… Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…

1 Corinthians 12

 

Wait! Before you go any further, make sure you take the time to read 1 Corinthians 12. Yes, I mean really read the entire chapter, allowing the context and the layers of this precious text to wash over you. Typically, this chapter is useful in providing a personal sense of comfort in our individual uniqueness—we learn to value the different gifting that we bring to the body of Christ. But today, I believe that we should view this passage through the lens of leadership. Instead of inserting yourself into the narrative, look at each member of your team as the gifts that Paul refers to throughout this twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians. When we do this, the scripture quickly turns into a celebration of the diverse and unique strengths that each member of your team brings to the table.

The hands of many different people at work on the same project.As human beings, we tend to naturally be cliquish or tribal. We surround ourselves with people that look like us, hold similar values, and share common interests. As a personal practice, this mindset is permissible, and can even be prudent. As a leader, this habit could prove destructive to the ecology of your vision. Your team should be diverse, not just ethnically, but also ideologically. Although it may provide you a measure of comfort, the last thing you need is a homogeneous team that solely mirrors your personality. As leaders, we set the tone and climate of the office space. We determine what is accepted, welcomed, or even rejected in the team’s ecology. These determinations are not always verbally expressed—in some cases our biases bleed through our communications, causing team members who think differently than the rest to feel excluded or even rejected.

Is your team ideologically diverse? Can you say that each of your team members brings a unique flavor to the work? Do all your team members feel respected, valued, and appreciated as they are, or do they feel the need to assimilate to the dominant culture? As the leader of the vision, you should ensure that all your team members feel welcomed and supported as they are—not as you would prefer them to be. When we look at 1 Corinthians through the eyes of leadership, it teaches us not to just embrace the gifted team member but to also embrace the personality that accompanies their giftedness. Truth be told, the personalities of your gifted team members is what makes them the productive entities that you find appealing. Expecting your team members to act more like each other, is sometimes similar to expecting the hand to operate like the eye, or the foot like the heart.

As a leader, I have come to learn that God uses the unique personalities of my team members to develop me. If I coerce them to change, based on my lack of comfort, I dilute their ability to be truly effective to the overall vision and to my personal growth. It is very easy to mistake unity with uniformity—and it is costly when this happens. Strive to be a leader who celebrates diversity, uplifts individuality, and weaves these differences together to produce an effective work.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the gifts that you placed in our midst in the form of our team members. Teach us how to support them while we lead them. Show us how to celebrate the totality of the gifts that they embody. All that we have is yours, and we steward your vision in us that you may be glorified. We pray these things in Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Gifted Communities (1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40)