Dave Odom: Habits are key to transformative leadership
Mindsets and activities require and reinforce each other, as do activities and traits. Mindsets are much easier to shape than are traits, which are signs of a person’s character. The Christian life is a journey of learning the ways of God in Christ. Scriptures and the Christian tradition have developed many and varied lists of virtues and characters traits, including the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, as well as the classic cardinal and theological virtues.
Twenty-first-century Christian leaders would do well to consider the character traits that are essential to the habits they are seeking to develop in their organizations. The change in Moses’ practice, for example, both required and reinforced the trait of humility, which enabled him to be receptive to Jethro’s recommendation.
Many leaders think about change as an announcement. Having a clear, compelling picture of the future that can be framed succinctly is important. As James Dubik, the U.S. Army general who directed the transformation of the Army in the 2000s, once told me, “Change is very practical: ‘What do you want me to do differently?’” A vision has to be translated into a set of activities that become habits.
Paul points to this same truth in his letter to the Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2 NRSV).
Our minds are renewed by focusing on the things of God. The habits of worship, prayer, Bible study and service are what Christians do. Our activities are part of the renewal of our minds, and these activities form us.
Ultimately, we are all about joining with God’s transformative work in the world. God has given a clear vision of his reign. It is for us to translate that vision into the activities, mindsets and traits needed where we live.