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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.

16 Oct '10

Proactive or Reactive Leadership

Posted by T.J. Addington in church boards, church leadership, decision making, meetings
One of the ongoing frustrations of many church boards is the lack of progress they seem to make in endless meetings. In some cases, the issues they are dealing with are the same issues they dealt with last year – and the year before that. The reason often has to do with getting trapped into reactive leadership – which is not really leadership at all rather than proactive leadership.



While leaders must at times respond to issues, the heart of leadership is intentionally moving an organization or ministry toward a preferred future. This requires a board to deal with issues at hand but to focus on issues in the future. One way to do this is to agree to two board meetings each month, one for dealing with decisions and business and the other for prayer, discussion and thinking about the future – with no business allowed.


But what about those issues that seem to come up time and again? My experience is that many boards are negligent in actually making decisions with the result that issues are never really resolved and come circling back for another and another round of discussion. I recently met with a board facing this dilemma. Using a white board we listed the unresolved issues that seem to keep popping up. I then gave each member three post it notes with a one, two and three and asked them to put their “one” next to the most pressing issue, the “two” next to the second priority and the three next to their third priority.


Very quickly they had prioritized their most important issues. I then suggested that they tackled these one by one and make a decision on each. Clarifying issues with a decision, even if it is not the perfect decision is far better than not making a decision and allowing the wandering to continue.


One of the main responsibilities of a board chair is to ensure that the most important “big rocks” that will help the organization move forward are addressed before the minutia that probably does not belong on the agenda at all. In the final analysis, leaders choose through the agenda items they tackle what is truly important to them and whether they will be proactive in their leadership or merely reactive to issues that arise. The first will move the ministry forward while the second will merely guard the status quo. How is your board doing?