John Burns on Leadership

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Hello – I’m John Burns, the President and CEO of Westminster Canterbury, and I enjoy writing to you from time-to-time through this blog. Recently, our Pastoral Care team published our 2018 devotion booklet, A Lenten Journey, our 21st collection of writings by staff and residents. Annually we distribute 7,000 of these to local churches and make it available on our website. Here is a link for you to download your own copy. As we enter the Lenten season, I’d like to share an entry I wrote for the devotion booklet, as it is focused on what I’ve learned about leadership through learning from Jesus who demonstrates that love is the most important element. The Leader I am often asked, “What’s it like to be the leader of a great organization like Westminster Canterbury Richmond?” I always answer that I love it or it’s great, without truly thinking about the question or what I really think about the role of my leadership. Leadership to me is best done from behind the team. Team members get the most from their leader when they are taught, mentored and coached, benefiting from both positive and negative feedback as they make their way through their daily work. Leaders do not control staff; leaders exist to serve staff. There are a number of truths about leadership that inform my philosophy for leading a complex organization like Westminster Canterbury. First, leadership is not about controlling people, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s about serving them and being a useful resource. The best leaders are present for people, they are not their boss. Leaders do not tell people what to do, they help people figure it out on their own. Leadership is not territorial, but rather about letting go of the ego or pride and being truly authentic to yourself as a human. The best leaders are less concerned about pep talks and more concerned about creating a work place where people can do work they feel good about when they go home at night. Leadership, like life, is largely about paying attention, listening for what’s important to others and responding in meaningful and honest ways. Learning from Jesus, most importantly, leadership requires love – the willingness to give and receive love.