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Transformational Leadership

Jessup Think
Jessup Think
Transformational Leadership

In this episode Mark is joined by the Dean of the School of Christian Leadership and Faculty of Theology David Timms. David has taught and written extensively on the topic of leadership and offers a succinct and timely explanation of what a true transformational leader looks like. Much of the material comes from David’s latest book, Shape Your World: Transformational Leadership for Everyday Life.


Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore and we are in the studio today on the beautiful campus of William Jessup University, the sun is shining. And today on the show, we have the one, the only the Dean of our School of Christian Leadership and faculty of theology. David Timms. David, thanks for joining us on the show. Hey, Mark, good to be here. Hey, and I wanted to bring you on David specifically to talk about leadership, and really transformational leadership. A few years ago, the University updated its own mission statement to include that type of verbiage to include transformational leadership. And I know you’ve been researching and writing about leadership for the past three years or so. And you’ve recently published a book entitled shape your world transformational leadership for ever everyday life available on Amazon and other fine retailers. Just a little plug for you appreciate, you know, I try. I try. And And so with that, you know, and I think transformational leadership is very kind of particular languages seems to be shaping leadership in a certain way that some people may not be familiar with maybe how we’re bringing those words together, and why it was important enough for the university to adjust its own mission statement. And so can you kind of just give us a baseline definition of transformational leadership?

Sure. Well, and this was really interesting to me, because two or three years ago, our president modified our mission statement, as a university and said that we exist in partnership with the church to educate transformational leaders for the glory of God. And it was like, so what is a transformational leader? Right? Yeah, right. We started talking with people about and we realized that most people just reduced it to Oh, these are leaders who, I don’t know, make a difference. Yeah. And transform thing. They that’s what they do the transparent stuff. And it was like, oh, okay, well, that’s not very deep. All right. All right. So then we began looking at it more closely and realized that transformational leadership, as a theory has been out in the marketplace since the late 70s. Okay, that’s 40 years old. Yeah, it’s just the Christians don’t know it. Right? The business place marketplace knows that well. And so we took some of the research that was done in the late 70s and early 80s, by a couple of guys, burns and bass. And most of their language just too hard for people to get their tongue and their mind around. Right. Okay. So a simple way of doing it. So add definition, transformational leadership, is producing change and building lives. And that’s really what the leadership piece is, yeah, true. Authenticity, inspiration, empathy, and innovation. So you got two outcomes, and you got four ways of doing it. And these are what we call here, the six pillars of transformational leadership. And it’s starting to shape our curriculum. It’s certainly shaped the book I wrote. And we’re realizing that that these themes are not things we’re coming up with. We’re really just capturing what is the latest and best research in the leadership field. And it’s like, wow, okay. It’s all right there in that definition that we’ve we’ve come up with.

Yeah. And it’s interesting to know that it being maybe a new term for some people, or new way to describe leadership has been around since the late 70s, which for me, personally, was a beautiful and two decades, that’s when I began so. So I may be as old as transformational leadership. But But with that, you like you’re saying that that’s been maybe in the marketplace, but the church hasn’t understood that terminology. And I would say for, you know, me growing up, and even through my seminary years, it was more the kind of wording I heard was servant leadership. Yeah. And that’s probably really familiar within the church. And so how do we distinguish what’s the difference between servant leadership and transformational leadership?

Well, the neat The interesting thing is that at the same time that burns and bass are coming out with transformational leadership, Robert Greenleaf was coming out with servant leadership. Okay, this is all in the 70s. It was, it was a wonderful decades, a big decade. It finished with a bang when you were born. It did. So Greenleaf comes out and he’s an at&t guy retires says What we really need is more servant leadership. He tries to define that. The problem is that most people I’m going to say 99% of people you meet in the church or on the street, don’t have any idea what his definition of servant leadership was, right? And so the church has embraced this as a primary Because Jesus says he didn’t come to be served, but to serve. And so naturally we just go, oh my goodness, then it’s all about servant leadership.

