The Greatest Sin for Leaders

Later today I will award the St. Mark’s by-the-Lake Scholarship in Christian leadership at Huron University College. It is always an honour to return to my alma mater and offer a prize to the student who best exemplifies excellence in ministry most specifically in leadership. The parish initiated this award seven years ago in an attempt to do two things; assist with the rising costs of theological education, and to encourage excellence in ordained leadership. Over the years we have come to know students who are now priests who have indeed displayed the qualities of strong, justice oriented leadership in their vocation.

Leaders are effective at using the gifts of all to move people and organizations forward

I was reading the Globe and Mail on Tuesday and read an article entitled: The Worst Sin of a CEO: Pride. While it was in the least used section in my paper, The Business Section, the headline itself caught my attention for reason to obvious to state. While it seems a strange combination – CEOs and sin… J…I decided to read on.

Ironically the focus of the column was Jeffrey Gandz a professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London. His words on leadership are strong and while they may have been intended to speak with CEOs, much of what he had to say is also good advice for us in the church.

In speaking of the problems in leadership during the economic collapse Mr, Gandz insists that the greatest sin was not greed as many have suggested.

“But the one I focus on is pride, because excessive pride in what leaders have done frequently blinds them to the changing nature of the world around them and the fact that what they need to do is not necessarily what they’ve done in the past.”

WOWzers. Could that be a problem for us in the Anglican Church (Or any other mainline church for that matter)? Is it possible that leaders in the church are proud? Is it beyond reason to suggest that we might be resting on our laurels? Are we resting content with the notion that if we do things as we always things will turn around? Could it be that the great sin of the church and of church leadership itself is pride?

Mr Gandz also called on leaders to realize that success happens for a variety of reasons and that success yesterday does not guarantee success tomorrow. He cited a French proverb of philosopher Michel de Montaigne; 

“Though you occupy the most exalted throne in the world, you’re still sitting on nothing except your own rear end.”

This sounds like advice that should be carved over every presiders chair in every church, and every priest/pastor’s door including the bishops chair and the bishop’s office door.

It is not enough for us to rest content as leaders in the church. I need to be challenged to embrace change and understand how critical it is for the life of the church. All church leaders, ordained and lay need to embrace change for that reason as well. As our diocese approaches its annual decision-making meeting – our synod – I pray that we might convict ourselves of the pride that is perhaps blinding us and holding us back. I pray that we might heed the words of a professor of business of all things, and take up his call to remain a little paranoid as leaders. Paranoid “enough to realize that things change and are always changing, so you constantly need to be looking forward.” Church leaders, like all leaders, need to be equipped to see the changing nature of the world around them. 

Today a student of theology will receive the St. Mark’s by-the-Lake Scholarship in Christian Leadership from my hand. This will be a great affirmation of having done some things really well. I hope that he/she will accept this with humility and gratitude and then exercise enough paranoia to look forward and ask him/herself what needs to happen next in order to remain a good leader – because the answer for tomorrow is surely different than the answer is today and certainly different from the answer for yesterday.

With Thanks to Art Krentz for reminding me of Pogo

To read the entire Globe and Mail Column you can click here

4 thoughts on “The Greatest Sin for Leaders

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  1. As the character in the comic strip once said,”We have seen the enemy and it is us!”

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