Intrusive Spiritual Leadership

By Dr. Kevin Dougherty –

I recently was blessed by the opportunity to give my testimony at Uptown Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Everyone has his or her own experience in coming to Christ, but mine was certainly an example of 1 Corinthians 3: 6 where Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” I have had many “Apollos’s” in my life, and one I highlighted during my testimony was Ken Jenkins.

Ken and I worked together at Fort Benning, Georgia. My seed had long been planted by the time I met Ken, and my identification as a Christian was pretty well known in our office. Ken’s was generally less well known, but would soon become very important to me.

My desk was outside of our boss’s office and I was somewhat of his principal assistant as well as being one of the regular team members. Geography positioned me where my colleagues would pass by me several times a day going to or coming from the boss’s office, and the extra duty of being the boss’s principal assistant gave me a little extra work that was spared my colleagues. One otherwise nondescript day as Ken was going to see the boss, he nonchalantly asked me “How it was going.” Assuming this was at best the commonly gratuitous pleasantry and at worst a suggestion that I looked busier than usual, I responded with a noncommittal “Fine” and a small mention of the latest project the boss had me working on. I thought that would be the end of it, and that Ken would continue on into the boss’s office. Instead he stopped square in front of my desk, locked eyes with me, and with a new sense of intensity and caring asked, “Very good. How’s your Christian walk going?”

Ken and I had never talked about our faith so I was somewhat caught off guard by his asking, but not by the subject in general. I was well aware that I’d reached a certain plateau in my discipleship, but I’d ascribed it to several things I’d vowed to “get to later.” Ken had accelerated that process so I took the opportunity to tell him I felt fairly stagnated, but really hadn’t come up with a plan to do anything about it at present. Ken then provided me with that plan, inviting me to a small Bible study and accountability group led by Mike Bingham. Mike was both a more mature Christian and a more senior member of our organization, and he proved a wonderful and inspired mentor to Ken, me, and the others in our group. That experience launched me on a path to deeper study of the Bible, more spiritual discipline, growth in my personal relationship with Jesus, a better understanding of what it meant to be a Christian husband and father, and greater accountability with Christian brothers. Several Apollos’s blessed me with water throughout those experiences, but Ken is who I credit as the catalyst.

In my leader development job at The Citadel, I recognize what Ken did as an example of “involved” or “benevolently intrusive” leadership. Involved leaders interact with people on a level that transcends superficialities and reflects genuine concern and understanding of the relevant details of the person’s life. The involved leader uses communication and interpersonal skills, presence, and patience to have the situational awareness necessary to learn and meet other people’s legitimate needs. So instead of gratuitously saying, “Have a good weekend,” the involved leader asks, “Anything special going on this weekend? Are you going to watch the football game?” Instead of a casual “Good luck with your mid-term exams,” the involved leader asks, “I know you said you were worried about calculus. Do you think you’re ready? Is there anything I can do to help you?” Ken could have easily accepted my “Fine” as the end of our conversation, but as an involved leader—and as an involved Christian brother– he kept peeling back the onion until he found meaning. I am very blessed that he did.

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