I won’t even noting that it didn’t emerge from the church, but emerged from former at&t. Yeah, you know, it seems like Oh, how did this not emerge right within the church.

So the problem for me with servant leadership, and I’ve taught classes on servant leadership, so it’s not like I haven’t been immersed in that world, too. The problem has been that it gets very high on the server and very low on leadership. Okay. Yeah. Right. So people tend to burn out. And a quick anecdote, I was down in Chile, this last this last summer, teaching a course on leadership to pastors down there and talking about servant leadership and the fact that it’s high on servant low on leadership, and this woman starts crying. And I don’t speak Spanish, she doesn’t speak English. So we’re trying to have this communication, something I said, Is it the way I look? I’m sorry, I can’t help that on this way. But the tears are rolling down my cheeks. And, and I sort of just have to pause and like, so what’s going on for you? And she says, oh, my goodness, I’ve always thought that my role as a church leader, was just to do everything that people asked me or expected of me. And I am so exhausted, and I’ve been feeling lately. I can’t go on. Right. And she said, that’s what I thought servant leadership was, bless her heart, she’s been absolutely driven to the ground, right? Because it’s not a leadership model. It’s an attitude that you might bring to leadership. And that’s where transformational leadership is such a different beast for us. And and I love it, because it’s not inconsistent with Jesus and the gospel.

Right. It’s very different. Well, yeah. And I think that’s a good difference to to make, because it’s not that servant leadership is bad, right? transformational. transformational. Leadership is good. But it’s understanding Yeah, that that servant leadership, and in trying to understand its definition, and that if its dresses one over the other, it can lead to burnout. And it can and and I think it’s important to maybe find that find that balance now with those. So he said, kind of six pillars, but those before at the end, right, the four kind of characteristics through authenticity, inspiration, empathy, and innovation. What was kind of your inspiration for those for that I would steal that word?

Well, those four words are an attempt to capture what burns invested. Okay. Right. So they came out and they had, you know, individualized consideration, for example, was one of their phrases. It’s like, What in the world is Yeah, we went? Well, that’s empathy. Right? Yeah. So what we did was we took their rather convoluted phrases, and we simply tried to make them a bit more street savvy and street accessible. Yeah, they weren’t, they weren’t new with us. They were our attempt to just translate burns and bass work into simple language.

Yeah. And when you hear him, I think they really do just, I mean, they’re like, in bold. For me, it’s like, oh, yeah, like looking at a leader who would possess those right, or be able to do those. And for me, empathy jumped out, you know, I just thought it was really interesting. Because I think a lot of times when you approach leadership, we don’t often talk about empathy, right? You know, when we look at different leadership principles, and all of that. And so for me, that just was like, Okay, now I’m interested. I know how, how does this help? leaders? Yeah, so how, how does empathy help someone be a better leader, and be a transformational leader, right.

So if transformational leadership ultimately is about building lives, then it’s about not just building the lives if you’re in business, it’s not about just building the life of your customer. It’s about building the life of your worker, your employee. If you’re in a family and see leadership, this these principles apply in every leadership context. So in a classroom, in a business, in a family, perhaps even in a marriage, though I don’t think of husbands and wives as leading each other. Right? The principles are still relevant. But the empathy piece then becomes core to how we how do we build lives? Because if you don’t care about building lives, you just do it. Right, right. So what we began to realize looking at the research was that there’s a lot of people saying that the most effective leaders who are transforming lives and communities are people who listen, care and respond. And really, they’re, they’re the key words for us under the empathy heading. So empathy isn’t just As the man, I really feel bad for you that you’re having a bad day, I hope it gets better. This is about listening. It’s about caring. And then it’s about responding as well as creating new environments. It’s about being sensitive to the needs. And we’re seeing this already in really effective workplaces where people say, Oh, so in your family structure, it’s more important that you as the male be sort of a available to help with the kids. Okay, so when that when the kids are born, we’re going to give you paternity leave, used to be just maternity, right? empathy says, actually, our understanding of family dynamics means that maybe we are a bit more sensitive to that. What about places offering grief leave? We don’t do that. Yeah, some businesses are starting to do that. But when you lose someone you love, to be able to access grief leave in the workplace would be a real act of empathy on the part of your leaders. Right, that sort of thing.

