L. Gregory Jones and Benjamin McNutt: Seeking leaders who persevere
Such an emphasis on perseverance ought to have strong resonance for Christian institutions and their leaders, and for search committees looking not only for the top leadership but for talent throughout the institution. After all, Christians are enjoined to persevere in Romans 5, where Paul links suffering and endurance to the formation of character and the cultivation of hope.
Even more, Christian institutions ought to be cultures that practice resilience. Not only is failure a mark of Christ-shaped leadership and pruning a practice of faithfulness, but Christian practices of forgiveness and reconciliation ought to enable Christian institutions to embody resilience in peculiarly deep and rich ways.
Christian institutions also can and should be coral reefs, renewing themselves with huge goals animated not by self-aggrandizement but by the awe-inspiring character of the God whose gracious love and reign call us to thrive in ways we could not otherwise have imagined.
In Philippians 2, Paul enjoins us to put away “selfish ambition,” but his very use of an adjective suggests that there is a kind of ambition that ought to be cultivated: ambition for the gospel.
Of course, this also calls Christians, and Christian institutions, to pay significantly more attention to how we engage in our practices. Have we cultivated the habits and skills that shape people, and cultures, to be as disciplined as we need to be to persevere? Are we as committed to recognizing that practices -- forgiveness and hospitality, or developing a scriptural imagination for leadership -- take 10,000 hours to really learn, just as a skill like playing the piano does?
“It’s hard not to get romantic about baseball,” Billy Beane says. The same is true for leadership.
Search committees have daunting tasks in identifying leaders of Christian institutions. Learning to ask the right questions, and to design strategies to learn about whether candidates have the trait of perseverance, can go a long way not only toward finding good candidates but also toward cultivating renewing cultures that will enable faithful institutions to thrive.
Benjamin McNutt contributed to this reflection.