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Posts from the President Vol 8

Off and on in recent years I have read about leadership. There are lots of ideas out there on leadership. Many of the books and articles are a statement of what has worked for this or that author. Or an author quotes from other authors who have written on leadership. So I have at least read and sometimes even absorbed various ideas of leadership.

Recently I had the privilege, at the behest of the Providence Board of Governors, to attend a leadership course at Queen’s University Business School in Kingston, Ontario. It was there that I learned not just a bunch of ideas, but a unified theory of leadership based on sociological and psychological research. The theory is called “transformational leadership.” Recent research on transformational leadership is encapsulated in the 2006 book entitled Transformational Leadership, by Bass and Riggs (2006). What the research shows is that transformational leadership, more than any other type, has had the most significant and long-lasting positive effects on organizations.

I will not in this blog give all the components of transformational leadership, but I will tell you that it takes into account the whole life of those who attempt it.

One of the figures noted in the Queen’s course was Nelson Mandela. In fact, he died while I was in Kingston. Mandela transformed a nation in part by embodying in himself what he wanted South Africa to become, namely, a society not based on racial differences. He accepted and befriended all people, even his enemies. He paid attention to everyone, calling them on their birthdays, talking to them in airports, and welcoming them into his life. He cast a vision for a nation without apartheid. He challenged people to think of new ways to live in harmony with each other.

The mission of Providence is to teach people to grow in knowledge and character for leadership and service. Knowledge, character, and service are the ways and means of transformational leadership. In the course, and in much of the reading that I have done, the key character trait that surfaces in the research again and again is humility. I am continually amazed how the research bears out the truths of Scripture, in which humility is what is called for in leaders (Mark 10:43-44).

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