Faith, maturity create` the fabric of leadership, say authors

WEAVING LEADERS – Authors Bill Wilson (left) and Bob Dale sign copies of their book, *Weaving Strong Leaders: How Leaders Grow Down, Grow Up, and Grow Together*.

WEAVING LEADERS – Authors Bill Wilson (left) and Bob Dale sign copies of their book, Weaving Strong Leaders: How Leaders Grow Down, Grow Up, and Grow Together.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Bob Dale and Bill Wilson, authors of Weaving Strong Leaders: How Leaders Grow Down, Grow Up, and Grow Together, shared insights from their new book with clergy and lay leaders gathered at Walnut Hills Baptist Church in Williamsburg.

Published by Nurturing Faith in collaboration with the Center for Healthy Churches, which Wilson leads and through which Dale serves as a coach, the book is unlike many “how-to” approaches to leadership training. Instead, the authors focused on the Christian leader’s faith journey and maturity out of which leadership grows.

“Bill and I took the approach that leaders grow inside out,” said Dale, a longtime Virginia Baptist leader, former seminary professor and author of numerous books including the bestseller To Dream Again.

It takes time to grow as a leader, said Dale, noting that those seeking to short-circuit needed faith and maturity won’t fool people for long.

“Jesus, who had the biggest job ever, spent 30 years getting ready for 30 months,” Dale added.

In contrast, he told of accepting a pastorate at age 19 — before deciding he needed to learn and grow a bit more. “I was dangerous,” he said to laughter.

Dale credited “wise laypeople who kept me off the rocks,” adding, “I knew I needed to grow up a bit.”

“If you grow up,” he noted, “you ought to learn a few things.”

In their book, the authors addressed aspects of leadership growth at various stages in life. Dale said that persons often see themselves as leaders for the first time when teens at school and church.

Therefore, the teen years and 20s are identified in the book as the “launch decades,” followed by the “hustle decades” (30s and 40s) that are the busiest with work and family obligations.

The 50s and 60s are the “legacy decades” when leaders consider the marks they are leaving. Dale said the 70s and beyond are designated as the “wisdom decades” when “people kind of grow into themselves and into different kinds of leaders.”

Introspection and struggle, rather than just a bag of tools, are needed for effective leaders to grow said the authors.

“Courage is a key ingredient of leadership, born out of humility,” said Wilson.

Such courage, he said, is needed to confront inappropriate behavior that causes a church or other organization to be unhealthy and less effective.

A mature leader should “at least call a foul” when destructive behavior is exhibited, he said. It is a key to health for the community and requires maturity and courage.

Courageous and mature leadership, he said, is different from the “concierge pastor” who asks everyone, “What do you need?”

Wilson encouraged church leaders to not take a Lone Ranger approach to ministry but to find peer support and guidance.

“I would never pastor again without a coach,” said Wilson, commending the benefits of a guide who offers needed perspective. Those who buy Weaving Strong Leaders are offered a free session with one of the Center for Healthy Churches’ 15 coaches.

Wilson urged ministers to find small peer groups. These groups and a coach can help ministers, he said, in taking “fearless internal inventory” and having “someone to help them stay balanced, grounded and honest about themselves.”

The book’s weaving motif calls for creating a “fabric of Christian leadership” that weaves together the threads of deepening, transforming faith with ongoing maturity, said Dale.

“Growing our beliefs and cultivating our maturity are two of life’s unending processes,” said Dale. “We believe the best church leaders are mature and well-defined.” NFJ

STORY AND PHOTO BY JOHN D. PIERCE