Yeah. And I mean, for me, when I hear things like that, I can get behind that right. And I think, man, that’s the type of leader I would want to be. And then I would follow right to, to really understand someone is listening to me and caring about my needs, like that, that draws me then into their leadership rather than kind of this positional leadership, right? Or are you kind of noted in the book, like, burns, looked at what he called a transactional leadership versus transformational leadership, idea of give and take, or a leader that focuses on the beliefs, needs, and values of their followers. And it seems to be a shift in leadership, huge,

it’s huge, because a lot of us have, have had the transactional model modeled to us. Right? Right, right. So I’m paying you you do the job. I’m buying so much of your time, I want you to clock in, I want you to clock out. That’s the way we’ve thought of leadership. And it’s, it is so so distancing between people, it doesn’t create a culture, certainly not an empathetic culture. Right. So the transformational leadership just is an entirely different environment. Yeah, it gets me excited. I love this stuff.

Yeah, yeah. And I think you’re right to point out that, for me, those four I think jumped out to me because, because maybe we’ve seen modeled the other way. And and you realize that that type of leadership can only go so far, and they can only kind of demand maybe obedience out of position. Or that and so to see this type of leader, you know, I think it really does then build a culture and build a place where you would want to follow Yeah, leader.

You know, some some leaders get pretty nervous about this stuff. Yeah, I’m not naturally empathetic. Well, you fooled me, you have fooled me. Well, and it’s something I’ve had to learn right with time. Yeah. Because not everyone’s comfortable, then, you know, empathy is a soft word for some people, right? It’s like, man, if I show you too much empathy, give you an inch or take a mile. You know, we’ll never get the job done will fall behind. I don’t want to walk on eggshells remember a passive one time, you know, in a very well known Australian church that exports music around the world. My name butcher, I’m picking up what you’re putting down, I’m picking up but one time said to his worship leader just called her in and said, Hey, you just need to know I, I can’t be walking on eggshells around you so I don’t need your emotionalism in the office and around the office. And you know, that’s the that’s the opposite. Right to to an empathetic leader. And so important for for us to embrace empathy, but not always an easy thing for us to do.

Right. And it does seem to be like a sad some people could could view it as a soft word. And there does seem to be a stress maybe culturally, that the leader has to be strong and maybe even heavy handed. And, and definitely type a and and out there. And I feel like empathy does bring in just a different picture of that leadership and maybe helps us understand it didn’t doesn’t need doesn’t necessarily mean that the leader is passive. Right, totally, but, but empathetic,

well, you bring this down mark, right down to family level. And you think about parents who are in fact leading their kids, right. I mean, I don’t know any parent that would argue that, hey, I don’t want to produce change and build the lives of my kids. Right, right. We’re hoping that we will see the kids grow up and mature. We do want to see their lives built And these principles are the same. So, you know, there’s a lot of talk about us because we’re men, but a lot of dads who, for whom empathy is a soft word as well, like, you know what, that’s what a mother does. She listens when they’re having a bad day, she listens when times are tough. And I’m really realizing that a lot of our young sons in particular could really benefit from some empathy from their dads, who said, I want to be this kind of leader in your life, you’re my son, I want to I want to listen, you know, I want to care. And I want to respond to what, what you’re feeling and what you’re going through right now. And families where that’s present. We all know this, right? I usually thriving families, right? Yeah, we just have been able to put our finger on what’s so different about you than about us. And in this case, empathy is one of those words.

Yeah. And that carries over into all areas of leadership. I love how in the book to you, you highlight that, that sometimes when we think leader we think just like head of an organization or that but leadership is in so many areas, and from the parental level to organizational level? And that But yeah, I think it’s, it’s important, then maybe for parents like to view like, Hey, we as leading, we do want to see them?

