
Research has noted that ethical leadership is more effective at attaining desired results as well as motivating and inspiring others to perform and achieve personal fulfillment (Johnson, 2013). In particular, Maulding (2012) noted that emotional intelligence is one of the most important traits a leader can possess and one which is a strong predictor of leadership. Emotional intelligence is defined as “the capacity of reasoning our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing the emotional will in ourselves and our relationships” (Maulding, 2012, pg. 21). Maulding (2012) further concluded that emotional intelligence allows for leaders to connect with their followers on an emotional level, inspiring them with hope, demonstrating compassion and empathy, and touching their hearts and minds.
One of the most important connections between resonant leaders and their followers is their personal connection allows the leader to process through thoughts, emotions, and plans with the follower. Researchers have labeled this process “meaning-making” (Huevel et al., 2013). The process of meaning-making establishes a connection between leader and follower which facilitates the translation of personal and organizational values into action. Meaning-making facilitates “integrating challenging/ambiguous events into a framework of personal meaning using value-based reflection” (Park, 2010, p. 265). This meaning-making allows an individual’s willingness to adapt to change (Huevel et al., 2013). Huevel et al. (2013) concluded that the process of meaning-making also translates to successful adaptation for employees when it allows them to reflect on organizational changes and link or align their own personal values to the changes. Dr. Borderud was integral in this process for me and other followers and, in the process, helped translate organizational values into action.
Translating Values into Action
One occasion in which Dr. Borderud helped translate organizational values into action for me occurred early in my ministry with him. One of our organizational values was simply to love others. What I did not grasp at the time was that “love” was communicated differently to different people. He had repeatedly given me his speech on loving others, but I got to see him live it out in the context of a board meeting. He was being grilled about the present and future of various ministries in the church, and he repeatedly responded in kind, with patience, and demonstrated love to a hard group. Observing this display helped transform that abstract value of loving others into a concrete action for me. Though his natural personality and communication style was more direct and aggressive, which I experienced on many occasions, he met others where they were and gave them what they needed.
This was just one occasion (in addition to those mentioned earlier) where Dr. Borderud exhibited emotionally intelligent, resonant leadership. He demonstrated compassion and empathy to those within the organization who were struggling to grasp concepts or resistant to ideas and, in doing so, demonstrated to me and others that he was in tune with himself, others, and the organizational culture. Dr. Borderud inspired me to become a better leader as well as being more personally committed to the organization. His resonant leadership was integral in transforming my own understanding of emotional intelligence and the importance of it to personal interaction. While I had served other under servant leaders, none were as relationship-oriented as Dr. Borderud and none connected with as many different types of people as he did with those throughout his organization. As a result of his resonant leadership, several colleagues have stepped up into greater positions of leadership all over the world, and each of them attribute much of their inspiration to the personal connection they shared with Dr. Borderud.
Heuvel, M. V., Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2013). Adapting to change: The value of change information and meaning-making. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83(1), 11-21. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2013.02.004
Johnson, C. E. (2013). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE
Landis, E. A., Hill, D., & Harvey, M. R. (2014). “A synthesis of leadership theories and styles”. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 15(2). Retrieved July 14, 2019.
Maulding, W. S., Peters, G. B., Roberts, J., Leonard, E., & Sparkman, L. (2012). Emotional intelligence and resilience as predictors of leadership in school administrators. Journal of Leadership Studies, 5(4), 20–29. doi:10.1002/jls.20240
Park, C. (2010). Making sense of the meaning literature: An integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 257-301. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years