Hudson Taylor: Improving Leadership

Hudson Taylor has become a study of mine since naming our first son Hudson three years ago. I had no intention of naming him after Hudson Taylor until my Dad mentioned and introduced me to this man and his inspirational life unto the Lord. Recently in my reading of Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, he cites a letter that Taylor wrote that remarks on worthy tasks of leadership.[1] Taylor wrote:

The all-important thing to do is to:

  1. Improve the character of the work
  2. Deepen the piety, devotion and success of the workers
  3. Remove stones of stumbling, if possible
  4. Oil the wheels where they stick
  5. Amend whatever is defective
  6. Supplement, as far as may be, what is lacking

As I read this, I couldn’t help but take the time to look over each one and reflect on his thoughts with respect to the ways in which I lead as an administrator. I often wonder if I am doing the most important things. Peter Drucker comments that “Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.”[2] I want to be efficient with the most effective tasks. As administrators, there is not a shortage of things we can be doing, but laser focus on the important things is essential.

What does each of these things that Hudson Taylor suggests as important look like for an administrator? Let us expand and apply!

  1. Improve the character of the work – As administrators, we should always be aware of the places that need tweaking for lack of performance. Areas within the school that need review can be procedures, culture, parent relationships, and classroom instruction among many others. It is the job of the leader first to recognize through feedback channels the needed improvement and then to work to produce the desired outcome.
  2. Deepen piety, devotion and success of the workers – Leadership is tasked with leading those into a fuller devotion unto the Lord within a Christian school. This begins with first leading oneself before the Lord, and then to calling others to what God commands of believers. When teachers and staff feel as if they are growing under your leadership, then they gladly give more clout to your leadership. Sanders remarks that “If leaders show their colleagues methods to improve success, their sense of fulfillment will be reflected in an improvement in the quality of their work.”[3]
  3. Remove stones of stumbling, if possible – If a problem is noticed within the school, it should be dealt with immediately. Delaying relational problems kills school morale and should be taken care of best as possible by administration. Group morale is a great tide that can either make work a miserable or enjoyable atmosphere.
  4. Oil the wheels where they stick – Leadership is about relationships. School administrators should look for opportunities to deepen the friendships with those with whom they work. Buying Sonic drinks goes a long way! Simple, kind acts of service and encouragement bring warmth to the hallways.
  5. Amend whatever is defective – Solve problems and have hard conversations. Be creative in the way you tackle problems and involve all the stakeholders. You may not have all the answers, but you have access to everyone that can help think through how to win.
  6. Supplement, as far as may be, what is lacking – Create and set tangible goals to improve the school and boost morale. When goals are set and met, the ability to feel accomplished as a team is presented.

Hudson Taylor’s simple advice reveals insight into a leader’s responsibility. This is a list that I plan to return to often and evaluate my way of leading those whom God has entrusted me.

[1]J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership: A Commitment to Excellence for Every Believer (Chicago: Moody Press, 2007), 134-135.

[2]“A quote by Peter F. Drucker.” Quote by Peter F. Drucker: “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effective…”. Accessed November 23, 2017.

[3]Sanders, Spiritual Leadership.

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