Welcome to u2018People centred leadership: A different perspectiveu2019. In this series of articles, Kathryn Heslop reflects on the topic of leadership, drawing on her background in social work and counselling and her role as Executive Assistant to the National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, where she is surrounded by incredible leaders every day.u202f 

In these short articles, Kathryn reflects on six characteristics she believes are crucial for leaders today: Attuned, Responsive, Inclusive, Attentive, Honouring, and Partnering.u202fu202f 

Her thoughts challenge some of the more traditional views on leadership. Her ideas are grounded in practical experience and a passion for serving God and others. She hopes these musings will bring you a fresh and valuable perspective on what makes an effective leader today - a leader who must, at their core, be centred on people.  

Kathryn Heslop (BSocWk (hons), PGDipEd (Counselling and Guidance))u202f 

Society is shifting at an incredible rate and accordingly, our leadership styles need to adapt and evolve so as not to become irrelevant and get left behind. Authoritative, top-down, leader-centric leadership has now become outdated. Command and control shaped leadership now widely rejected1.

No longer do we rely on the knowledge and expertise of the leader to confidently direct the best course of action. Instead, we pivot towards collaboration, teamwork, flexibility, diversity and inclusivity.

And so, the leader of today needs to look different than what we often saw yesterday. We usher in an age of collaborative, people-centred leadership that values all voices, where the team works together, learning from one another, using the skills and expertise of the whole rather than the select few.

Relational, people-centred leaders. Leaders who are willing to lay down their rights, for the rights of those they lead. Leaders who donu2019t need to be the expert, but instead can focus their attention on loving others, caring for them, inspiring them, empowering them, valuing them, and in so doing, getting the best out of them.

As I reflect on the life of Jesus, I find his leadership style over 2000 years ago incredibly relevant for us today. When we looked for a king in all his grandeur, he came instead as a humble servant riding on a colt. When we were ready to cast stones and condemn, he gave only grace, love, and forgiveness. When the twelve were looking to him to lead, he took a lowly posture, got down on his knees and washed their feet. When he saw those in pain and suffering, he empathised with them and brought them healing and hope.

Jesus tipped authoritative top-down leadership on its head. Instead, he echoed love, humility, and deep character. He was a leader centred on people. Jesus taught us that to lead, is to serve. And as we reflect on the life he led, lets follow in his footsteps and do the same.

I invite you to journey with me as I look at six characteristics I believe are crucial for leaders today. Keep a look out for the first characteristic, Attuned, to be released next week.


1 Hunter, J. C. (1998). The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. Currency. 

Photo: From National Baptist Hui 2022, by Charl Louw

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