When asked what kind of leader we’d like to be, most would choose “strong” over “weak.” But in his new book Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing (IVP Books, 2016), Andy Crouch argues that flourishing leaders are in fact both at the same time.
Crouch — who currently serves as executive editor at Christianity Today, as well as on the governing boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and as a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission’s IJM Institute — presents a model of leadership that challenges leaders to expand their vision of what good leadership means.
Laura Leonard spoke with Crouch about why we so often get this wrong, how leaders can pursue these types of strength and weakness, and how this type of leadership can lead to true flourishing for both the leader and the organization.
Why is the idea of being both “strong and weak” important for leaders?
I think if we look at our own experiences of flourishing — that is, when in our lives we have developed the most or the fastest — it’s when other people exercised both vulnerability and authority in our lives. By vulnerability I don’t just mean emotional transparency. I also mean any kind of meaningful risk. For people to flourish, other people have to take risks, often big risks, at the same time that they exercise authority in their lives. So if we’re leaders and we care about the flourishing of people we’re leading, we have to figure out how to both have the right amount of authority and have the right amount of vulnerability, and have them together.
How can leaders work toward flourishing in their own lives and in the organizations they lead?
I think of flourishing as everyone being everything they are created to be. In healthy organizations, this means everyone’s gifts are recognized, developed and maximized. If we had those kinds of organizations, people would love to show up to work, and their results would be more creative, more productive. A key part of flourishing is relational; it’s having rich, mutually empowering relationships. It’s amazing how much the existence of that depends on leaders, especially on whether leaders take risks. When leaders try to avoid vulnerability, it actually prevents other people from having authority. Healthy leaders make room for everyone to grow.
How does accountability impact flourishing?
One of the main forms of meaningful risk for a leader is to be accountable. Everybody, not just people in leadership positions, shies away from accountability. If we are not accountable, at worst we will be exploitative; we will use other people. But the more subtle case is that we’re not fostering the kind of flourishing that we’re meant to. It’s not so much active exploitation as underperformance and failure to thrive. Failure to thrive for leaders comes from lack of appropriate risk, and if we aren’t accountable for goals that stretch us and cause us to risk, we will retreat into a safety zone that prevents us and the organizations we lead from flourishing.
This post is an excerpt from the 2016 Winter edition of Outcomes magazine.
Join us for the Outcomes Conference 2017. NEW this year is the Church Leaders Experience registration option. As part of this new conference offering, Christian Leadership Alliance has teamed up with Christianity Today to present the Church leader Summit on April 4. Andy Crouch will host this one-day event that explores, Leading with Hope in a Post-Christian Culture. CLA encourages you to register early to secure your spot!
Visit www.OutcomesConference.org to learn more!