A leader is not defined by how many followers you have but by how many leaders you create.”Mahatma Gandhi
We believe this idea is a fundamental leadership concept, especially in our current cultural context. We want to help you become a better leader and develop leaders around you who share and have the capacity to effectively collaborate in discerning and achieving your congregation’s vision.
People often think of leadership as the ability for one person to galvanize others around building a community with shared values and a shared vision. While it is true that key leaders do have a central role in clarifying the values and vision for the congregation, achievement of the vision generally requires a growing number of leaders with high capacity skills who can execute in the face of rapid change, competing demands, and often confusing options.
Rather than doing the hard work of clarifying vision and values, many congregations have doubled down, holding on to congregational life that was better suited for the modern era. For those who have done the work of clarifying vision and values, they have often reverted to a “pastor as CEO” leadership model. In this model one person or a very small group of people at the “top” of the congregation’s organizational chart set vision and values. These same people then monitor the activities of those who were doing implementation. That leadership style goes by many names but in the business world it is often called command-and-control. The leader commands the vision, and then he or she attempts to control the work of others in a way that achieves the vision.
In most contexts, this approach to leadership results in others taking a stance of compliance rather than commitment. Because as a staff member, I want to be paid; because as a volunteer, I want to be included and liked; because as a member, I want to avoid conflict, I will do what you want me to do. But what you don’t get is my deep commitment to the vision.
Command-and-control separates responsibility from authority. It discourages people from owning the challenges and engaging their creativity. It has them spending lots of valuable time and energy working the politics of the organization that could be spent actually pursuing the vision.
Flat and non-hierarchical
Instead of holding on to a leadership model from another era or instead of embracing the pastor as CEO model, more and more congregations are moving toward a flat, non-hierarchical approach that focuses on developing leaders. Key leaders still do the work of galvanizing vision and values though in a more collaborative fashion. As they collaboratively get clear about what responsibilities must be carried out to make progress toward the vision, they connect responsibility and authority. In simple terms, they articulate values and policies that in some ways serve as boundaries for other leaders, and then they set those leaders free within those boundaries to execute their responsibilities.
For this kind of leadership model to work, the congregation must have a shared leadership culture. There must be clarity about what leadership looks like. Those congregations need a simple, shared language that communicates complex ideas simply. They need a set of assumptions and practices that are referred to as a growth mindset.
In our work, we help leaders and leadership teams develop that common language, and we help leaders master some key skills that foster ongoing growth in each leader in your congregation.
What are the skills that leaders possess to whom these responsibilities can be entrusted?
Passion! Are the leaders passionate about the vision and values and about their particular assignment in the organization, and can they see the connection of his/her work to the larger vision?
Emotional Intelligence! Are the leaders growing in their capacity to manage their own emotional reactivity and managing themselves in the face of the emotional reactivity of others?
Mindfulness! Are the leaders capable, when things get anxious, of getting into the balcony, reflecting on what’s taking place, and intentionally living out of the values of the company?
Systems Thinking! Are the leaders capable of seeing their part in keeping a problem in place, and can they move from seeing the presenting issues to identifying underlying causes?
At The Leader’s Journey, we have a long track record of developing leadership cultures. In 2020, we would love to help you with this crucial leadership task.