Over the last six months, I have taken part in a course entitled ‘Leading God’s People Today’ (LGPT). Over the ten sessions we worked on developing collaborative leadership skills, and learning all sorts of management techniques. A lot of these were not specifically for church leaders but could be thought of as tools that may be useful in our ministry.
As well as our personality types being revealed (one for a whole other blog!) we role-played group discussions using Appreciative Inquiry – ‘I have a problem’ …. Action Learning – ‘What you could do is’…. and Open Space – ‘Well, what do you think?’ …. all of which will be great when I get to chair PCC meetings!*
Now before you leave this ‘marketplace’ – sorry blog, thinking that you’ve stumbled on a Richard Branson type guide to ‘Running a Successful Business‘ let me share with you one other thing that I found particularly interesting.
Over thousands of years there has been much discussion about whether leaders are born or created. Consider the likes of Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, born into humble beginnings yet rising to become two of the greatest leaders of the last century or Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill, both from prosperous backgrounds, whose superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics saw them become inspirational leaders. What is clear is that all leaders have a particular style to their leadership
How then is a humble vicar-to-be to compete and what might be their leadership style? Well Keith Lamdin’s book, ‘Finding Your Leadership Style‘ breaks this down into six different styles which I have precised. Read through them and decide what YOUR style of leadership might be – then read my take on ‘How to Become a Great Leader’
- The Monarch: His or her word is law and because they don’t have to waste time on consultation they are often able to get things done quickly with little fuss. People look up to them because of their desire to feel safe and protected, however they may also feel unable to challenge this type of leader
- The Warrior: This type of leader frequently performs exceptional deeds. They have a deep desire to bring about changes in social welfare and are energised by charitable work. With charismatic personalities they lead by pursuing a clear direction and have a certain knowledge of what is right and wrong. Their devoted followers live by a simple mantra, but what happens if the leader turns out not to be right? Do they recognise their own flaws?
- The Servant: Their belief is that humans function best when they are part of a community. They are good listeners and are skilled at identifying people’s needs. There is a great acceptance of others with whom they seek to empathise and build up a relationships. They do, however, need to be aware that people may try and take advantage of their loving nature
- The Elder: One who is perceived to be wise; who will invite you to talk with them about what needs doing but will leave you to reflect and then make up your own mind. They place great importance on listening and their life experiences often enable them to discuss things as broadly as possible. Their leadership can be liberating to their followers but frustrating when clear, decisive direction is needed
- The Contemplative: There is no attempt to overtly lead you, believing that it is God’s job to bring about the work of mission. They call on people to hold God in their heart’s, recognising that we are not necessarily called to be successful but to be faithful. Therefore, prayer is an important tool and they will encourage people to pray into situations. To some people though, this may look like a lack of initiative and purpose.
- The Prophet: Their success as a leader is not measured by numbers, despite the modern obsession with numerical growth. They are closely in touch with local issues and take a prayerful and meditative approach, preferring to wait on God
So which style do you fit into? On a personal level which style do I fit into? What I do know is that ‘Great leaders rally people to a better future’ (Marcus Buckingham, ‘The One Thing You Need To Know‘) so here is my own guide to how to be a great leader
How to Be a Great Leader
Choose your team carefully. Having a team with a range of skills will give you more flexibility. It is important to check people’s availability; if they are able to come together fairly quickly then they will be able to bond together and identify themselves more easily as part of the team.
Get to know your team on a social as well as professional level, showing a interest in their home lives, perhaps visiting them or their relatives or attending conventional social occasions such as weddings and funerals. This will not only give you an insight as to what makes them tick but will show them that you are interested in them as whole people
Share your knowledge with your team: there are many ways this can be done and you should be aware of the different learning styles of the group, whether they are auditory, visual or kinaesthetic learners. Some will learn best through question and answer sessions; others by seeing you demonstrate these skills, and then having a go themselves. It is important for you to be able to assess their progress from time to time by setting them specific targets and providing opportunities for reflection afterwards.
You will soon find that one or more of your team will clearly show potential to take on more of a leadership role themselves. Build up their confidence with positive encouragement at the same time being prepared to provide a safe environment in which to allow them to make mistakes. Make it clear of your expectations for them as individuals, whilst being fair but firm about the standards you require
Eventually there will come a time when members of the team will decide to leave, perhaps after being head hunted for a new career; often it will be you. It would be good therefore that you prepare your team for this eventuality. You may have to deal with their feelings of fear, resentment and abandonment, as the team adjusts to your absence and reorganises itself. A testament of your leadership skills will be how the remaining members of the team pull together and go on to continue and expand the work you started.
Reunions can be tricky things as people will often have moved on emotionally. However these can be joyous occasions, seeing how people have changed and sharing fond memories. In years to come you may be proud to know that they still hold you in high regard and have remained true to the basic tenets that brought the team together in the first place. Surely the marks of a great leader!
Now I wonder… just who might fulfil that description?
*PCC = Parochial Church Council meetings. These are notorious (although not in all instances I hasten to add) for being very long and micro-focused on the minutiae of church management such as whether custard cream biscuits are too extravagant for after church service refreshments – I kid you not!