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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.

18 Feb '12

Power and information

How candid leaders are with the sharing of information is a measure of their desire to empower or need to control. Information is power. Withholding information from those who either need it or desire it is a means of control while sharing it freely with those who should have access to it is a measure of our desire to empower others. The issue comes down to whether we desire retain power or empower.


What some leaders do not understand is that in withholding information they actually lose the trust of those they lead. Take a ministry that is in financial distress. The leader does not want to divulge the issues while the staff know the issues are there. By not being candid about the actual situation the leader loses the trust of those he/she leads because the staff suspect that the leader is hiding something. If the leader had simply been candid and honest the opposite reaction would occur: trust and a desire to help solve the dilemma. Information, even difficult information builds trust while withholding information undermines trust.


Leaders who control or withhold information are really saying, "I can't trust you with this information." And, that is exactly what their staff hears and that message undermines their ability to lead and leads to cynicism and mistrust on the part of those they lead. In an attempt to control, leaders actually lose the very thing they need the most with their staff, trust. 


Good information is the foundation of good dialogue and decision making. Secretive leaders therefore undermine the ability of other leaders to make informed decisions while candid leaders who share what they know readily are able to build collaborative teams that get to good solutions. 


I often ask staff in churches or ministries for certain statistics or information when working with them. When I hear them say, "We are never told that" or "We are not able to get that information" I know that there is a senior leader who is either controlling, secretive, or threatened by others knowing what they know. None of these are good signs of healthy leadership.


Related to this is the ability to have "real" information. Ministries are notorious for using hyperbole in talking about their ministry results. A pastor might say from the pulpit, "Eighty percent of our adults are in small groups" as he seeks to convince new people to join a group. When a staff member raises an eyebrow (knowing it is like 40%), the response is "that is our pastor's math." Not accurate or helpful information.


There is power in information. Power to control or empower. Which are you using it for?