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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.

05 May '13

Nine characteristics of healthy leaders

Posted by T.J. Addington

Healthy leadership is a huge issue for any of us who are part of a staff or team. The reality is that the health of the team largely depends on the health of its leader. Healthy leaders produce healthy teams and unhealthy leaders produce unhealthy teams.

I refuse to work long term for an unhealthy leader because life is too short and because unhealthy leaders do not create healthy work environments or release the potential and creativity of their team members. Unhealthy leaders hurt people and ministry. Healthy leaders release and motivate people in the pursuit of missional effectiveness.

Healthy leaders have certain characteristics that create a healthy team and contribute to missional effectiveness.

Healthy leaders are comfortable with themselves

Healthy leaders have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. They are comfortable with themselves, understand how God made them and therefore are not threatened by others or by opinions or convictions that are different than theirs.

When others engage in robust dialogue they do not become defensive or irritated. In fact, because they are comfortable with who they are, they encourage candid and transparent conversation in order to find the best ways to accomplish the mission.

Healthy leaders do not "own" the ministry they lead

Healthy leaders understand that the ministry they lead is not "theirs." They are stewards who serve the staff and the constituents in pursuit of the mission of the organization.

Because it is not "theirs" and because they are stewards, they are not compelled to "get their way," but to work through a team to accomplish the mission.

Healthy leaders are missional

They are committed to and driven by a clear, compelling and meaningful mission and everything that the staff does is designed to best accomplish the mission. Missional leaders are not driven to look good, climb a ministry ladder, or advance themselves. Rather they are committed to a clear, compelling and meaningful mission. It is about the mission and not about them.

Healthy leaders develop, empower and release others

Because they are stewards and because it is about the mission, healthy leaders find and deploy the best possible staff, clarify the responsibilities of those staff and then empower their staff to get the job done. They do not micromanage or need staff to do what they do as they might do it. They love to bring out the best in others, give them appropriate freedom with accountability and give them the credit for success.

Healthy leaders listen far more than they talk

Healthy leaders ask others their opinion, ask a lot of questions and foster open dialogue to come to common conclusions and strategies that have the buy in of the group. Staff meetings that are about staff listening to a leader rather than the leader engaging and listening to the staff indicate a lack of leadership health.

Healthy leaders mentor and coach their staff

They meet with their staff at least monthly, one on one, and engage staff in their ministry plan, probe areas where they need to remove barriers for staff, listen for areas where staff is facing roadblocks or problems in order to help them overcome them. They do not declare to staff what they should do (if they need to do that they have the wrong staff) but act as a mentor/coach to help them be as effective as possible.

Healthy leaders always thank and encourage their staff

Leaders who do not thank those who they lead are selfish leaders. They are thinking about themselves more than they are thinking about others. Healthy leaders know that it is the staff who carry out the bulk of the ministry and therefore they give the team credit for success and are always thanking and encouraging staff.

Healthy leaders are forthright, candid and transparent

Secrecy breeds mistrust while candidness breeds trust. Staff want and need to know what their leader is thinking, what is coming in the future, and what the board is up to (if there is a board).

Because information is power unhealthy leaders often "guard" their information rather than share what they can freely. The more information staff has the more trust there will be.

Healthy leaders are consistent, fair and keep their promises

Staff respects leaders who can be counted to be consistent, who are fair with all reports and who keep their word.

If you are a leader, think through these characteristics as well as those in the following two blogs. Where are you doing well and where do you need to "up your game." If you are staff, at least you get a picture of the relative health or unhealth of your leader.