Published: Tuesday August 09, 2011
PITTSBURGH, PA. – Leadership has many meanings and applications to people. Whether a business executive or a parent, a school class office holder or active in a charitable institution, we all assert leadership and/or are subject to it.
As the former president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business, Dr. Calian details seven keys to effective leadership in his most recent book, The Spirit-Driven Leader: Seven Keys to Succeeding Under Pressure (June 2010).
Each chapter is devoted to one of these keys: creativity, competence, commitment, character, collegiality, compassion and courage. Each chapter draws on anecdotes to emphasize the author’s point.
How creative is the leadership you have experienced? Dr. Calian points out that creativity often is not welcomed in organizations because they tend to cling to the status quo. He emphasizes that it is to the organizations advantage to be flexible rather than entrenched.
In discussing competency, the author notes that “how we perform is influenced in part by how we learn-from reading listening, writing, or questioning.” He mentions Professor Ronald A. Heifetz of Harvard University, a leadership expert who warns that the “lone-warrior modes of leadership is heroic suicide. Neither leadership nor fellowship can be exercised alone. Partners are needed, both within and without.”
Are you listening, questioning, reading and learning before deciding?
Dr. Calian’s chapter on commitment was probably the most controversial. We both agree that commitment is important and he sites some excellent examples. He sounded harsh on the business community while giving charitable organizations more of a free pass.
However, the spiritual side of leadership including faith, hope and love when practiced together can add to our leadership abilities. This also can influence a person’s character, which is discussed short, but meaningful chapter in the book. Here he points out the traits admired in people of good character, trust being one of those traits. Once lost, it is hard to regain.
In his chapter on congeniality, the sharing of responsibility in a group endeavor is mentioned. Dr. Calian mentions the need for more dialogue, a trait that may be lost in our religious and non-profit organizations. He emphasizes the need to meaningful conversations to inquire and learn. He covers many important areas including salary based on performance, a need to build a climate of consensus and the importance of honesty and apology in performance in any organization.
The segment on compassion revealed Dr. Calian’s cultural and theological background showing his concern for both legal and illegal immigrants and the emphasis on applying the Golden Rule. He discusses eight questions set forth by the late management guru Peter Drucker, emphasizing the need for everyone in an organization to be part of a “we” team, not an “I” team.
Dr. Calian’s chapter of courage may be his best as he referred to a trip to Pakistan with his wife, Doris. He discussed the efforts by a Muslim lawyer representing two Christians-a father and son. They had been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s divine law, the Shariah. The two Christian’s had the sentence reversed on appeal and they left.
The country immediately to avoid the anger of the Muslim community.
Editor’s note: Born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles, Rev. Dr. Calian is a son of Armenian immigrants who became one of the longest-serving seminary presidents in the nation, having retired from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2006 after 25 years of service; he has also been board member of Beirut’s Haigazian University. Fred Mickaelian has been a friend of the author for over six decades.