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Overseeing the Organization

I’ve been a more effective leader when others have actually done the work.

Donald Seibert has seen the inside workings of not only churches but high-pressure corporations. As chairman and chief executive officer at J. C. Penney, he gained a reputation as an effective organizer and peacemaker. And in peace, the company prospered.

In 1981, a year when most retailers were taking their lumps, Penney's earnings rose 44 percent on a mere 4.5 percent increase in sales. What was the secret? Business Week pointed to a new management style "keyed to group decision making … consensus management."

Seibert, architect of that new atmosphere, is now retired, but his philosophy remains unchanged: develop a team that can continue without a hitch when key individuals leave.

Here are his reflections from a lifetime of service within the complex organizations of church and business.

What leadership tensions are common to both business and the local church?

In business, tensions arise when the chief executive's objectives somehow differ from those of long-standing workers in the ...

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