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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.

13 Sep '10

Leadership maturity: From me to us

There is an important transition that takes place as leaders mature and as their ministry grows. Many young leaders believe that leadership is about “making the calls” and decisions. Certainly, good leaders are pace setters as well as direction makers. They have an internal compass as to where the organization needs to go, articulate that direction daily and rally leaders and staff to go with them. This is especially true in new ministries, and when ministries are walking through transition and re envisioning their future.


Wise leaders, however, know that there is a more powerful leadership paradigm than leadership that revolves around them. It is shared leadership built around strongly held commitments where a senior leadership group brings their collective intellectual capital and gifts to the table in order to maximize the organizations potential. In order to get to this higher level of leadership there are four things a senior leader must do.


First, shared leadership requires that there is great clarity regarding what the organization is all about. Shared leadership only works when everyone is committed to the same mission, direction and values. This missional clarity is the glue that holds the group together and ensures that they are all moving in the same direction with the same commitments. Without great clarity, shared leadership simply becomes confusing.


Second, shared leadership requires the senior leader to build the very best group of A team players at the top of the organization. This often means recruiting leaders who are stronger than us and who have skills we do not have. The stronger the senior team, the better the organization will be – if built around great clarity and shared vision. As I reflect on the senior team of the organization I lead I can say with confidence that we would not be a fraction of what we are today without the skill, commitment, ideas, innovation and leadership of this group of leaders together. They are A players, committed to the same vision and multiply the leadership quotient of what I could do alone exponentially.


Third, shared leadership requires humility on the part of the leader along with a strong dose of self confidence. Many leaders suffer from deep insecurities which prevent them from building a strong team around them, allowing robust dialogue and dissenting views or allowing the team to truly lead. The pride and insecurity of the leader (these two often go together) keep the organization at the leadership level of the leader instead of allowing the exponential leadership potential of the group to take it to a new level. Those who lead at this level understand that it is not about “them” but about the mission and influence of the organization and set aside their own interests in the interests of the group as a whole.


Fourth, they actually share leadership with their senior team. Sitting in a meeting recently with five of the senior leaders of our organization I realized that they were grappling with issues that I used to grapple with. They were taking ownership for ministry direction that used to pretty much be mine. And, I realized, decisions I might have made myself are now being made by us, not me. It was a gratifying moment. I know the wisdom of the group is better than any of our wisdom by ourselves. I know that the direction does not depend on me because now there is a mature “us.” I know that our ministry philosophy will go much deeper because of shared ownership.


This does not mean that leaders no longer lead. It means that we lead differently. We lead through a team of mature leaders who together take responsibility for direction. I continue to speak into key issues but then work those issues through the team. It is truly shared leadership built on great trust among leaders, common direction and very deep missional commitment. It is a leadership that has gone from “me” to “us” and “us” is far more powerful than “me.” Where are you on that continuum?