Oh, no. Well, in my wife and I, we talked about this all the time. But she’s, for example, she’s a mentor mom at mops at our church. But she’ll see she’ll be at tables with these young mums who are just desperate for connection. And she can talk about the leader of the table and just say, Oh, so and so did this. So well, but didn’t do that. And we’re realizing, oh, even a volunteer table leader at mops, right. It’s still about authenticity, inspiration. Yeah, the and innovation it right. And if I grab those words, and I could apply them in that little setting, it would make a real difference to these young moms who are coming looking for help. Right?

Yeah, that’s so true. And now in your book, you listed three myths of leadership kind of right at the beginning. And I wanted to bring one of those up, because it’s a myth that I think I’m inclined to believe. Not that I’m going to fight you over it today. But it was the the myth. Leadership is all about character. Right? And so explain to me like when you say that’s a myth, what do you what do you mean, cuz?

Okay, so. And I may have overstated? I don’t think I did, because in Christian circles in particular, right, we, we’ve read the news going way back to Enron, and all of the business failures since then, and were fundamentally a failure of character. There’s a lack of integrity, lack of honesty, there’s a lack of all sorts of things. And so we’ve said, if we could just clean up the character of people, we would have a better lead country. I just think that’s a myth. Okay. And I think it’s a myth, because some of the nicest people I know, who are as sincere and true and honest, as the day is long, who are caring and thoughtful and gentle and forgiving. They’re just not leaders. Right. And so, the myth is that character alone would make the leader clearly I want to have you know, I wasn’t going to bring that. Yeah, but but if we’re, you know, a lot of times what we’ve done is we’ve we’ve kind of defaulted and said, Oh, the real problem is a failure of character. So let’s do character studies. And that will produce a generation of great leaders, and it just doesn’t, because leaders are so much bigger than that. All right.

I think that’s a good distinction. Right? The character alone, right. Does not and, and that is good, you know, because because I’m kind of inclined to look at that and think, yeah, you just have these qualities. But yeah, there there are leadership qualities. And I think maybe when you combine them with good character, offshore, you have you have the, you have the best

well, and that’s really is what we’ve tried to capture in that word authenticity. The first of those four words. Authenticity is really integrity, humility, transparency, vulnerability. It’s all of that right, Carrie?

Yeah. Yeah. Which is character. That is there’s not I just started with Yeah, it was interesting when I saw that, because the other ones I was like, Okay, yeah, I see. And then I read that as a myth, and I was like, Oh, wait, I guy, especially, like you were saying, we’ve seen so many examples of failure of character. And, and often, there can be good leaders who also have character issues, right. And so there is a, like, maybe a tension between those two, where there are leadership principles you could be good at, but also have have some character issues. But then if you’re 100%, on the character side, there may be leadership issues that you need. And no have in that, at least maybe in leadership roles in large scale or

Yeah. And I’m kind of careful Mark about the phrase good leaders. Okay. Because I think the word good is almost an ethical term. You know it right. Qualitative? Yes, yes. I think there are people who can get the job done, who lacked character, right? Whatever the job of the moment might, right, right, they can be effective in that, but I’m not sure that makes them a good leader. Yeah. And and, you know, chatting with you earlier this morning about just our propensity to honor people who who are productive. And say, if you can just get the job done, you know, whether that’s at the political level, whether it’s a church level, or whatever the level, right? If you can get the job done, we’ll consider you a good leader. I’m thinking I’m not sure that it’s all about getting the job done, because it’s about building lives as well.

Right. I think that’s a great distinction. And bringing that in that, that often maybe when we look at leadership, it is just whoever can get the job done. get the job done the fastest. Right, that, that gets that. Yeah, that may be characteristic of being a good leader. And, and I think it’s important, and for me, and my life, and kind of my, my leadership role at the church. And then here at the university. You know, I’ve, I’ve been what maybe I like to call a reluctant leader, okay. And so where, where I’ve maybe kind of felt I’ve focused on maybe character side and those type of things, but have always been a little reluctant on maybe the leadership, position or qualities. So what what maybe advice would you have for the reluctant reader, or a person who maybe is in a leadership position, but didn’t maybe strive for that? Right, right. And now find themselves?

