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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Leadership Lessons in a Waistcoat

So many obstacles.

A weary public frustrated by a history of under-performance. A business hierarchy driven solely by finance. A post no-one really wanted you to take. A team that is not the most capable or experienced. A responsibility to nurture a generational group nicknamed the ‘snowflakes’.

You may not wear a waistcoat and you won’t have to see the result of your strategy played out in front of 20 million people longing to see a national story change, but many of you will know what it means to lead in situations like these.

It could be running a school, deemed to be underperforming, with demotivated staff. Or perhaps managing a retail business working hard to make a profit in a declining market. Maybe it’s overseeing an office team made up of people still struggling to find a reasonable work ethic. Or pastoring a church wondering if its best days are past.

How do you lead in situations like these?

Speak with grace and humility. Encourage everyone: those in the public eye and those who are routinely forgotten. Help people to see that their whole lives matter, not just their professional ones. Lead out of your own experience of success and failure. Wear a waistcoat (maybe).

From time to time you watch someone from afar and it reminds you of someone else. Someone who took a set of young adults, overlooked and underappreciated, and called them to be a different generation, the carriers of a new future.

For many of us, today is another day of leadership in schools, businesses, offices, churches. Today’s task is to help people work together on a common task for a common goal. We know that sin continually crouches at our door, determined to obstruct the paths to shalom. It’s in these contexts that we need to decide what sort of leader we will be. It’s all too easy to retreat into defensiveness, covering our own backs, finding the scapegoats who will carry our failures.

That’s not the way of the leader we follow: the secure one, willing to wash the feet of those he led.

Today, your team might succeed: enjoy the moment to the full. Your team might fail: bear it with an air of well-worn stoicism.

But continue to learn to lead from those who do it well.

With or without a waistcoat.


Neil Hudson


  1. Thank you! words of encouragement in a difficult environment go far.

    By Sarah dyer  -  13 Jul 2018
  2. Leadership qualities are not prized in UK management, in my experience.
    Yet how can you build a strong team without motivation, enthusiasm, goal – even consultation of the workforce. They’re not blank sheets of paper. Belbin’s Theory of Teams is relevant: we bring personal & social qualities, as well as technical knowledge.

    By Anne Susan Olive  -  13 Jul 2018
  3. Brilliantly penned ? What an amazing example of leadership our man in the waistcoat portrayed. Evidence maybe of a seed pearl sown in his formative years by the hand of the Servant King ? who’s leadership standing still remains the greatest example of our day.

    By Geraldine  -  13 Jul 2018
  4. Neil,
    A truly excellent reflection. Loved the links and lessons from Darren Southgate’s leadership and the elision into a christian’s pattern for whole life leadership.

    By C Jolyon Trickey  -  13 Jul 2018
  5. How right you are! Leadership is not an easy ride. It is indeed the encouragement of the unconfident, nurturing of the weak, leading the proud into humility and showing, by example, who we really serve! Let’s do it!

    By Sue W  -  13 Jul 2018
  6. Thanks Neil, just the reminder I needed.

    By Graham Christopher  -  13 Jul 2018
  7. What a great and timely reminder of the leader we follow.

    By Roger Simpson  -  13 Jul 2018
  8. I’ve come to expect amusing, perceptive, timely, and useable insights from LICC during several decades; with this contribution you have surpassed yourselves! This one has been forwarded to those I think don’t yet subscribe and would appreciate and be encouraged by such.

    By Richard Kirby  -  13 Jul 2018
  9. Helpful reflections. Thank you.

    By Jill  -  13 Jul 2018
  10. Beautifully crafted piece, Neil. Thank you. Keep up the good work.

    By Adrian Lock  -  13 Jul 2018
  11. Great thought Neil. Thanks for capturing what we can learn so well.

    By James Lawrence  -  13 Jul 2018
  12. Encouraging stuff Neil and all the more helpful reading it from you who I experienced it many years ago as a student. Following a call but very nervous, and not self confident. Paul

    By Paul Desborough  -  13 Jul 2018
  13. Thank you.

    Your words are as sweet as honey during a testing time in business. God himself has spoken through your words, reminding us of his character, full of grace and humility, as an example of how to bring his love to those we are privileged to serve.

    Thank you.

    By Peter W  -  13 Jul 2018
  14. Gareth Southgate’s affirmation after the Columbia match that “We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations” took me back to Jesus’ reaction to the potential in the rich young ruler – that he “looked on him and loved him”. Maybe that’s why we are encourged to look at people through Jesus’ eyes rather than ours.

    By Michael Hepworth  -  13 Jul 2018
  15. Thank you for an excellent and timely reflection, Neil. And have others in business noticed how much coverage and application Servant Leadership is getting?

    By David Henderson  -  13 Jul 2018
  16. So topical, so true! Jesus our way, our truth and our life.

    By Winifred Spyridaki  -  13 Jul 2018
  17. Really valuing every member or your whole team, and paying attention to detail as Gareth (nor Darren) has done , and not being under the crippling burden of historical failures (and success) – the UK (the world) needs leadership like this right now!

    By Keith colman  -  13 Jul 2018
  18. A tale of two coaches: Gareth Southgate was a true example of calm, servant leadership even without the longed-for trophy. An interesting parallel was the unfolding drama of a football coach stuck in a Thai cave with 12 followers. As with Southgate, the coach and rescuers showed humility, perseverance, team work and discipline. And what does disclipline mean? To train someone with a code of behaviour. Where have I heard that before?

    By Jane  -  13 Jul 2018
  19. Excellent thought. thank you.
    And then there is Philippians 2. 3:
    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain deceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should (one of VERY few ‘shoulds’ in the Bible!) look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

    One colleague said once that Paul went too far with this. The longer I continue in the faith, the more I think it fully correct.

    By douglas holt  -  13 Jul 2018
  20. Utterly brilliant piece, John, thank you. A BBC pundit, speaking of GS before the defeat on Wednesday, said ‘What a charismatic man.’ Whoever would have used that particular word, on television, about Gareth ad receive nothing in reply but nods from colleagues. All too readily we associate certain characteristics with the word ‘charismatic’ and fail to see the foundational importance of humility. Waistcoat? I guess what really matters, both for Gareth and for us, is that we dress from the ‘divine wardrobe’ – see Col 3:12. I must now look into the depths for my waistcoat.

    By John Samways  -  13 Jul 2018
  21. Fabulous words of encouragement on something that is so topical. Thank you Neil for your wise words.

    By Laura Griffith  -  13 Jul 2018
  22. LOL thanks for providing the “waistcoat” link as it made no sense to me. (plus I didn’t want the World Cup). This reminds me of the year we lived in England back in 1992 (I’m from Colorado Springs, USA & met you at a Glen Eyrie conference). I would hear things that year that had NO reference point even though I too spoke English! My sons wanted a “kit” – didn’t know what THAT was at first! Realized these words were culturally understood. NOW the waistcoat makes sense! Love this blog, well done! Heard Mike Breen say once, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly”. Takes away the fear of failure!

    By Lea Ann Brookens  -  13 Jul 2018

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