Welcome to Called to Lead: An Orthodox Christian Perspective. Demitri Fardelos and Mary Scott co-host this podcast with the help and support of their collaborators: His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, and the Strategic Planning Goal Team. This season discusses Orthodox Servant Leadership, diving into topics from developing servant leadership qualities to developing volunteer teams to conflict resolution.
In this episode, Fr. Perry Hamalis from Naperville, IL joins Demitri and Mary to discuss developing Orthodox Christian Leadership. He is a professor of Religious Studies at North Central College in Naperville and has been teaching full-time for the past 17 years. Fr. Perry is an expert in Orthodox Christian Theology and Ethics.
Joining a church organization, leaders want to serve Christ, the parish, and the community, not money or power. There is a difference between management styles suited for a business setting and what is used in Orthodox Christian tradition. Lay leaders should embrace a different type of leadership style—a servant leadership style based on the examples and teachings of Christ. This episode gives an opportunity to better understand Orthodox Christian leadership and why it is important in the parish, the community, and the workplace.
In most worldly organizations, people near the bottom are willing to do whatever it takes. Christ flips this pyramid upside down. He places himself at the very bottom below all of humanity. To follow Christ, leaders should move down instead of up the pyramid.
Good leadership is a skill learned through practice that entails leading others, which brings great responsibility with it. It has a common goal and steps from the moral ethos. Leadership is oriented towards the common goal of holiness for all.
Fr. Perry explains that power is more about force, and influence is about inspiring everyone to act. Power is not an Orthodox Christian trait. Christ led through influence, not power, and people followed Christ, above all, because they experienced His love. This can be seen in the scriptures as God allows his people to make their own decisions and accept him on their own.
Most Christian churches and non-Christian religions focus on leading through service and influence. Orthodoxy is distinctive because of the ethos of the faith—the Tradition includes Holy Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers and Mothers, the Divine services, the hymnology, the icons, Canon law developed over the years, the writings of the Ascetics, and the lives of the Saints.
Finally, this episode explains that the Church is structured and has hierarchies, but the Church is more fundamentally a charismatic Church because the Holy Spirit works through everyone. This all contributes to the mission of the Church.
Orthodox Servant Leadership is grounded in the example and teachings of Christ. Laity and clergy are invited to follow Christ’s example. (3:48)
Leadership is the skill of influencing others towards the achievement of a goal through character that inspires confidence. (6:25)
Orthodox leadership is not about a position or a title, and it’s not restricted to the bishops, priests, or parish council officers. Everyone is called to be a leader as a recipient of the Holy Spirit. (7:10)
What makes leadership Orthodox is that it is characterized by influence and not power. (8:08)
Orthodox leadership is distinct from other Christian traditions because of the Holy Orthodox Tradition—its ethos and structure. (11:48)
(Saint Gregory the Theologian, First Theological Oration, 0:00)
“Worldly leadership is typically structured like a pyramid… in that model, leaders are at the top and others are basically striving to please the people who are above them so that they can move up and gain more power or profit or status for themselves.”
(Fr. Perry, 3:12)
“For us, this means that if we want to follow Christ as leaders, we will not move up the ladder or the pyramid, but move down, in service to others, in humility, in sacrifice, and love. This is quite different from most of the leadership we see in the world.”
(Fr. Perry, 5:36)
“Leadership—it’s important to say—is something that each of us can develop.”
(Fr. Perry, 7:10)
“Leadership is about how a person’s character motivates others to collaborate toward a shared purpose.”
(Fr. Perry, 7:32)
“Anyone with power can tell others what to do, and oftentimes can even make them do it, or at least pressure them to do it with some kind of threat, and this is the worst form of worldly leadership. It is basically tyranny—bending others to your will, and it’s absolutely not an Orthodox Christian approach. On the other hand, influence comes from who you are, it comes from your character, from the trust that others place in you because of who you are.”
(Fr. Perry, 8:41)
“When we open ourselves to God and lead, the way that Christ and the Saints led—in prayer, in humility, in respect—then, others want to follow and collaborate with us.”
(Fr. Perry, 15:50)