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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Leading within an Organization

The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.


Human Skills and Leading Within an Organization

Knowing one’s followers, peers, and superiors is important to the effectiveness of one’s leadership. Much of the theoretical leadership literature I have encountered thus far has addressed the leader-follower relationship, but I have not read much on the complex relationship dynamics when peers and superiors are included in the mix. There is wisdom in considering all these relationships and one’s relationship with one’s competitors.


Importance of Individual Roles

Davidson stated that “organizations [in the 20th century were] built in the likeness of machines… [and] a machine metaphor was applied to human organizations in an effort to harness… …efficiency and productivity.” According to Davidson, this leaves organizations which have “purposefully and skillfully edited “human-ness” out of the organizational equation… …constantly struggl[ing] to “control” for the variable of human-ness.” Realizing the folly of such efforts, Davidson recaps, these organizations turned to science and learned that “Whole are not just the sum of their parts… [and] …the whole refers to the “…coordinated interaction and integration of all the parts in a synergy and fluidity of relationship, interdependence, and collective support”” In other words, each individual, complete with his or her traits, skills, preferences, and quirks, changes the character of the organization and its effectiveness and outcomes.


Leading Individuals

Leaders must develop the human skills to be able to lead effectively in such an environment. The centurion speaking with Jesus in Matthew 8:9 (NKJV) understood this: “For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Jesus marveled at his faith (Matthew 8:10) because the centurion understood that just as his power came from the emperor, Jesus’ power came from the Father. Both understood that they had power because they were under authority. Laker and Powell speak on how to lead in such a situation when they define softs skills as “intrapersonal skills such as one’s ability to manage oneself as well as interpersonal skills such as how one handles one’s interactions with others.”


Elijah in Context

While the Bible contains many examples of leaders in various contexts, Elijah is a fitting example for this discussion as he served under a good leader (God), bad leaders (Ahab and Jezebel), had subordinates (Elisha and the sons of the prophets), and had enemies (false prophets). He managed all these relationships differently based on his soft skills. Merida stated that following his great victory at Mount Carmel, Elijah “would make a great candidate for a Disney World commercial,” but that isn’t what happened. He interacted with the false prophets boldly, with King Ahab humbly, and with Queen Jezebel cautiously based on the nature of each of their relationships. This is an example of someone who knew the others surrounding his leadership role and how to interact with each of them to maximize his effectiveness.


References

Davidson, S. (2020). Hard science and “soft” skills: Complex relational leading. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 44(2), 101-108. https://doi.org/10.1097/NAW. 0000000000000406


Holy Bible, New King James Version. (2020). Thomas Nelson (Original work published 1982).


Laker, D. R., & Powell, J. L. (2011). The differences between hard and soft skills and their relative impact on training transfer. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 22(1), 111-122. https://doi.org/10.1002/hrdq.20063


Merida, T. (2015). Christ-centered exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. B & H Publishing Group.


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