06 Dec '13
When leaders themselves become the barrier to effectiveness
Posted by T.J. Addington
Ministries often find themselves plateaued and unable to break through that barrier. There are many factors that can be in play but one of the common factors is the senior leader himself or herself. The larger the organization the more disciplined a leader must be if they desire to see that organization grow and become more fruitful and effective.
Leaders often lead out of a personal style without much thought to how that style impacts their organization. I was once called in to do a church consult with a church of around 500. The pastor was highly relational and a great speaker but operated by the seat of his pants in terms of management style. That frustrated his staff who didn't know where he was or what he was doing. In addition, they felt neglected as he didn't provide them with clear guidelines for what he wanted and often micromanaged or changed what they had done.
His board, made up of retired professional folks - former CEO's and corporate types were frustrated by what they perceived as a lack of organization - they were right.
When I shared the frustrations of his staff and board with the senior pastor his come back was "well that is who I am." All true. But what I told him was that if he continued to do life as he was that he would be the barrier to the growth of the church, he would lose key staff and he would face frustrations with his board. If he wanted to take the church to the next level of growth he needed to change how he led. Or, he could grow another church to the five hundred mark doing life as he currently did (although again he would frustrate his staff in the process).
My friend chose to modify his life and leadership with the help of an executive coach.
This scenario is a common one and it explains why many churches will grow steadily and then growth stops. It has met the leadership ceiling of the senior leader - and unless the senior leader changes his leadership priorities to reflect the size of the church, the church will remain plateaued. It often takes an outside coach or consultant to help a leader understand how they can modify their leadership to take the church to the next level.
There are some principles that are fairly constant in this regard.
Focus matters. The larger the church or organization the fewer things a senior leader focuses on and they are disciplined in that focus. In my role, I have focused in on only four key areas that are critical for me to do. Everything else can and is done by others. Getting the focus right and being disciplined in keeping focused is a rare but critical component.
Clarity matters. The larger the church or organization the more clarity matter because the senior leader cannot provide individual clarity to staff or volunteers. There must be organizational clarity so that everyone knows what the the boundaries are and what the missional goals are. Lack of clarity actually becomes a barrier to additional growth.
Staff matters. The larger the church or organization the more critical it is to have the most competent staff possible because the senior leader does not have the time to manage key staff. This means that senior leaders must hire people more competent than themselves in their area of ministry and then delegate and trust those staff to deliver in their area. On this score there is another principle. The larger the church the fewer direct reports the senior leader has. I have three - in an organization of 550! This is not always easy for senior staff to accept but it is a critical part of the focus of senior leaders.
Results matter. The larger the church or organization the more critical it is for the senior leader to focus on results rather than activity. Everyone is busy but not everyone sees the same results. The question is whether we are focused on results or activity! They are not the same thing.
Here is the bottom line. Bright people can take an organization to a certain level on the strength of their energy, ideas, personality or gifts. But they will hit a leadership ceiling where key disciplines of leadership either are embraced or the organization will not continue to grow. That is where the hard work begins! What a leader does at that juncture will determine whether they help their organization break through the growth barrier or live at the barrier.