A False Dichotomy

In the past, it has been quite common for leaders to be split into 2 categories: people-oriented and goal-oriented. That is, leaders either have a disposition toward the joy of their people, at the potential cost of the goals of the group, or vice versa. So we are often told to look at ourselves and evaluate which way we tend to lean.

However, I have come to see that this is a false distinction.

If we truly love people, it won’t be at the expense of the goals because our goals will take into account the people in our team and the people we serve. Alternatively, if we truly want to achieve goals, it won’t be at the expense of our people because we realise that our ultimate goal as leaders is to lead people. The 2 go together – people serve the vision but the vision needs to also serve people. Richard Branson puts it this way, "If You Treat Your Staff Well, They Will Be Happy. Happy Staff Are Proud Staff, And Proud Staff Deliver Excellent Customer Service, Which Drives Business Success."

When we look at Jesus, we don’t see this dichotomy between people and goals. His self-stated mission was, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10). In other words, His mission was ultimately about people. But when He called people to Himself, He called them into that mission. So goals and people came seamlessly together.

This principle is not just applicable to Church life or Christian ministry. It can be applied in any workplace if we view ourselves as Christians on our frontline. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a dichotomy between people and goals as leaders. When I was in accounting, I used to believe that there was a tension between my staff’s satisfaction and the goals of the business. However, now looking back, I can see that if I invested into the people in my team, they became more productive and, by becoming more productive (achieving reasonable business goals) they became more satisfied at work.

So, here’s the challenge for us as leaders: let’s avoid the dichotomy of people vs goals and do the hard work of bringing the two together. How can we bring together the goals of people and vision? As with Christ’s example above, this should be more than achievable in Church life given that our goals and mission are ultimately about people and it is in this mission that we find our greatest joy.

But the deeper issue in this will be how we check our own heart – if we’re not serving the mission of Christ out of the joy we have in Christ, we can’t expect our team to do it either. It begins with us as leaders, first find your joy in who you are in Christ and then served the mission of Christ out of that joy. That’s the real "heart work" a leader must do before they can truly lead people as Christ would have us lead.

“Everyone really does win when a leader gets better.” (Bill Hybels)

God said to the Israelites, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

Father, help us to not see these two principles as separate but to bring them together as you bring them together. To your glory we pray! Amen.