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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

28 Feb '14

Leadership by stealth

Posted by T.J. Addington in leadership, leadership styles
The best leadership is transparent and out in the open. People know where the leader is taking them and why. The leadership agenda is clearly articulated and people are invited to join the leader in moving toward a specific vision and goal. 

On occasion I encounter a very different kind of leadership - stealth leadership. This style infects some pastors who have an agenda for the church they serve which is not stated up front, is contrary to the direction the church has been going and is essentially a leadership hijack where the congregation, board and even most of the staff are unaware of the intentions of the leader. They have an agenda but they are not sharing that agenda. It is leadership by stealth and it is fundamentally dishonest.

The dishonesty is in the lack of honest disclosure as to what their intentions are, not the direction itself which may be good or unhelpful. Leadership by stealth creates confusion and uncertainty because the leader is moving in directions and making decisions that are not clearly stated so the agenda cannot be debated. Rather people are left with observing the actions of the leader and wondering what the agenda actually is. 

In addition, the leader may bring a few key allies into their orbit and share their agenda with them which - if they are staff or board members - creates additional confusion and division since some key people know the intentions of the leader while others do not. And, when a discussion of the direction does come up, the allies defend the leaders actions and there is no dialogue with them either. In other words, leadership by stealth is not only dishonest (because it is not stated up front and transparent) but confusing and decisive. 

When other individuals challenge the leader's direction they are in a tough spot because while they can see the problematic decisions the leader is making they cannot debate the overall agenda since it is not stated. 

Healthy leaders do not lead by stealth. They are clear on where they desire to go and why and are open to discussing their direction with leadership, staff and congregations. If you are in a situation where you have a leader who is leading by stealth it is worth a conversation to clarify intentions, direction and get it on the table so that it can be discussed and debated. You cannot debate what you don't know.