When we planted our church I had a vision. It was actually a ten-year old vision. The vision was broad. I felt God wanted to have a church that reached people where they were, not with rules to perform to for approval, but with unconditional love and grace. I recruited a co-pastor who could share that vision. I recruited a core team who could own that vision as their own. My co-pastor and I recruited a worship leader who believed the vision. Then step-by-step we began to give away our vision.
Unfortunately, I know this advice from firsthand experience. In my previous, pre-ministry business days, I once owned a business where everything that could go wrong did. I reacted in the wrong way and it ended up costing me greatly.
I’ve seen many leaders make a common mistake. They believe in teams, so they create a bunch of them. They charge the teams with carrying out a specific mission or an assigned task. The team is part of a accomplishing the greater vision.
And, it’s a great concept. I believe in teams.
I even love the word – TEAM! It sounds cooperative. Energy-building. Inclusive.
I think we should always strive to create great teams.
But, here’s what often happens. The team doesn’t work. Nothing gets accomplished. There may be a lot of meetings, but there is no real forward movement.
The team flounders.
Why? They had a great team. The team was full of great people. They were part of a great vision and everyone may have known exactly what they hoped to accomplish.
But, this is where the common mistake exists among many teams.
They never had a leader.
When I arrived at our current church we had a committee structure in place. Committees were well-defined in their tasks. They had rotating terms and an appointed chairman. The problem was they were too structured for effectiveness. Plus, you had to be in the church at least a year before you could serve on them – which, in practice often means you have to be there for many years before you were ever “known” enough to be placed on a committee.
This process worked well for certain committees – such as finance committee, which we still have, but it didn’t seem to work at well for others, such as the garden committee or the usher committee. We needed lots of people in those areas and needed to be able to plug new people in quickly and let them get to work. We needed more of a team concept than a committee structure.
But, even with teams – the mistake comes when no one is ever appointed a leader.
Teams are great, but at some point in time, a leader will need to stand up – and lead.
An organizational team without a leader is like an athletic team without a coach. Would you recommend that for your favorite sports team?
I love leading through teams, but in addition to making sure people know what’s expected of them, we have to make sure every team has a leader.
I try to never appoint or release a team to do work until we make sure a leader is chosen. They can choose their own leader, we can apppoint one for them, or they may even have co-leadership, but there needs to be someone who has the assigned task of steering, motivating and leading the team to accomplish it’s mission.
Love teams – but, make sure every team has a leader.
Have you seen a leaderless team flounder?
I love organizational leadership and I am happy to serve on a healthy team. It’s amazing how many church leaders I know that say their team is not healthy. Recently I started wondering why it is that I claim our team is healthy and it led me to this post. Here, in my opinion, are 10 elements of a healthy organization:
Not everyone will agree with you and/or even like you. If you lead anything, someone will disagree with your decisions and you will divide people into different opinions. (There has never been a president with 100% approval ratings.) Leaders must be prepared to lead towards the vision of the organization, even when it means losing approval ratings.
One aspect of leadership is appreciating the people one leads. I must admit, this has to be a discipline for me, because I’m not naturally wired for this. I expect much from people, so I don’t always feel the need to acknowledge the excellent work I feel everyone should do naturally.
I realize, however, that all of us, including me, enjoy hearing we did a good job, so offering praise is a necessary part of a leader’s responsibility.
Here are 7 ways a leader should offer praise:
I was helping someone think strategically recently. We were looking at this person’s ministry, trying to design a system, which would allow for continual growth and improvement. The ministry has grown rapidly and the leader barely feels she can keep up with the current demands. She recognizes the need to delegate, grow new leaders, and spread out responsibility and ownership, but she can’t seem to get past the current demands of details to develop a plan to do so.
Have you ever been there?
There is a big difference the way you lead someone who wants to be led and how you lead someone who wants to be a leader.
It requires a different approach.
The person who wants to be led desires structure. They want to follow the rules. They need someone to tell them how to do what you want done. He or she needs specifics and details, not ambiguities. They stress more during times of uncertainty.
The person who wants to be a leader needs space to dream, freedom to explore, and permission to experiment. He or she desires less direction and more encouragement. They continually need new challenges. They get bored easily.
There is nothing wrong with either person. Most teams need both types of team members. Know your team.
Obviously, when you address the principle of letting go, which could also be called delegation, it opens a huge question for those wired as completers. The question is: HOW? How do you let go of responsibility when you are wired so heavily towards not doing so?