How Much Difference Does Leadership "At The Top" Make?

Kara Powell | Jun 7, 2012

How much difference does leadership at the top make?

According to some recent data, quite a bit.

As much as I believe in the priesthood of all believers, meaning that all of us have unique gifts God wants us to use and that leaders/pastors aren’t in a particularly exceptional category, I can’t escape the reality that the top leaders in an organization have an enormous influence on the rest of the organization.

So confirms a Saturday Harvard Business Review blog looking at some research at honesty and integrity at all levels in an organization. They summarize:

Generally speaking, in our long years of collecting 360 responses, we have found the top managers in an organization create a ceiling that is, leaders the next level down tend to be rated lower than their managers on every leadership dimension and that includes their honesty and integrity. In other words, levels of honesty are set at the top and can only go downhill from there.

I’ve always been struck by the power of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” Periodically in my times of prayer and reflection, I make two lists:

1. In what areas of my life would I be pleased if others followed my example?

2. In what areas of my life would I grimmace if others followed my example?

As leaders, we cannot underestimate the difference that our lives and examples makes in our organization and in our follows. The same is true - likely even more true - for those of us who are parents in our impact on our families.

As I write this, and I’m guessing as you read this, there is one (or more) areas of your life that come to mind where you’d like to make some changes. What might you do about that area this week?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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