Leadership Philosophy

The Ridley Centre of Leadership is very clear on the type of leader we seek to develop, and deliberate in how we develop them.

Our Leader Capabilities

The Ridley Centre for Leadership cultivates leaders who demonstrate to a high level 44 capabilities. This framework has been developed after theological reflection, consultation and research, and was initially validated in a study of 104 Australian leaders.

This Capability Framework shapes our curriculum, guide our learning objectives and is the basis for evaluating the effectiveness of our programs.

Read more on our Capability Framework Overview here (pdf)

The framework encompasses five leadership domains:


Character encompasses integrity, authenticity and service. The Bible makes it clear that character is critical to leadership in God’s kingdom (2 Cor 1:2, 4:2; 1 Tim 3:1-11). Jesus explained, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all’ (Mark 9:35). Biblical leadership follows the model of Jesus, who ‘did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). He ‘made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross (Phil 2:7, 8).

‘Authenticity’ is the opposite of hypocrisy – a trait frequently condemned in the Gospels (Matt 6:5; 23:13,14). Authentic leaders practice what they preach, are effective role models, and are direct and truthful. They are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. A significant body of research shows a positive correlation between authentic leadership and the well-being of subordinates and the effectiveness of an organisation.

Integrity concerns doing the right thing, and being seen to do the right thing. Leaders recognise their sinfulness and frailty and so practice accountability, ensure appropriate boundaries are practiced and keep their ambition in check. They are reliable and take responsibility for their actions.


How we think as leaders is significant, because our thinking shapes our actions. An article in the Harvard Business Review (Jan 2020) highlights how a leader’s mindset shapes their leadership effectiveness. Leaders who have a mindset that is strategic, analytical and open to innovation and learning will know how to interpret their situations and respond appropriately. Such a leader will be looking ahead, planning and strategising. They will analyse the context with real insight and respond appropriately to opportunities for change.

Of course, HBR did not include a theological mindset in their research, but this is vital in leading Christian organisations. A theological mind is able to bring mature a perspective from Christian thought to bear on decisions, actions and relationships.  After Peter rebuked Jesus for anticipating his death Jesus rebuked him saying, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” His mindset was shaped by human experience and expectations and failed to understand the way God worked. Paul urges Christians to ‘have the same mindset as Christ Jesus’ (Phil 2:5) and in 1 Corinthians Paul says, ‘We have the mind of Christ’ (v. 16). That is, ‘an outlook shaped by an awareness of Christ’ (Willis, 1989: 118).


Daniel Goleman highlighted the central importance of emotional intelligence to leadership. It includes self-awareness (knowing what we are feeling in the moment), self-control (handling our emotions well and recovering quickly from emotional distress), empathy (sensing what people are feeling), and adaptability (recognising when people, task or context demand a different approach and adjusting accordingly).

We need self-awareness to identify and defeat the sin in our lives and our leadership.  Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23) and is included in the lists of qualities that are essential for a Christian leader (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2). Understanding and regulating our emotions leads to greater holiness, less conflict and greater credibility.

Empathy is vital to the appropriate expression of love. When Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) he is demanding empathy. Empathy is necessary for us to show compassion, and is evident throughout Jesus’ ministry (eg. Luke 13:10-17).

Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard highlight the fact that leaders who can adapt to the context are the most effective. Our willingness to adapt our leadership style to the context is a function of love, humility and service.

Daniel Goleman’s research has shown that the emotional and relational dimensions of leadership – the right side of our diagram – are twice as important than the intelligence and action – the left side of our diagram. If we are weak in this domain then we may have great ideas, energy and vision, but we cannot engage others, incorporate their feedback, empower them effectively or achieve results through them. Hence, people who are low in this area will tend to be autonomous, task-oriented and independent.


Servant leadership is exercised in relationship with others and through others. Christian leaders prioritise people and prize relationships. In the seminal book on servant leadership Robert Greenleaf (1977) identified servant leaders as (a) involving others in decision making, (b) demonstrating caring toward others, (c) adhering to ethical behaviour, (d) showing interest in the growth of their direct reports and other affected parties, and (e) seeking success and improvement for the organisation.

Fundamental to relational leadership is empowering others to serve in a purposeful way to set and achieve the organisation’s goals. The church is one body made up of many parts, and the variety and diversity of these parts is critical to the effective functioning of the body (1 Cor 12:12-30). The Christian leader has a particular responsibility to ‘equip [Christ’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’ (Eph 4:12).

The diversity and interdependence of the body also implies that we should work in a collaborative and consultative way. God has not given you all his gifts! They have been dispersed so that the leader can bring them together to create a rich symphony for the glory of God.

But, teamwork has a downside because all team members, including the team leader, are sinful. Conflict, misunderstanding and differences emerge. Teams can lose motivation, direction or focus. The effective Christian leader is vital in anticipating, guiding and building the team through these challenges.


Jesus knew when he needed to focus on his mission. The Lucan narrative turns on the moment that ‘Jesus set out resolutely to Jerusalem’ and shortly thereafter declared ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:51, 62). While Christian leaders prioritise people and value processes, we also deliver results that serve God’s mission. In A Bias for Action, Sumantra Ghoshal and Heike Bruch (2004) show that leadership demands energy and focus in order to rise above the daily routine and take ‘purposeful action.’

As stewards of kingdom resources Christian leaders are always looking at new opportunities and innovative ways to implement God’s mission. Since leaders take action with and through others it is important to ensure others know their responsibilities and are held accountable for meeting them. We are also willing to be accountable ourselves, recognising that our own sin demands checks and balances.

‘Fear not!’ is the most frequent command in the Bible, yet leaders sometimes avoid action due to a fear of failure, change or conflict. Effective leaders do not ignore risk, but manage it proactively. They recognise that not every venture will be a success, keep an open mind and learn from failure.

Before we act, we need to think strategically, make decisions, plan and bring others with us. But, in the end, leaders need to act! We must move beyond the daily routine tasks, finalise the decision, take the time, make the effort, assume the risks and deliver.

Our Training Approach

Developing leaders, especially in the important ‘soft skills’ like character, emotions and relationships demands a creative approach. We combine classroom learning with a unique experiential program and one-on-one coaching to provide a powerful formation experience over 16 months. This approach highlights key growth areas, and provides the tools, resources and structure for significant transformation towards our leader capabilities.

Our approach is both flexible and relational, offering each subject through online learning followed by a two-day residential intensive. These intensives feature collaborative learning, case studies and simulations. Students undertake most of their study in their own time, but benefit from engaging and networking with other leaders in these short intensives.

Much of our training is built around the Ridley Centre for Leadership Leader 360 Survey . This tool is the basis for tailoring training to individual needs, tracking progress and measuring outcomes.