Mark, step up? Okay, well, no, I think I think it’s embracing the vision to produce change and build lives, and reluctant leaders. And I get that I see a lot of reluctant leaders, and at times I have been the same. Yeah. I’ve been reluctant when people have just asked me to do a job, Hey, could you manage this, could supervise that, could you get this thing done? Isn’t there someone else that would do it better than me, right. And what I’ve really lost sight of is a calling to produce change and build lives. And when I realized, even here at the university, and my job is is not to run programs, is to produce change, changing the lives of students, which is ultimately changing society, culture and society. That’s my, that’s my job and to build lives. It’s not just the students lives, but it’s the lives of faculty, and staff. And when I realized that I’ve got this amazing calling into leadership, and my, my, my change producing and my life building is very particular. But it’s what we all do. I do this at home with my boys. I’ve got three sons, right? So it’s the same call. It’s just lived out differently. And when I get that, it’s like, oh, that’s what this is all about. I’m a little less reluctant at that point. Right? I can lean into that.

Yeah, yeah. And I agree with that. When you when you frame it in the way of producing change and building lives instead of a task, right? I think yeah, that’s where you can be like, Alright, I’m, I am committed to that I am. And and there may be tasks within the the job that you have, or the leadership position you have, that you have to get done, or are savvy enough to, to gather people around you who can help you and do that. And I’m definitely leaning into that idea of producing change in building lives. in your own life, maybe who or what has influenced you the most in terms of leadership? Oh, wow.

There have been a number of people at pivotal moments that I didn’t know were pivotal moments. Right away, right? That’s, like, Oh, I didn’t know that was so important until later when I look back and wait, that was so important, right. I’ve had a lot of different people. Some people I can quickly point to and some I have slowly become aware of. I think one of the ones I’ve slowly become aware of frankly, is my dad. Yeah. You know, you’d think I’d be quickly aware but I’ve realized, just, you know, now, nowadays, as I’m going, oh my goodness, I have learned so much from him that I didn’t realize I’d learned, right. He’s a guy who’s modeled faithfulness, I was model consistency, who’s modeled integrity, and I can go on. But then there have been those people that have popped up at various moments in time. And you know, just that one conversation with somebody. And it’s like, I think of a guy named Ben marold, who was a pastor of a church and he and his wife took me in when I first came to the United States, I lived with them for about a year. And he just would sit down with me from time to time, he was not a people person, he’s still not. He’s an introvert, but but a great leader, in every sense of that word. But from time to time, he’d sit down and he just, I just say, Ben, let me just get some pearls of wisdom from you. I want to talk to you, right, because I’m living with the guy. And I actually wrote notes in the back of my Bible that he would just just comments he would make about leadership. Very, very formative for me. A guy named john Thornhill in Western Australia, made a passing comment to me one time, that was just set me free. And a burden of I felt like I hadn’t been pastoral enough with him and with the church. And he said, David, we didn’t. We didn’t come because you were pastoral. And at the time, I thought it gave me great liberty and freedom. I’ve learned I still want to be empathetic, right? Yeah. But you know, these are things that have been very formative. And they’ve been leaders in my life, in that regard has been great. But there’s always somebody if I keep my ear to the ground. There’s always somebody that God puts there at key moments to just say a word or or just have a comment that that will reshape or refocus me and I just have to live with my ear open like that all the time.

Yeah, I think it’s so important to, to be able to look back and to remind yourself of what where you saw leadership modeled, how was modeled to you in those moments, where someone who maybe not even realize they were, where they were leading in your life, right, that they were speaking that, and you can look back and think, wow, that moment was so pivotal,

I can tell you, the people who haven’t been key leaders for me, and they’re the ones who have come across as authoritarian, dictatorial, demanding, insistent that they’re not the strong personalities that have run over the top of me that they’ve not been influential for me. Right. So the people I’m describing have been transformational leaders in the sense that I write about in the book.

