You’ve said before that hospitality is a mark of leadership. What do you mean by that?
“As a Christian leader, hospitality is the litmus test of whether faith is real. Jesus is really clear that there are eternal consequences to what we do in life now. For example, he says “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” (Matthew 25) That is the basis on which eternal destiny is decided. This is not salvation by works. Rather, if you have received grace from God, you will want to pass it onto others.
“So hospitality is a key litmus test of any profession of faith. That’s true for any Christian, so how much more must it be for Christian leaders who are seeking to embody Jesus’s teaching?”
Can you tell us about your own journey in this area?
“Once I applied for a senior role at an organisation and I got down to the final two, but did not get the role. I asked for feedback, and they said: ‘you weren’t going to be a bang the table leader’. That was true; I’m not a bang the table leader. Banging the table is about getting your will across. That’s not the mark of Christian leadership.
“I don’t want to be a bang the table leader; I want to be a set the table leader. In our house the kitchen table is most valuable piece of furniture. We’re a fostering family and how we treat each other around the table is central.
“I remember one time a young lad arrived at our house as our new foster child. He came from a horrific domestic violence situation. We were having sausages that meal, and I put a tray of them down on the table. This lad grabbed 20 of them straight away. I was about to get angry, but then asked myself: ‘What has happened in this boy’s life that means he has to grab it immediately?’ I realised I needed to give him the space to explain what was going on.
What do you think this means in practice for the average charity CEO?
“I’ve been learning a lot from Sir John Timpson. He is also a foster parent. I’m in awe of his vision. He models what it means to be a hospitable leader. As a company they are actively recruiting from prison for their shops. You can work for them while you are still in prison.
“John talks about this upside-down leadership model, which I see as very biblical. Most organisational charts are a pyramid shape. At Timpson they have an upside-down model: the most important are people on the frontline. The organisation is lined up behind them to cheer them on.”
What do you think this means for recruitment?
“When you are throwing the net out to see who you can recruit into a role, are you just borrowing society’s assumptions? Look for character.
“The CV is just my interpretation of what I have done. You need to get below that. Talk to colleagues and understand what this person is like to work for.”
What do you understand today about leadership that you wish you’d known ten years ago?
“I’d aspired to lead large organisations but I’m learning that many large organisations can’t cope with entrepreneurship. I wish I’d known that earlier. I’m a better fit in a more agile world.”
What book is on your bedside table at the moment?
“I’ve just finished Bill Gates’s book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. What a journey some of these elder statesmen have been on!”