Does Your Culture Produce Innovators or Followers?

By January 29, 2020Church, Leadership

I was talking with a pastor recently that is frustrated with some of his staff.  He wants people to assume more ownership for their work and take initiative on their own, without having to be asked to do something. 

His statement was that he “wants to lead an organization that produces innovative leaders.” And I love that and it’s a goal for me in leadership. But I have also heard it so many times. Leaders say they want to surround themselves with other leaders. They don’t want simply managed followers on their team. I’m not sure that’s always what they “really” want.

So, I asked this pastor an important question; one I often use to answer respond to his type question.  “Have you created an environment conducive to produce the kind of team you say you want?”

The way an organization is structured (often called the DNA of the organization) determines the type of people it attracts and retains.  An atmosphere that produces innovative leaders, for example, has more to do with culture than it does any programs or activities the organization does – and sometimes even the type of people the organization hires.

Simply put, leaders must determine whether they will create an environment that can produce innovative leaders or whether they will be an environment that merely produces managed followers. 

Here are some general characteristics of those two environments:

One that produces innovative leaders

  • Rewarding of individual efforts
  • Entrepreneurialism is encouraged
  • Freedom is given in how the work is done (and often when it’s done)
  • Encouragement flows freely
  • People have an open-mind to new ideas
  • Individual creativity is welcomed
  • Structure is more informal
  • Change is embraced
  • Risk-taking is expected
  • Mutual trust is established

One that produces managed followers

  • Oversight is close
  • There is a corporate atmosphere
  • Rules are plentiful
  • Control is structured
  • There is a closed-mind to new ideas (that didn’t originate from the top)
  • Structure is clearly defined
  • The atmosphere is more formal
  • Less change friendly
  • There are penalties for unintentional mistakes
  • The tone of feedback is more critical

I realize there are not clear-cut divisions between the two types of environments.  Obviously most of these are subjective, but if you applied these broad characteristics to most major business corporations you could probably tell which attempt to encourage innovation and which encourage a more compliant environment.  And that equally works for the Church.

If you are a leader, ask yourself which of the two descriptions fits your organization best. Then ask yourself if this is the environment you want to lead.  (If you really want to know the correct answer, let your employees answer a survey anonymously.  You may be surprised at their response.)

What other characteristics would you add to the lists above? Do you lead leaders or followers?

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Ron Edmondson

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