Yeah, it’s so true. And and what’s interesting is probably, if people on the outside looking at what have saw those others as the leaders right in your life, and to note that it is yeah, the ones who had maybe a quiet impact. paradox isn’t right. It really is. And it’s, it’s kind of the paradox of transformational leadership, of being able to be a leader be able to be out there, pushing change, right, not just managing change, and producing that in building lives. But doing it in a way that has authenticity, inspiration, empathy, and innovation, right? It’s so important. Well, I’m just so excited to have you on the show, or have had you on the show. And I’m really glad that when, when I read a book from someone, and especially It was about leadership, I’m here to say and I’m glad that I can say that you definitely model what you have written in this book. Thanks again. So it’s always one thing to see a disconnect between what someone says and writes and how they are. But you’ve really modeled that and and so it’s it’s made I think the book even more impactful to see that that this is coming from a life that has lived this out and like you said have has learned this along the way and and still learning the importance of those those characteristics in your life. It was it was very kind of you appreciate that. I tried to be kind that’s what I’m working on. But no, thank you so much. It was great having you on and we’re gonna actually end this episode with a little segment that I’ve done with other guests so far right? It will surprise segment it’s called nerdy Would you rather alright nerdy, which rather Yeah, you know, I tried to sneak it in do it and I try to make it I try to make it specific to maybe the different you know, research focuses and background so I kind of I came up with a leadership one right so again, leadership point and so it’s nerdy, would you rather and you have to answer but then also explain maybe why and I I tried to pick two kind of key figures. Then maybe leadership in the last, you know, especially of the 20th century. Oh, Joe hope I recognize him. Yeah. As I think I think you will recognize them. Okay. But but they are they’re not from Australia. So. So yeah. So there, but I think you will I think, you know, I had I had to go, I had to go World War Two right hand to go kind of mid 20th century. So would you rather, would you rather have dinner with Franklin Roosevelt, FDR, or Winston Churchill? Oh, I could get myself in trouble with this one, right. No, I think you have freedom you have freedom to?

I think I would go with Churchill. Now, because I’m an Ozzy, and you know, we’re still part of the Commonwealth and all that stuff. I think I go with Churchill, because he’s such an enigmatic figure. And he was dealing with such a depth of crisis in the country. Right. I mean, World War Two was a crisis for the world. Yeah. But, but the very existence of Britain was under threat. And at a time when people really needed vision and hope and leadership, because survival was on the line. I think he was a fascinating guy. I’m not sure he was a great leader. Right. Right. Right. But he certainly had to lead through crisis. And I think it’d be fascinating to have dinner with him, and just chat about that. And see what he had to say in terms of, you know, what was happening within himself? Yeah. What How did he decide to communicate with English people? I think it’d be really interesting guy to chat with, even though on this side of the pond, that there was a lot going on, too.

Right. Right. But now Yeah, he definitely, to me stands out as as an interesting figure in history and would definitely make a good and kind of controversial, right. And controversy. Yeah. And I’m sure at dinner, there would be several drinks, coming his way, you know, based on what I’ve read on his life, which is interesting in it. And it’s interesting to note that he was he was at a pivotal time in history. Right. And he emerged and and was able to lead through that doesn’t doesn’t necessarily mean, if there wasn’t a crisis, we would look back and be like, oh, wow, he was a great leader and probably wouldn’t even have become Prime Minister, maybe if you hadn’t, if that hadn’t been going on his time. So it’s interesting to know, maybe him not having some of those qualities before, but in the moment, was just able to step up and provided exactly what was needed,

especially in a crisis. Right. And he might be a great example of what we’re talking about earlier, when we distinguish between an effective leader and a good leader. We might say he was very effective in that moment for that purpose. Right. But a lot of people would argue he wasn’t particularly good. Before.

That’s true. I have seen the movie is. Well, thank you so much for I would love to be in on that meal as well and just kind of hear, hear the conversation. But thanks again for coming on the show. Again. It’ll be you know, many more shows to come with us guess I appreciate it. Thanks, Mike. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.

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